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State Government of Victoria

Ovens Murray Regional Partnership

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Our region
Our Regional Partnership: bringing you up to date
Our Regional Partnership: latest news
Our Regional Partnership members
Have your say
Our Regional Partnership Priorities
Budget 2018/19 outcomes

Our region

Bordering the Murray River to the north and having unique access to Victoria's high country, the Ovens Murray region is best known for its lifestyle advantages and thriving tourism sector based on cycling, snow, nature-based tourism, food, wine, craft beer and cultural heritage. The region is also strategically located on national freight and transport routes servicing Australia’s east coast and has a number of strong manufacturing and service centres.

Our region includes:


Map of the Ovens Murray partnership region

Our Regional Partnership: bringing you up to date

The Ovens Murray Regional Partnership is one of nine Partnerships across the state, established by the Victorian Government, recognising that local communities are in the best position to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by their region.

We started work in 2016 and held our first Regional Assembly in Benalla in November 2016.  Following this, we presented the priorities which came from our first Assembly to Government.

Our priorities covered areas including education and developing skills for future generations, developing key industry sectors, improving transport connectivity, addressing the region’s health and wellbeing, supporting action on climate change and renewable energy, stimulating the region’s digital economy and connectiveness and improving local amenity and infrastructure.

The 2017/18 Victorian Budget brought outcomes for the Ovens Murray region including:

  • $12 million for the North-east cycling optimisation project to increase cycle tourism;
  • $45 million across the state for the Connecting Regional Communities Program to support digital initiatives such as broadband trials, digital agricultural applications and blackspot minimisation; and
  • The Regional Rail Revival program, which includes upgrades to the North East corridor to improve track, stations and other infrastructure to allow VLocity trains to run to Albury/Wodonga.

Find out more about the Victorian Budget 2017/18 outcomes for Victoria's regions

We held our second Regional Assembly in Wodonga in July 2017.


The Partnership has since taken the learnings from our 2017 Assembly and distilled these into priorities to present to Government.

Partnership newsletter

Ovens Murray Regional Partnership newsletter - April 2018


Who are the Ovens Murray Mallee Regional Partnership members?

Irene Grant

Irene Grant – Chair

Irene Grant is an experienced board member and was an Administrator at the Rural City of Wangaratta from 2013 to October 2016. She is also a former Wangaratta Mayor and was Chair of the Australian Cities Group representing 30 municipalities across regional Australia. Irene holds a Master of Business Management. She is a strong and committed advocate for ‘provincial living’ who believes that regions have many assets and strengths, and offer great opportunities in tourism, arts and culture, the environment, sports and business..

Michael Gobel

Michael Gobel – Deputy Chair

Michael Gobel is an equity fund manager who has extensive experience in financial services and economic development, having provided strategic advice to business, boards, major investment funds and government authorities. He is Chair of the Hume Bank and a member of the La Trobe University Regional Advisory Board, in addition to other current and past community involvement. Michael has an in-depth understanding and commitment to the region.

Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett

Margaret Bennett is Chief Executive Officer of Northeast Health Wangaratta and has previously held senior health executive roles in regional New South Wales and Western Australia. Margaret is passionate about community engagement, growing effective partnerships, fostering innovation and working across sectors to deliver better health services.

Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon

Mark Dixon is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Wodonga TAFE and the Driver Education Centre of Australia.  He has over 30 years’ experience as a defence force officer and post graduate qualifications in leadership, science and technology, as well as industry experience in logistics and supply chain management.  Mark is passionate about growing regional participation in further and higher education, leading to successful employment outcomes.

Amber Gardner

Amber Gardner

Amber Gardner is Chief Executive Officer of Tourism North East. She has strong experience in alpine resorts and holds a Master of Marketing and Bachelor of Media and Communications. Having worked in regional tourism for over a decade, Amber is passionate about driving positive outcomes to the local visitor economy.

Regional Development Australia representative

Susan Benedyka Susan Benedyka
Susan Benedyka is a business owner with a primary focus on providing services in facilitation, community and stakeholder engagement, strategic planning and leadership development.  She has extensive board member experience in government, community and philanthropic bodies at the regional, state and national levels, and is a member of the Regional Development Australia Hume Committee. Her passion is regional development, and working across government agencies, business and community sectors to develop stronger, connected, more forward-looking regions.

Victorian Government representative

Nick Foa - Deputy Secretary, Housing, Infrastructure, Sport and Recreation in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
Nick commenced employment with State Government as the Executive Director, Local Government Victoria, following senior roles in local government as CEO of Brimbank Council and a Director at Maribyrnong and Maroondah Councils. He joined DHHS in 2014 as Deputy Secretary, Sport and Recreation Victoria, and in 2015 was seconded to the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources to head the Visitor Economy Review, before leading Tourism Victoria through their transition to Visit Victoria. Nick’s current portfolio encompasses delivering social housing, major health service capital works and sporting infrastructure at local and state levels.

Local government CEOs

Brendan McGrath Brendan McGrath – CEO, Wangaratta Rural City Council

Brendan McGrath has been Chief Executive Officer at the Rural City of Wangaratta since 2014. He is also President of LGPro, the peak body for Local Government Professionals in Victoria. He recently joined the Board of Procurement Australia. His previous roles include six years as Chief Executive Officer at Indigo Shire Council, as well as senior roles at Mitchell Shire.

