Our Partnership comprises business and community members from across Wimmera Southern Mallee 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.
David Jochinke – Chair
David Jochinke is a third generation grain and livestock farmer living in north west Victoria. David holds numerous positions of responsibility at a regional, State and National level. He is currently President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Board Member of Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water and Board Member of the National Farmers Federation.
David is a past recipient of the Nuffield Australian Farming Scholarship, completed his Diploma in Applied Science (Ag Services) and is an active contributor to his local community including membership of the Wimmera Machinery Field Days Committee, the Wallup Ag Group, the Northern Wimmera CFA Brigade and Committees for Birchip Cropping Group and Wimmera Farming Systems.
Cathy Tischler – Deputy Chair
Cathy is currently a PhD candidate at Federation University and is a senior researcher with the Regional Incubator for Social and Economic Research based at Horsham. Her research is focused on political representation, equity and competition in Rural Victoria—specifically in the Wimmera region. Other qualifications include a Bachelor of Public Policy and Management and Arts (Politics) from Melbourne University and Graduate Diploma of Environment and Planning from RMIT. She has a background in agricultural policy, social research and advocacy. Cathy is a committee member and former Chair of Leadership Wimmera and is a board member of the Wimmera Development Association.
David is currently CEO of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, a role he has held since 2011. Prior to this role, David held senior government positions in agriculture and natural resources management. David owned and operated an export-based agribusiness for seven years and comes from a farming family. He is committed to regional development and environmental sustainability. David also holds the positions of current Chair of Skillinvest, Chair of the Wimmera’s Integrated Management Forum, a Local Ambassador for White Ribbon and is an active member in art, fishing and sporting groups.
Josh is currently Executive Officer at Uniting Wimmera and has worked in the community services sector from 2009. Josh has completed further study in Disability, Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs and Leadership and Management. Josh is recognised as an outstanding mentor with strong relationship building ability and is highly capable at program implementation, client management, stakeholder engagement, problem solving and negotiation. Having lived in Horsham for his whole life, Josh is heavily involved in the community through different boards and committees, as well as being a local White Ribbon ambassador.
Catherine joined Wimmera Health Care Group, a subregional base hospital in the Wimmera region as the Chief Executive Officer in September 2017. Catherine provides operational oversight of the health service and supports the Board of Management in their governance, policy, risk and strategic objectives.
In 2017, Catherine was recognised as one of the Top 50 Public Sector Women in Victoria for her inspirational leadership at Rural Northwest Health. Catherine was celebrated as an exceptional female leader building high performing teams and transforming communities.
Emelia has a strong background in water management having been a Wimmera CMA Board member since 2011, Deputy Chair since 2013 and is on the board of the Wimmera Development Association (WDA).
Emelia is an agricultural scientist, teacher and partner with her husband in a cropping and sheep farm business at Rupanyup South.
Emelia brings experience in natural resource management, stakeholder engagement, governance and a strong farming background and involvement to the committee.
Mark Williams is the Managing Director of GWMWater and has worked with GWMWater and the former Grampians Water since 1996. In this time Mark has been responsible for overseeing the commercial implementation of water reforms in the region that include the delivery of water quality upgrades, investments that have improved water security and the introduction of independent service and price regulation by the Essential Services Commission.
Mark brings a wealth of experience to the role beyond his water industry experience which includes roles in the power industry, health and public service where he started his career in 1985.
Initially appointed in 2016 as RDA representative, Ms Robyn Gulline is a Director of Gulline Farms, a board member of Wimmera Development Association, Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera Branch Vice-President and Grains Industry Representative and is Vice Chair of Partners in Grain Vic/Tas. Robyn is passionate to see WSM region become a bright and vibrant region, with a diverse and growing population, a prosperous economy, strong employment, numerous TAFE and tertiary educational course opportunities and quality health services.
Regional Development Australia representative
Stuart Benjamin was born and raised in Regional Victoria. Stuart studied and worked around Australia before settling in Ballarat to start a family. He has four children and runs a business group operating across the State. Stuart is currently a Director of Elmstone, a multi-faceted land and construction group operating in Western Victoria. Other positions include: Director of Aviation Accommodation Australia, a specialised residential and commercial accommodation provider to the aviation industry; Director of au Domain Authority (auDA) the regulator of the domain name space in Australia on behalf of the Federal Government; Board Member with Enterprising Communities Inc. who aim is to strengthen the connections between the community, families and schools.
Victorian Government representative
Terry Garwood - Deputy Secretary, Local Infrastructure - Department of Environment Land Water and Planning
Local Government CEOs
Sunil Bhalla - CEO, Horsham Rural City Council
Sunil Bhalla commenced as Horsham Rural City Council CEO in April 2018. Sunil started his career in the private sector and has worked in Local Government for over 25 years, including 13 years in senior executive roles delivering significant projects. He was previously Director Infrastructure Services at the City of Maribyrnong, where he had finance and operational responsibility for a large team and the delivery of services and programs to a rapidly growing community. Prior to this, Sunil worked at the Surf Coast Shire Council for more than 14 years in a range of management positions including General Manager Governance and Infrastructure, Director Corporate Services, Director Infrastructure and Infrastructure manager. He was also with the Hume City Council for six years and the Shire of Bulla for over two years.
Liana Thompson - CEO, Northern Grampians Shire Council
Liana Thompson’s local government history spans over 25 years, with experience as both a Mayor, Councillor and in Executive Management positions.
Liana was the last Mayor at the City of Port Melbourne, the first Mayor of the City of Port Phillip (following amalgamation), and a founding member and the inaugural president of the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA).
Liana has vast experience in local government administration, working across all areas, in particular community building, organisational development and supporting elected representatives in delivering good governance.
Jessie Holmes - CEO, Yarriambiack Shire Council
In June 2018, Jessie Holmes was appointed as CEO of the Yarriambaick Shire Council. She is one of the youngest serving female CEOs in Victoria. Previously, Jessie was the Director of Community Development at Buloke Shire Council, a position she held since 2009. Jessie went to school in Dimboola and has a deep and strong understanding of the issues and opportunities facing rural Councils and communities in the WSM.
David Leahy - CEO, West Wimmera Shire Council
David Leahy joined West Wimmera Shire Council as its CEO in February 2016. He previously spent seven years as Infrastructure Director with Swan Hill Rural City Council. During that time he was acting CEO on a number of occasions. Previously David has worked at Naracoorte-Lucindale Council in infrastructure roles, including two as Operations and Technical Services Director. David started his career at Whyalla City Council, followed by sixteen years with the SA State Road Authority where he oversaw multiple construction sites within the State.
Greg Wood - CEO, Hindmarsh Shire Council
Mr Greg Wood has more than 13 years’ executive and management experience in local government. Prior to being appointed CEO at Hindmarsh Shire in 2016, he was Director of Community Services and Emergency Management at the City of Casey. Greg has also held the position of Manager of Community Services at Port Phillip City Council. He has a strong reputation for delivery of quality services to the community and had previously been responsible for budgets and managing large numbers of staff. Greg’s aim is to build on the considerable strengths of Hindmarsh Shire Council by supporting the needs and aspirations of the people of Hindmarsh.