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About RDA Barwon South West

Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

The RDA Barwon South West committee drives prosperity by identifying and advocating for regional growth and investment.

Our main objectives are to facilitate regional economic development outcomes, investment, jobs and local procurement. To promote greater regional awareness of and engagement with Australian Government policies, grant programs and research and to contribute to Australian Government regional policy making by providing intelligence and evidence-based advice to the Australian Government on regional development issues.

Freight truck

Who we are

RDA Barwon South West committee members are selected for their business expertise in the region’s key economic areas. The high calibre team has global, national and local experience in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, education, digital access and capability gaps, key worker housing, skill and workforce shortages, tourism and energy. The team has extensive networks and experience supporting economic outcomes.

Our committee members

RDA Barwon South West Committee

Grant Sutherland – Acting Chair

Grant SutherlandGrant Sutherland is the Deputy Chair of RDA Barwon South West.  Grant is also the CEO South West Victoria, Deakin University, and Chair Great South Coast Economic Futures Project Steering Group. Prior to this, Grant was the CEO of Kangan Institute, CEO of The Gordon Institute, and worked as the Business Development Manager at Boeing Australia.

Grant has held a number of board appointments across the region including Director South West Victoria Alliance Board; President of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce; Chair VECCI Regional Committee; Barwon Health Foundation; Skilling the Bay; Committee for Geelong; Northern Futures and Geelong Manufacturing Council.

Grant is adept at collaboratively leveraging the strengths and capabilities of the region to create new jobs and transition local sectors to a high value, high yield economy with enhanced employment opportunities for all members of the community.

Brett Ince – Executive Officer

Brett InceBrett  is the Regional Director of Regional Development Victoria BSW and the Executive Officer on the RDA BSW Committee.

Brett has strong networks across the region with an excellent knowledge of the Visitor Economy and Geelong as regional city.

Previous roles include Executive Director for Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine; Acting Director Economy, Investment and Attraction at the City of Greater Geelong; Director Tourism and Visitor Experience at Parks Victoria and Deputy Executive Director at Tourism Greater Geelong and The Bellarine.

Brett enjoys giving back to the community and using his background and skills gained through various representation on various Boards and Committees.

Keith Baillie

Keith BailieKeith joined gforce employment and recruitment as Chief Executive in September 2020. Prior to this, Keith was Chief Executive for Surf Coast Shire Council and was Chief Executive for the Shire of Campaspe.

Keith spent the first 20 years of his career in the commercial sector, with senior roles in project management, information technology and financial management.

Keith is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Fellow of CPA Australia.

Keith is committed to improving the lives of people in our communities and is Board Chair for Gateways Support Services and Board Director for G21 – Geelong Region Alliance.

Mary-Ann Brown

Mary-Ann BrownBorn and educated in Tasmania, Mary-Ann has lived at Dunkeld for over 30 years. As well as being a partner in a financial services business in Hamilton, Mary-Ann was a partner in a merino sheep stud.

In a wide variety of roles including Chair and Committee Member Rural Councils Victoria, Western District Health Service, Chair Dunkeld Community Centre, Councillor and 3 time Mayor of Southern Grampians Shire, Mary-Ann is passionate and committed about promoting rural communities and ensuring that all communities have equity of access to opportunities and essential services, such as health, digital connectivity, public transport and housing.

Peter Dorling

Peter DorlingPeter is the longest serving RDA member with comprehensive understanding of the region in terms of strategic assets, capabilities and the complex challenges and opportunities.

Peter is also the RDA representative on the Barwon Regional Partnership and is the Business Manager for Avalon Airport Australia. Avalon has been acknowledged as one of Victoria’s and the Nations great opportunities.

Peter’s role is to explore and harness local and international business development for the airport. Peter also holds a Master in Business Management from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

Anne Howard

Anne HowardAnne is Chief Executive Officer of Colac Otway Shire, has 20 years of experience in Local Government and brings a diverse range of skills to the RDA Committee. Anne is also a representative on the Barwon Regional Partnership.

With a strong background in working for Local Government in regional Victoria, having worked with Campaspe Shire Council and Surf Coast Shire Council, Anne has a thorough understanding of the G21 region and is a Board Member of G21 – Geelong Region Alliance.