Patience Harrington Patience Harrington –  CEO, Wodonga City Council

Patience joined Wodonga Council in 2000 with extensive experience in planning, financial management, service delivery and evaluation.  She has a career-long history of fostering effective partnerships, forming strategic alliances and leading and developing teams. Through this experience, she has developed a sound knowledge of a range of sectors including all levels of government, the community and the economy and service areas.

Charlie Bird
Charlie Bird – CEO, Alpine Shire Council

Charlie is the CEO with Alpine Shire Council after joining Local Government in 2015.  Charlie is an environmental engineer with a diverse background.  He has been a truck driver, farmer, run his own consulting business, led a car-sharing operation in Melbourne and has nearly 20 years experience in the water, natural resource management and local government sectors.  Charlie enjoys working with people on complex and challenging problems to deliver outcomes for the community.

Trevor Ierino
Trevor Ierino – CEO, Indigo Shire Council

Trevor was appointed to the position of Indigo Shire Council CEO in 2018 after a career spanning more than 30 years in both public and private sector industries. These included banking, motor vehicle manufacturing, food manufacturing, printing services, as well as 10 years as chief financial officer with Goulburn-Murray Water, Australia's largest rural water authority. Trevor’s most recent role was Director of Business Services at Wodonga City Council, a position he held for 10 years.

Alex Green Alex Green – CEO, Mansfield Shire Council

Alex has been CEO at Mansfield Shire Council since August 2015.  Prior to this Alex was a Director for a South West Victoria Council for eight years, with responsibilities for the planning, coordination and oversight of community facilities and programs.  Previous to working in local government, Alex had extensive experience in land management roles across Victoria and NSW. He holds a Masters of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science.  Alex has a strong focus on delivering outcomes for the community locally and across the region.

Tony McIlroy
Tony McIlroy – CEO, Benalla Rural City Council

Prior to taking up the role as CEO of Benalla Rural City Council in 2003, Tony’s previous roles included Corporate Manager Finance and Information Services for Bayside City Council, Director of Finance and Administration and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Camberwell City Council. He has over 26 years senior management experience in the Local Government Sector and has led Project Management Teams in the planning and construction of major community facilities.

Juliana Phelps

Juliana Phelps – CEO, Towong Shire Council

Juliana has held the position of CEO at Towong Shire Council since May 2009, having joined the Council in 1999. Prior to this, she held a senior management position in the manufacturing sector based in Wodonga. Juliana is a Chartered Accountant, with experience in auditing private and public organisations. She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds a Bachelor of Business (Accounting and Economics) and a Masters of Business Administration. Juliana is also the Local Government CEO Representative for North East region on the Rural Councils Victoria Executive Committee.

Have your say

Our Ovens Murray Regional Partnership engage page is the place to go to let us hear your views or to contact the Partnership.

Ovens Murray Regional Partnership 2017 Priorities

Theme Regional Partnership Priority
Education and Skills                                                          
Improve access to lifelong learning opportunities and create innovative learning pathways that support skills development now and into the future.
Improve transport connectivity so that it becomes an effective enabler for the region's communities, industries and service providers, with a particular focus on passenger rail improvements on the North East line.
Digital Innovation and Inclusion
Become a 'Smart Region' that connects people, attracts talent, encourages innovation and creates jobs and growth for the 21st century.
Economic Growth Create a prosperous and sustainable regional economy by growing and expanding the region's key and emerging economic sectors – agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and transport, distribution and logistics.
Climate Change and Renewable Energy Support climate change adaptation, increase the region's focus on renewable energy, support innovative community based energy initiatives and better protect the natural environment.
Local Amenity and Infrastructure Improve the liveability, prosperity and resilience of communities; provide better local amenities for residents and visitors to the region; and invest in infrastructure that supports development of the regional economy.
Health and Wellbeing Strengthen community health and wellbeing, particularly for disadvantaged communities and vulnerable families and reduce the impact of family violence through access to integrated mental health services and resilience building programs; integrated service delivery models; and place-based initiatives, including public housing urban renewal.

Ovens Murray priorities supported in the Victorian Government Budget 2018/19 include:

  • $2 million to progress the Falls to Hotham Alpine Crossing iconic walking trail project
  • $300,000 towards the development of the Wangaratta Digital Hub
  • $300,000 to complete the Wodonga Business Innovation Hub feasibility study
  • $300,000 to develop the Hume Regional Renewable Energy Strategy
  • A share of $50 million to boost the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund to provide infrastructure and services that meet the changing health needs of local communities
  • A share of $11 million for the Victorian Mobile Project Round 4 to remove mobile black spots in regional Victoria
  • A share of funding to provide free TAFE courses that meet industry needs, grow the regional visitor economy, support the health of our parks, and upgrade community infrastructure, including regional roads and schools.

Find out more about the Victorian Budget 2018/19 outcomes for Victoria's regions


Regional Matters Spotlight

Last Updated: 26 June 2018