Regional Development Victoria Delivering for Rural and Regional Victoria logo

Our Members

Central Highlands Regional Partnerships Logo Our Partnership comprises business and community members from across Central Highlands who care passionately about the future of our region.

They are joined in the Partnership by the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of our Local Government Areas, as well as a representative of Regional Development Australia (ensuring Commonwealth involvement with the Partnership) and a representative from the Victorian Government.

Members

Business and community members

Tim MatthewsTim Matthews – Chair

A respected and active leader amongst the Central Highlands business community, Tim has expertise in marketing and small business. He heads a number of successful hospitality businesses, is a board member of Ballarat Regional Tourism and previous Chair of the Ballarat Business Centre. Tim’s commitment to the region he grew up in is clear, returning for his second term with the Central Highlands Regional Partnership.

Tim is passionate about listening to the Central Highlands community and bringing its voice to the heart of Government. In his first term with the Partnership, Tim was a key advocate for the tourism, hospitality and premium agricultural produce sectors. Now as Chair, he is keenly aware of the important role the Partnership can play in supporting the region as it recovers from the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.


Karen HeapKaren Heapz – Deputy Chair

Since becoming the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative (BADAC) CEO in 2004, Karen’s leadership has driven a significant expansion of services and programs to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Ballarat region Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, including supporting them towards self-determination.

Karen is a proud Yorta Yorta woman and is widely regarded as an inspirational leader by her staff and colleagues, government agencies and bodies, and most importantly, by her Ballarat region Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Karen was inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll in 2020 and the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2019.


Sophie EllisSophie Ellis

Sophie is a Senior Youth Advocate at Victoria Legal Aid, where she provides legal advice and support to young people. She has worked for many years in the community legal sector, including at Youthlaw Ballarat, where she assisted young people, workers and their families through the Health Justice Partnership with Ballarat Community Health and Federation University. Through her work, Sophie has built collaborative networks to improve understanding of how law can be a positive driver of change to improve health and life outcomes for children and young people. Sophie is a member of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights and a keen advocate for social justice and environmental sustainability. Along with Sophie's expertise in law, she also brings a strong skillset in research and analysis, mediation and communication and a deep knowledge of social justice issues in the Central Highlands.


Wendy SturgessWendy Sturgess

Wendy is the Chief Executive Officer of Children and Family Services Ballarat and brings valuable insights into the needs of children, young people and families across the Central Highlands. Wendy is an experienced and passionate leader, having held multiple executive roles in the not-for-profit sector as well as leadership roles including Chair of the Family Services Alliance and key member of the Orange Door Leadership Group and Central Highlands Water Advisory Group. Wendy is skilled in the design and implementation of strategy, communication and negotiation, engaging with diverse communities and driving effective advocacy.


Brett EdgingtonBrett Edgington

Brett is the Secretary of Ballarat Trades and Labour Council, representing a diverse range of unionised workforces across health, manufacturing, education, emergency services, the public sector and many more. Brett has experience on many community boards including Prevention of Violence, the Tech School and the Foto Biennale. He brings a strong skillset in crisis management and communications, grassroots organising, state and local government, coaching, and the not-for-profit sector. Brett is passionate about supporting a decision-making process through the Central Highlands Regional Partnership that is consultative, thoughtful, evidence-based and community-focused.

Regional Development Australia representative

Stuart BenjaminStuart Benjamin

Stuart is the Chair of the Regional Development Australia (RDV) Grampians committee which he has led since 2012. He was also the Chair of RDA Victoria for three years. A strong advocate for small business and regional Australia, Stuart has 20 years’ experience across multiple business sectors and is the Director of the Elmstone Property Group – a multi-faceted land and construction group operating across Western Victoria – as well as the Director of Aviation Accommodation Australia. Stuart is the Chair of the Grampians New Energy Taskforce (GNeT), working across the region to lead new approaches and practices to drive a low-carbon economy in Victoria, and is the Chair of the Victorian Small Business Ministerial Council. Born and raised in regional Victoria, Stuart studied and worked around the world before settling in Ballarat in 2000 where he now lives with his four children.