Alison McLeod

Alison McLeodAlison is a highly accomplished General Manager with multi-disciplinary commercial experience on a national level. Alison’s professional services are focused as a strategic advisor in the scale residential property sector, working with the development and finance industries, disability sector and public policy advisors, particularly in the areas of housing affordability, build to rent and Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA).

Alison is currently on the Board of Unison, and a member of the Property Council of Australia’s Geelong Development Committee.

Darryl Mohr

Darryl MohrDarryl brings over 30 years’ experience in Financial Services where he has undertaken a broad range of roles and experiences including COO, State General Manager and National Industry Segment Head (Agribusiness).

Darryl is currently Deputy Chair, The Gordon TAFE in Geelong and Chair, Audit and Risk Management Committee.

Darryl has held executive leadership positions for the past 18 years with several Top 10 ASX listed companies.

In 2019 Darryl completed the Wharton Business School – Global Advanced Risk Management program in Philadelphia USA, holds the CPA accreditation and is an AICD graduate.

Darryl is currently completing a Master of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Melbourne.

Liz Price

Liz PriceLiz is the General Manager of Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Board, Chair and Director of Great Southern Touring Route and Member Victorian Tourism Industry Council Destination Policy Committee.

Liz’s previous leadership experience includes General Manager Australia at Club Tourism Publishing; CEO of Destination Melbourne and Board of Western Melbourne Tourism.

Liz is also the RDA representative on the Great South Coast Regional Partnership.

Armed with a Master of Marketing and Master of Business Administration and with extensive networks across the region and through the state and national tourism sector, Liz is keen to support the development of a more sustainable region across key industry sectors.

Clive Pugh

Clive PughClive Pugh is CEO of Winchester Australia Limited and Chair of Committee for Geelong with business experience in mining, process manufacturing and wholesale distribution and finance background in management accounting and project evaluation.

Clive believes the best way to achieve things is through people and allowing decision making to be made at the lowest level in an organisation.
Clive has developed strategic and operating plans for medium sized business and as part of listed companies. He likes to evaluate performance using quantitative and qualitative data.

Clive holds a Master in Business (Durham University), Commerce Degree (Deakin) and Cert IV Training and Assessment (Swinburne).

David Spear

David SpearDavid is an accomplished senior executive who has set up, run and led regional development organisations in Victoria, Queensland and Canberra.

David was instrumental in the development of the G21 Region Plan – a sustainable growth strategy in his past role as Manager of Strategy and Research at G21 – Geelong Region Alliance.

He has served as a Senior Officer of Local Government, reporting to the CEO and Council at the Golden Plains Shire where he led implementation of several significant regional economic development initiatives.

He was the founding CEO of Fraser Coast Opportunities and Invest Fraser Coast in Queensland.  David also held the position of General Manager at The Regional Australia Institute – a regional economic development think tank based in Canberra.

Sculptures on Geelong waterfront

What we do

The committee realises economic opportunity by creating a level playing field for private sector investment. It engages across agencies, industry bodies and the private sector to leverage and coordinate regional effort and influence state and Australian Government policy. It draws upon the data, knowledge, experience and opinions of regional alliances, partnerships and networks to support small-scale projects through to the development of economic sectors.

The Barwon South West region is positioned to capitalise on new energy, advanced manufacturing, tourism and intensified agriculture production. The committee works with the region to drive and leverage investment for:

  • Implementation of the region’s Digital Plan including the development of digital infrastructure to support improved connectivity.
  • Major projects that support economic diversification in the region, such as high-value agriculture to deliver sustainable food precincts critical to the nation’s food security.
  • Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus Hycel Technology Hub. The new hydrogen research precinct aims to decarbonise the heavy vehicle industry and is developing hydrogen safety training, evaluation, testing and certification. The project aligns with Warrnambool’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2040.
  • The implementation of the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan including investment in the Twelve Apostles precinct with upgraded and new infrastructure and the development of tourism opportunities to capture increased visitation spend.
  • A National Centre of Composite Materials at Deakin University’s Geelong Future Economy Precinct, to leverage the region’s strength in advanced manufacturing.

