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About RDA Gippsland

Wooden Trestle Bridge in West Gippsland

The Regional Development Australia (RDA) Gippsland committee drives economic development by identifying and advocating for regional priorities and projects that leverage our comparative strengths. From supporting the business case for Gippsland’s Hi-Tech Precinct to driving regional strategic planning through the Gippsland Regional Plan Leadership Group, the committee works to bring investment to the region and create jobs.

Rowing in East Gippsland

Who we are

The RDA Gippsland committee members are selected for their business expertise and understanding of the region’s key economic strengths.  The high calibre team has global, national and local experience in energy, agriculture, education and health.

Our committee members

Kellie O'Callaghan - Chair

Kellie O'Callaghan

An experienced Board Chair and non-executive director, Ms O’Callaghan brings strong strategic planning and governance experience to the committee and is a proven leader in the health and community services field.

Currently Chair of Gippsland’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Interim Body and a member of the Australian Medical Council’s Recognition Medical Specialities Committee, Ms O’Callaghan brings extensive experience in organisational management, community informed service design and industry development.

She has previously served as Board Director of Primary Health Network Gippsland and Better Care Victoria, as well as Chair and Board Director at Latrobe Regional Hospital. Having served as Mayor of Latrobe City Council through the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station, she brings extensive experience in transitioning regional economies to the role of Chair.

As Mayor, she provided leadership and guidance to the co-creation of A Strength-Led Transition, a community, business, industry and Council publication which captured community aspirations for an empowered economic transition post brown coal fired power generation.

Ms O’Callaghan has secured significant support for council’s economic, community and liveability initiatives through constructive partnerships across all levels of government and has extensive experience supporting communities through crisis and emergency events.

Michelle Dowsett – Executive Officer of East Gippsland Community Foundation

Michelle Dowsett Michelle Dowsett is the Executive Officer of the East Gippsland Community Foundation.

Michelle is an Australian Institute of Company Directors graduate and has contributed to many boards and committees in Gippsland. She currently sits on Gippsland’s Rural Financial Counselling Service, Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, TAFE Gippsland and the Gunaikurnai Traditional Land Owners Management Board’s Audit and Risk Committee as an independent member.

She also represents the RDA Committee on the Gippsland Regional Partnership. Recently, Michelle served on the Board of East Gippsland Water (8 years) and as the Audit/Risk Chair for 4 years. She also sat on the Municipal Association of Victoria Audit/Risk Committee as an independent member for 6 years, 4 years as Chair.

Michelle is a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) and previously ran her own business providing business management, financial accounting and company secretary services from East Gippsland through to Melbourne. Between 2016 and 2020, she was also CEO of Sale Elderly Citizens Village, a community based, NFP, residential aged care and retirement living service provider.

Michelle is a passionate Gippslander who grew up in the region and has lived at Longford for the past 25 years on a hobby farm.

Raelene Hanratty – Deputy Chair

Raelene HanrattyBorn in Yallourn, new committee member Raelene has been dairy farming since 1986 in the Macalister Irrigation District.

An Australian Institute of Company Directors member, she chairs the Heyfield Hospital Board and the Macalister Customer Committee (Southern Rural Water).

On top of those duties, she also finds time to be Director of Rural Financial Counselling Gippsland, a mentor with Farmer’s Friend (Lifeline Gippsland) and Treasurer with Nambrok Football Club, Newry Football Club and Newry Junior Football Club

On the committee, Raelene will encourage investment and development in the agriculture sector. She envisages a sustainable and profitable agricultural district aligned to a common brand – ‘Gippsland’, and sees a strong, emerging market for farm products that have trustworthy provenance.

Kerryn Ellis

Kerryn EllisKerryn Ellis is a passionate public sector leader with over 25 experience, who is energised by working with communities in a context of rapid change. Kerryn’s main professional love is building high performing, ethical and agile organisations with values-based leadership working in partnership to deliver great outcomes with the community.

Kerryn’s current role is Chief Executive Officer of South Gippsland Shire Council. Prior to this position, Kerryn held the positions of Director Corporate Services at Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission and Director Corporate Performance with the City of Greater Bendigo. Kerryn holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Commerce and a Graduate Diploma of Public Policy and Management. Kerryn is a current board member of LGPro, and was recognised as one of the IPAA Top 50 Public Sector Women in 2021.

Tony Wolfe

Tony WolfeTony has worked in Gippsland in the power generation industry for over 40 years. Born in Morwell and growing up on a dairy farm at Yinnar, he raised his family first in Traralgon before relocating to Warragul over 20 years ago.

He has completed the AICD Company Directors Course, graduated from the Australian Rural Leadership Program and Gippsland Community Leadership Program, completed a Graduate Certificate in Rural Leadership at James Cook University and spent time as Deputy Mayor at Baw Baw Shire. He has gained Board experience in the Education and Health sectors and is currently Vice Chair of the Gippsland Climate Change Network. Tony is also a volunteer Camp Leader caring for kids impacted by cancer with Camp Quality.