Victorian Government representative

Jamie Driscoll – Deputy Secretary, Budget and Finance Division - Department of Treasury and Finance

Local Government CEOs

Tim HarrisonDr Tim Harrison – Chief Executive Officer, Ararat Rural City Council

Dr Tim Harrison commenced as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ararat Rural City Council in 2018. Tim commenced the role of CEO at Ararat Rural City Council after a diverse career. Previous roles have included senior roles in local government in Victoria and Queensland, developing social enterprise organisations in the community sector, as well as leadership, research and engagement roles in higher education. Tim’s local government experience includes senior roles in engineering, service delivery and corporate strategy.

Tim holds a qualification in Engineering, a Master of Business Administration and a doctorate where he explored relationships between social policy and community engagement. He is the author of government-funded reports on regional social service delivery and regional population dispersal and he has undertaken significant economic development projects in regional communities. Tim established the Regional Incubator for Social and Economic Research (RISER) and remains passionate about working with communities throughout rural and regional Victoria.


Eric BraslisEric Braslis – Chief Executive Officer, Golden Plains Shire Council

Prior to taking the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Golden Plains Shire in December 2017, Eric had been the CEO at Gannawarra Shire Council since July 2015. Eric has previously held the positions of General Manager City Infrastructure and Director of Growth and Development at Ballarat City Council, General Manager of Planning and Development at Stonnington City Council and Director Planning and Environment and Director of Community Services at Hobsons Bay City Council. His qualifications include a Bachelor of Applied Arts, Urban and Regional Planning from Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto, Canada and a Masters of Business Administration from Deakin University. In addition, Eric completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, the Executive Leadership program at Harvard University (Boston) and is a graduate of LGPro’s XLP program. Eric is currently the Deputy Chair of PINARC Disability Services, G21 and a sitting member of the Victorian Building Authority (Building Appeals Board).


Bradley ThomasBradley Thomas – Interim Chief Executive Officer, Hepburn Shire Council

Bradley joined Council in January 2019, having previously held the position of Executive Manager, Business Performance, with the Mount Alexander Shire Council. Bradley has extensive knowledge of local government finance, information technology and corporate reporting. Bradley is a qualified Chartered Accountant, holds an MBA and is passionate about ensuring a high functioning organisation that delivers quality services to the community.


Derek MaddenDerek Madden – Chief Executive Officer, Moorabool Shire Council

Derek Madden commence as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Moorabool Shire in October, 2018. Derek has over 17 years’ experience in local government and was previously employed by Cardinia Shire Council as General Manager Corporate Services. Prior to this, Derek worked at the Moreland City Council, City of Melbourne and Exon-Mobile. Prior to moving to Australia Derek worked in Ireland and the United Kingdom. He holds a Certificate in Digital Strategies for Business, Masters of Applied Science in Organisational Dynamics, an MBA from Victoria Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor of Business from the University of Limerick, Ireland.


Jim NolanJim Nolan – Chief Executive Officer, Pyrenees Shire Council

Jim was appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with Pyrenees Shire Council in December 2014. He has 25 years’ experience in local government at Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Northern Grampians. Jim has experience across infrastructure, project delivery, community and economic development.

As CEO, Jim is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Council, the delivery of the Council Plan and the implementation of Council decisions. Jim also has direct responsibility for economic development and communications.


Evan KingEvan King – Chief Executive Officer, City of Ballarat

Evan King commenced as City of Ballarat in February 2021. Previously, Evan hwas Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Hepburn Shire and has a Local Government career including executive roles at Pyrenees Shire Council as the Director of Corporate and Community Services and Hepburn Shire Council as the General Manager Corporate Services.

Prior to working in Local Government, Evan had an extensive career working in manufacturing and held senior management positions with Mars Wrigley and FMP (Bendix Mintex) as well as working within the social sector as the Business Manager for Salvation Army Western Victoria.

Evan has a Bachelor of Business from Federation University, is a qualified CPA and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Having lived and worked in rural and regional Victoria all his life, Evan is passionate about rural living and ensuring that those who live in regional Victoria have access to high-quality services and facilities.

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