Kardinia Park sport stadium in Geelong

Who we work with

The RDA Barwon South West committee collaborates with businesses, not-for-profits, industry bodies and agencies to build sector strengths, promote regional capabilities and leverage regional advantages. It works with:

  • Barwon South West local government areas of Greater Geelong, Queenscliffe, Surf Coast, Colac Otway, Corangamite, Moyne, Warrnambool, Southern Grampians and Glenelg.
  • Like-minded organisations including the Geelong Region Alliance (G21), the Great South Coast Group and the Barwon and Great South Coast Regional Partnerships.
  • RDA Committees across Victoria and bordering RDA committees in South Australia to identify synergistic opportunities to leverage regional effort and boost economic activity.

The video below explains how RDA Barwon South West executes its principles in a collaborative, practical and efficient way to achieve regional prosperity.

Sunset over the Twelve Apostles

Our region

Fast facts

  • 434,619 people live within the Barwon South West region
  • The Great Ocean Road is 243 kilometres in length
  • Barwon South West produces $26.098 billion gross regional product
  • Grovedale (suburb of Geelong), Ocean Grove – Barwon Heads (Bellarine Peninsula) and Torquay (Surf Coast) are three of Victoria's top five fastest growing areas outside of Greater Melbourne.

RDA Barwon South West region map

The region borders the nation’s largest population growth corridor in the west of Melbourne and is expected to reach more than 480,000 residents by 2022. Barwon South West has three economies - inland agriculture, coastal tourism and a manufacturing and social base in Geelong.

Key employment sectors across the region are manufacturing, health and retail and there are significant emerging opportunities in new energy, advanced manufacturing and food security industries. Regional tertiary education institutions include Deakin University, South West TAFE, The Gordon Institute of TAFE and various private providers.

Deep-sea ports in Portland and Geelong and extensive road and rail networks provide strong international and interstate market connections. The significant Great Ocean Road visitor economy is supported by the expansion of the Avalon Airport, near Geelong.

Major state and Australian Government regional investment includes the Geelong City Deal and the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan.

Business success stories: Innovation and resilience in Barwon South West

Nurturing and celebrating the economic potential of the Great Ocean Road and its surrounds is a key strategic focus of the Regional Development Australia (RDA) Barwon South West committee.

As the region bounces back from the COVID-19 pandemic, RDA Barwon South West visited five local businesses who have adapted following the unique circumstances of 2020, and are focusing on innovation and growth.

Revitalising history: Apollo Bay Distillery and Lorne Hotel

Andrew Noseda is the owner of Apollo Bay Distillery. Born and bred in the town, he is passionate about celebrating the past and sharing those stories with visitors.

Having started multiple successful businesses in the area, he recently converted the old Post Office building into a new gin distillery.

All the distillery’s products are rooted in the history of Apollo Bay - the gins are linked to the ships that sailed off the coast many years ago and serve as a reminder of the town’s nautical past.

Further east, Paul Upham has revitalised the iconic Lorne Hotel.

After taking over the family business from his father in 2015, Paul was determined to make the most of the sprawling building and its prime location on the Great Ocean Road.

He worked with a local interior designer to give the building a chic new aesthetic, and came up with the unique idea to import Melbourne restaurants to the space.

Melbourne fine-dining stalwarts Movida and Coda now have a permanent home in Barwon South West.

Both Paul and Andrew say their commitment to innovating is key to attracting domestic tourism as Australia emerges from the pandemic.

A video transcript will be available soon

A video transcript will be available soon

The innovators: Great Ocean Road Resort and Wildlife Wonders

One of the most exciting new attractions to arrive in Barwon South West is Wildlife Wonders, a unique ecotourism initiative with a strong social purpose.

Designed and created by Brian Massey, an Art Director on ‘The Hobbit’ films and landscape designer of the award-winning ‘Hobbiton’ in New Zealand, Wildlife Wonders offers visitors educational and fun guided tours of the spectacular landscapes and wildlife on site.

Founded by the team behind the Conservation Ecology Centre, all the ticket sales contribute to the conservation of the unique plants and animals across the Otways.

Back down the coast is the Great Ocean Resort in Anglesea, founded by Damien Cerantonio.

In recent times, Damien and his team have focused on transforming the Resort in a variety of ways, shifting Anglesea from a day trip to an overnight and multi-day experience.