His passion is to see the region capitalise on the significant opportunities that are presenting as part of the energy transition away from fossil fuels.

Sue Smethurst

Sue SmethurstSue Smethurst is an award-winning journalist and author with more than 2 decades of experience in media, notably writing for titles such as The Australian Women’s Weekly, The Weekend Australian magazine, the Herald Sun, Good Weekend along with a number of international titles.

She is the author of 11 books, sold internationally. In addition, she has worked as a Ministerial adviser in federal parliament.

Born and raised in Gippsland, Sue currently serves on the board of the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, and has served on the community panel of Ad Standards Australia, and the Boards of the Royal Victorian Eye & Ear Hospital and Destination Gippsland.

Kieren Kearney

Kieren KearneyKieren has worked in senior leadership roles across both private and not-for-profit sectors and has nearly 20 years’ experience in the Employment Services industry. Commencing in the CEO role at Workways in 2019, Kieren brings extensive experience and qualifications in project and change management and expertise across employment services both in the region and beyond.

Kieren’s connection to Gippsland started when he attended secondary school in Bairnsdale. He has continued that connection since starting at Workways. He spends a significant amount of time in East Gippsland and the broader region engaging with staff and community.

Having lived in the Northern Territory, North Queensland and Tasmania, he understands the challenges facing regional communities. Kieren has a Master of Business Administration, a Bachelor of Applied Science and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Salad leaf crops

What we do

The committee engages across agencies, local councils, industry bodies and the private sector to facilitate regional economic development, and to shape projects to align with regional priorities, as well as 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. Our top five strategic priorities are collaboration, regional advocacy, communications and engagement, informing Australian Government policy and regional strategy and planning.

The Gippsland region is positioned to capitalise on tourism, energy, food and fibre, and advanced manufacturing. The committee works with the region to drive and leverage investment for:

  • Tourism
  • Circular economy
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Digital connectivity
  • Food and fibre industries
  • Energy

Latrobe City building

Who we work with

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

  • Gippsland local government areas of Bass Coast Shire Council, Baw Baw Shire Council, East Gippsland Shire Council, Latrobe City Council, South Gippsland Shire Council and Wellington Shire Council.
  • Like-minded initiatives including the Gippsland Regional Partnership and Committee for Gippsland.

RDA committees across Victoria, including RDA Melbourne, and bordering interstate RDA committees.

Aerial view of Lakes Entrance

Our region

Fast facts

  • 290,987 population in Gippsland Region
  • $18.029 billion Gross Regional Product for the Gippsland Region
  • 116,247 jobs in the Gippsland region.
  • Healthcare and Social Assistance, Retail Trade and Construction are Gippsland’s three largest employing industries.

RDA Gippsland region map

Located in the south eastern corner of Victoria Gippsland has diverse landscapes with spectacular regional attractions including the Gippsland Lakes, Wilson’s Promontory and the Penguin Parade operated by Phillip Island Nature Parks. Other scenic nature locations include Mount Baw Baw, Tarra Bulga, Croajingolong and Morwell National Parks.

As a major food producer and manufacturer specialising in dairy and vegetable processing, Gippsland farms account for at least one quarter of Victoria’s milk, vegetable and beef production with a number of Gippsland’s businesses exporting food across the world. Other sectors include tourism, manufacturing and energy.  Gippsland is rich in natural resources. The Latrobe Valley’s brown coal reserves are estimated to be 65 billion tonnes, which equals 25 percent of the world’s known brown coal reserves. Gippsland’s offshore gas also supplies Melbourne, regional centres across Victoria as well as the wider east-coast gas market.

The Princes Highway is the main route through Gippsland which is also supported by train services from Melbourne to Bairnsdale.

Case studies

Seizing economic opportunities

RDA Gippsland played a key role in the development of the Hi-Tech Gippsland Precinct by funding its business case. It worked with Federation University, TAFE Gippsland (formerly Federation Training) and local industry and community to drive the development of the Precinct concept.

The Precinct includes the Morwell Innovation Centre, which provides new product development, business incubation and start up support. It centralises research and innovation, creates jobs by accelerating technology adoption and will attract new investment in the region. With creative spaces to promote design thinking and practice the Innovation Centre will play an important role in supporting the expansion of the region’s health, food and fibre, advanced manufacturing and new energy growth sectors.

Co-located and integrated with Gippsland Tech School, the Precinct also supports students from across the region to learn the skills required by local industries. Gippsland Tech School provides students a clear pathway from secondary school to vocational training, tertiary education, and research in one location. Discover more about the Hi-Tech Gippsland Precinct.

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