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 Vice President of the National Farmers Federation and Board Member of Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water.
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.
Dr. Cathy Tischler – Deputy Chair
Cathy holds a PhD from 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.
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.
Johnny is the Corporate Services Manager at Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative. He is a Traditional Owner and a descendent of the Wotjobaluk people. Johnny is currently 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 working his way up to his current role. He is recognised as one of the emerging leaders within the Aboriginal community in the Wimmera.
Ms Carol Starkey is currently 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.
Carol 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. Carol has strong governance and leadership skills and currently volunteers on a number of local committees.
Dr Kendra Clegg
Dr Kendra Clegg maintains various community roles and is actively involved in a number of committees and community groups in Murtoa and is the Independent Chair of Headspace Horsham. Kendra has a background in coordinating humanitarian response to natural disasters and conflict with the United Nations and currently works with the Victoria State Emergency Service in capability development for incident management. Kendra has a strong track record in consultation, collaboration and strategic planning and possesses extensive networks in the region. Kendra has a keen interest in understanding communities, identifying the drivers and challenges to enhance engagement and seeks realistic approaches to achieve beneficial outcomes for community.
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.
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.
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.
Pru Cook has spent her entire career working in the grains industry as an extension practitioner and project manager and is passionate about supporting farmers to adopt profitable, sustainable and evidence-based practices. Pru operates a consulting business and raises her family in Dimboola and has previously worked at Agriculture Victoria in Horsham, Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) in Canberra and the Birchip Cropping Group. Pru currently sits on the GRDC Southern Regional Panel and was the Victorian Farmers Federation Grains Council representative for the West Wimmera from 2018-2020. Outside of her professional life, Pru enjoys supporting women’s participation in regional roller derby and is the current Vice Captain for Team Regional Victoria.
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 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. David 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
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.