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RDA Grampians welcomes new committee members


Mount Arapiles is in the background, with gum trees and a field of yellow flowers in the foreground.

Regional Development Australia (RDA) Grampians Chair, Stuart Benjamin is delighted to announce the appointment of new members to the RDA Grampians committee. These appointments follow an extensive recruitment and selection process, which was opened to the public in December 2023, with the final appointments being made last month.

The RDA Grampians committee play a role in helping to drive economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship by facilitating investment in community, industry and the environment. RDAs identify regional development gaps and work with stakeholders to accelerate the delivery of Australian Government strategic priorities.

'We were looking for people with economic, social, cultural, and environmental experience, knowledgeable of the challenges facing our region, who are well connected and able to draw their regional communities together,’ said Mr Benjamin.

'We received significant interest from high calibre candidates during the recruitment process, which was a pleasing reflection of the interest levels in joining RDA Grampians,’ he added.

The newly appointed committee members are:

1. Christine Ferguson: Christine brings to the committee extensive experience as an executive leader in the public sector. She is currently serving on the Board of Triple Zero Victoria and is the former Deputy Secretary of Forest, Fire and Regions for the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA). Christine holds a deep understanding of rural and regional priorities within the Grampians Region and will bring valuable insights to the committee, particularly around policy and regulatory reform.

2. Zoe Allan: Zoe is a seasoned Executive Search Consultant, with experience connecting top executive talent with leading organisations across a range of industries - including manufacturing and technology, agriculture, mining and local, state and federal government. Zoe will contribute invaluable knowledge to RDA Grampians’ initiatives, particularly around regional workforce.

3. Jessica Kelly: Jessica holds a degree in Food Science, followed by post-graduate studies in management, auditing and risk, and will bring fresh perspective and innovative ideas to the committee. Currently the Innovation and Development Manager at Ferndale Foods Australia, Jessica’s passion for advancing access to regional education and increasing representation of women in STEM and advanced manufacturing will be valuable to the committee and the Grampians region.

4. Paul Atherton: Paul brings expertise in natural resource management, small business, leadership and regional development. Currently the Environment and Community Officer at Donald Mineral Sands, Paul will be influential in guiding RDA Grampians’ strategic initiatives, particularly around Mineral Sands.

5. Jacki Whitwell: Jacki is an executive leader with experience in senior advisory, strategic leadership and social policy roles, in diverse areas from renewable energy to First Nations policy, early childhood, health and aged care. Jacki will be instrumental in guiding RDA Grampians’ strategic initiatives, particularly around renewable energy.

6. Emily Smith: Emily has a background in food science and nutrition, she has experience in local government, women’s health and primary care partnerships. She is currently a Project Manager with By Five, a place-based Early Years Initiative aiming to improve the health and wellbeing of children in the Wimmera Southern Mallee. Emily will be instrumental in helping the committee in its advocacy for a sustainable childcare solution across the Grampians region.

These individuals bring a wealth of experience and diverse perspectives to advance the economic prosperity and social well-being of the Grampians region.  These new members will join existing members Stuart Benjamin, Justin Gilbert, Linda Kwok, John Fitzgibbon, Linda Wong and Paul Hooper on the committee.

‘We are thrilled to welcome our new committee members to RDA Grampians,’ said Mr Benjamin.

‘Their diverse backgrounds and expertise will be invaluable assets as we work collaboratively to identify opportunities and address challenges facing our region,’ he added.

The work of the RDA Grampians Committee was instrumental in influencing the recent ACCC Regional mobile infrastructure inquiry 2022-23 final report which resoundingly supported mobile roaming in an emergency.

‘Led by the RDA Grampians Committee, this success can be attributed to the entire RDA network working together in support and advocacy.’

'It is a great example of the strength of combined advocacy to achieve a national impact, being driven by passionate RDA committee members’ explained Mr Benjamin.

RDA Grampians looks forward to the contributions of its new committee members as it continues to drive positive change and foster sustainable development in the Grampians region.

For more information about the work of the RDA committees, visit Regional Development Australia.