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 Australian Government involvement with the Partnership) and a representative from the Victorian Government.
Business and community members
David Jochinke – Chair
David is a third generation Wimmera grain and livestock farmer, and holds numerous positions of responsibility at a regional, State and National level. He is currently Vice President of the National Farmers Federation, Chair of Grampians Tourism Board, and a Board Member of Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water. David is a past recipient of the Nuffield Australian Farming Scholarship, holds a 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 Birchip Cropping Group.
Dr Cathy Tischler – Deputy Chair
Cathy is a postdoctoral researcher and Team Lead for the Federation University Future Regions Research Centre Horsham Hub. Her research is focused on the ideologies, values and behaviours of rural communities with implications for understanding change and resistance. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Public Policy and Management (Hons) and Arts (Politics) from Melbourne University and a Graduate Diploma of Environment and Planning from RMIT. She has a background in agricultural policy, social research, and advocacy. Cathy is a member of the Communities of Respect and Equality (CoRE) Alliance Leadership Group, the committee that advises on the CoRE regional primary prevention partnership led by Women’s Health Grampians.
Johnny is the Corporate Services Manager at Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative and a Traditional Owner and descendent of the Wotjobaluk people. He is the Chair of Goolum Goolum and sits on various boards and committees, locally, regionally and statewide, including the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, West Division Regional Governance Committee and two local Reconciliation Action Plan committees. Johnny has spent the past 18 years working for Goolum in various roles and is recognised as one of the emerging leaders within the Aboriginal community in the Wimmera.
Carol Starkey is the Project Manager at Grampians disAbility Advocacy. Having spent many years living and working in remote communities, in Australia and overseas, Carol is passionate about embracing diversity, empowering local people and creating a fair and just place where all people feel they belong. She has a breadth of experience across the health, community and business sectors, previously holding positions managing General Practice and supporting health integration and equity. Carol holds a Diploma of Business (Governance), Diploma of Practice Management and Cert. IV in Community Development. She has strong governance and leadership skills and currently volunteers on a number of local committees.
Dr Kendra Clegg
Kendra maintains various active community roles in Murtoa and is the Independent Chair of Headspace Horsham Consortium. Her academic background is in political and ethnic identity, and she is experienced in coordinating humanitarian response to natural disasters and conflict with the United Nations and in incident management with the Victoria State Emergency Service, and is currently the Grampians Recovery Manager with Emergency Recovery Victoria. Kendra has a strong track record in consultation, collaboration and strategic planning and possesses extensive networks in the region. She has a keen interest in understanding communities, identifying the drivers and challenges to enhance engagement and seeks realistic approaches to achieve beneficial outcomes for the community.
Emelia has a strong background in water management having been a Wimmera CMA Board member since 2011, Deputy Chair since 2013, and is a member of the Murray Darling Basin Authority Community Committee. Emelia is an agricultural scientist, teacher and partner with her husband in a cropping and sheep farming business at Rupanyup South. She brings experience in natural resource management, stakeholder engagement, governance, work with community groups, and a strong farming background to the Partnership.
David is CEO of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, a role he has held since 2011. Previously, David held senior government positions in agriculture and natural resources management, and is committed to regional development and environmental sustainability. He owned and operated an export-based agribusiness for seven years and comes from a farming family. David is also Chair of Skillinvest, Chairs the Wimmera Integrated Management Forum, is a Local Ambassador for White Ribbon and an active member of art, fishing and sporting groups.
Josh is Executive Officer at Uniting Wimmera and has worked in the community services sector since 2009. Josh has completed further study in Disability, Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs, Leadership and Management. He is recognised as an outstanding mentor with strong relationship building ability with highly capable program implementation, client management, stakeholder engagement, problem solving and negotiation skills. 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.
Regional Development Australia representative
Stuart Benjamin was born and raised in Regional Victoria and studied and worked around Australia before settling in Ballarat. He runs a business group operating across Victoria and is the Director of Elmstone, a multi-faceted land and construction group operating in Western Victoria. Stuart’s other positions include Chair of Regional Development Australia Grampians Committee, Chair of the Small Business Ministerial Council, and Chair of Grampians New Energy Task Force.
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. He 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 the delivery of services and programs to a rapidly growing community. Sunil also 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, and Director Infrastructure. He was 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 more than 25 years, with experience as both a Mayor, a 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). She has vast experience in local government administration, working across all areas, particularly in community building, organisational development and supporting elected representatives to deliver good governance.
Tammy Smith - CEO, Yarriambiack Shire Council
Tammy is a Wimmera resident, residing in the region for over 20 years. Her experience includes cluster managing early years centres, working in a State water authority, and more recently in Local Government. She was appointed as the CEO of Yarriambiack Shire Council in April 2022. Tammy’s qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Commerce, Professional Accounting. She is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a qualified accountant and graduate of the Institute of Public Accountants program and is a Member of the Australia Human Resource Institute.
David Bezuidenhout - CEO, West Wimmera Shire Council
David qualified as a lawyer and worked in private practice for 16 years in South Africa and later in Queensland after migrating to Australia in 2006. Over the next 12 years, David worked in both the legal space and senior project and general management roles. He made the transition into the public sector in 2015 as head of Capital Projects for the Gladstone Area Water Board and, in 2018, joined Cloncurry Shire Council in North West Queensland as their CEO. David was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of West Wimmera Shire Council in April 2021.
Greg Wood - CEO, Hindmarsh Shire Council
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.