The Resort now offers fine dining with a relaxed atmosphere at The Coast restaurant.

Damien also used the lockdown period of 2020 to revitalise the Resort’s spa, Lux Spa and Wellness, making it a destination in of itself.

Working closely with the Spa’s therapists, the team worked together to fully redesign the space and offering.

Off the back of this, the Resort has had strong growth, with 32 new employees on deck since last year.

A video transcript will be available soon

A video transcript will be available soon

The new kids on the block: The Perch

The Barwon South West region has undergone significant transformation in recent years, and is now moving towards further growth.

More and more city-dwellers are relocating to the region to discover for themselves what makes the area such a great place to live, work and invest.

A prime example of this is Oksana, Dean and Nathan – the new team at The Perch bar and restaurant.

After their business in Melbourne went quiet during lockdown, they came across the opportunity to restore an old property in Laver’s Hill and create the Perch.

After their grand opening late last year, the team is already a part of the local community in Lavers Hill. They use locally sourced, small-batch ingredients in their food and are focused on sustainability as they restore the small rainforest at the back of the property.

While 2020 may have thrown up challenges for the businesses in our region, the resilience and commitment to innovation shown in this series highlights how impressive our community is.

The future of Barwon South West is bright.

A video transcript will be available soon

Case studies

Influencing policy decisions

RDA Barwon South West committee played a key role in facilitating and assisting in the development of Victoria’s first Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA) in Warrnambool. The committee identified a declining and aging population was creating critical labour shortages in the region. Through private sector and government consultation it drove the development of analysis and reports demonstrating a projected a shortfall of 7000 workers in Victoria’s south west by 2023.

In June 2018, RDA Barwon South West committee chair, Bruce Anson, raised the issue with local member for Wannon, Dan Tehan. The Commonwealth responded by inviting the region to apply for a DAMA to attract migrant skilled and semi-skilled workers. The RDA Barwon South West committee financially assisted Warrnambool City Council’s successful DAMA application.

Covering the Glenelg, Moyne, Southern Grampians, Warrnambool, Corangamite and Colac-Otway municipalities, the DAMA began operating in January 2020 and has supported 18 businesses to attract 68 workers to the region. An advocate of place-based migration initiatives, the RDA Barwon South West committee played a key role in the Great South Coast Workforce Supply and Population Working Group to address population attraction and workforce challenges, including attracting and retaining youth.

Seizing economic opportunities

Realising the full economic potential of the Twelve Apostles on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road was an early strategic focus of the RDA Barwon South West committee.

In 2016, the committee commissioned analysis to identity the reputational risks threatening the $860 million generated annually from the attraction. It highlighted overcrowding and lack of amenity at the Twelve Apostles created a negative visitor experience. With more than 2.2 million people visiting the natural attraction annually it was well ahead of high-profile destinations such as Stonehenge which has 1.2 million yearly visitors.

During peak season the 15,000 daily visitors shared minimal facilities at the Twelve Apostles. Viewing platforms were overcrowded and visitors, unable to access full car parks, were forced to walk long distances from vehicles parked on the side of the Great Ocean Road. Without adequate wayfinding along each site visitors walked dangerously close to cliff edges.

The insights were used to work with local government , G21, and Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism to lobby the Commonwealth and State for investment in the Twelve Apostles and the implementation of the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan (2015).

The three-stage Victorian Government plan set out a comprehensive program to protect the fragile coastline and create employment opportunities by shifting the Great Ocean Road from a day trip to an overnight and multi-day experience.

The Australian Government is investing $108 million for the plan’s second stage which includes the development of a Twelve Apostles Visitor Experience Centre at Glenample to disperse visitors throughout the region. In 2019 the Shipwreck Coast plan was incorporated in the $370 million Geelong City Deal. The high rate of investment return of $5 for every $1 spent on the Shipwreck Coast was integral to the formation of the City Deal as it significantly added to its return on investment.

The development of the Shipwreck Coast Master Plan has spurred significant investment with $700,000 million in new accommodation planned along the Great Ocean Road. The City Deal will drive further growth in the 11,000 jobs reliant on tourism along the scenic coastal road.

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