Our Partnership comprises business and community members from across Ovens Murray who care passionately about the future of our region.
They are joined on the Partnership by the 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.
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.
Amber Gardner - Deputy Chair
Amber Gardner is CEO for Tourism North East. She has more than twenty years’ experience in marketing, particularly for the Tourism sector. She is currently Director for Outdoors Victoria and in addition to serving on the Ovens Murray Regional Partnership, she is a member of Benalla Art Gallery Special Committee, the Alpine Resorts Industry Advisory Group and the Victorian Tourism Industry Council Destinations Policy Committee.
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.
Sally Gamble has managed her family farm since 1992, having previously worked in Family Violence prevention and administration. She has been the Director of Tomorrow Today, a Foundation for Rural Community Development since 2001, and led it from a fledgling organisation to a significant contributor to the wellbeing of her local community. She is a Director and Company Secretary for Australian Community Philanthropy, and a Committee Member for the Regent Honeyeater Project.
Michael 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 a former Chair and ongoing member of the Hume Bank Board, in addition to other current and past community involvement. Michael was the Regional Partnership Deputy Chair from 2016 to early 2019 and has an in-depth understanding and commitment to the region.
Jonathan Hutchins is CEO of the Mt Hotham Resort Management Board, and has experience across several sectors including Tourism, Finance and Agriculture supply chain. Jonathan has He is currently Director for Tourism North East and is on the Victorian Tourism Industry Council, as well as being Director and Audit Chair for the Natural Resources and Conservation League.
Elisha has held a range of roles in community events coordination, including Venue Coordinator at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre and Event Attraction Coordinator at Wangaratta Rural City Council. She holds a Bachelor of Business (Management and Marketing) and graduated in 2014 from the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program. Elisha has a young family and is passionate about arts and ensuring that everyone has access to theatre and live entertainment, as well as making smart business decisions that are in the best interests of our community.
Rosie is a small business owner and independent theatre producer, who worked in book and magazine publishing for many years before tree-changing with her family to Glenrowan West to run a sheep farm. She is a board director of Tourism North East and the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program, and a member of the Advisory Committee for Arts, Culture and Heritage for Wangaratta Council. She believes that engaged and empowered communities and stunning pristine environments are the greatest assets of North East Victoria.
Regional Development Australia representative
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 and Infrastructure 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 and major health service capital works.
Local government CEOs
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.
Dom Testoni – CEO, Benalla Rural City Council
Dom commenced in the role of CEO Benalla Rural City Council in January 2019. Prior to this, he worked for the seven Councils on the Limestone Coast in South Australia. His experience includes, leading regional lobbying and advocacy, as well as overseeing a range of collaborative projects in tourism, climate adaptation, waste management, economic development, transport and infrastructure planning, road safety, sport and recreation. In addition, Dom has a 20-year history working in agribusiness across New South Wales and Queensland, as well as experience with the not-for-profit and natural resource management sectors.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
Mark Dixon – CEO, Wodonga City Council
Mark commenced as CEO Wodonga Council in May 2019, having formerly held the position of CEO and Managing Director of Wodonga TAFE and the Driver Education Centre of Australia since 2015. 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.