Our Committee

Non-profit Committee Volunteers

RDA committees are non profit community based organisations. Committee members are committed volunteers appointed from the region and represent the community, business and local government. Each RDA committee has a broad and diverse skills base and demonstrated networks and alliances. The committee of RDA Darling Downs and South West Inc comprises ten members, all of whom were jointly appointed via application by the Commonwealth and State Governments.

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Chair - Fiona Gaske

With an extensive background in government, business, health and the creative industries, as an elected Councillor and Deputy Mayor for Balonne Shire between 2012 and 2020, with a wide array of portfolios and a range of appointments to regional boards and committees across health, regional economic development, creative industries and technology, Fiona maintains a strong presence in the creative landscape, and has established networks across all levels of government, as well as within and between a number of industry sectors.

With a strong history of generating and advancing organisational visibility to compete for political funding and support for innovative strategies, Fiona seeks prospects to grow and leverage opportunities to attract investment, partnerships and alliances, developing coalitions with business and not-for-profits, and establishing bipartisan relationships throughout government.

All her leadership roles have offered opportunities to proactively contribute and invest her energy, business acumen, governance, and expertise in strategic planning, to help organisations establish strategic priorities, meet organisational challenges, and access economic investment opportunities.

Fiona brings robust interpersonal communication skills to all her roles, is able to skilfully influence, persuade and constructively shape policy, and is an energetic advocate for working collaboratively across government, industry and education sectors. She is passionate about building bridges between education and employment, developing highly skilled and educated communities and economies that help diversify, innovate and build capacity for sustainable futures in metropolitan, rural and regional Australia.

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Deputy Chair - Stuart Mackenzie

Stuart Mackenzie is a pastoralist from the western area of Quilpie Shire. He is the owner and Manager of Plevna Downs, a grazing enterprise dealing in organic wool, sheep and beef. Stuart served as a Councillor on Quilpie Shire Council from 1997 to 2004, as Deputy Mayor from 2004 to 2008 and was elected Mayor in 2012. He is also Deputy-chair of the Outback Queensland Tourism Association.In 2008 Stuart founded the non-profit, charitable public company Outback Gondwana Foundation Ltd. He is the Chair and a Director on the board. The company was set up to preserve the natural assets of the south west region and educate the public in relation to the amazing paleontological discoveries being made there. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Engineering Degree (QUT) and is married to wife Robyn and has 2 adult children. For generations, Stuart’s family has dedicated their lives to to living and producing in Western QLD, and Stuart is committed to to doing everything he can to ensure regional QLD has an exciting and prosperous future.
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Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson is Managing Director of Wilson International Trade, a business focused on providing superior services to global trade, logistics and agribusiness.

Peter has held Board, Executive Management and Senior Trading positions for listed and private International Trading and Logistics companies in Australia and Canada. Peter is Immediate Past Chair and current Board Member of Pulse Australia Limited and he is also a member of the Global Pulse Confederation’s Executive Committee.

Peter is a Board Member of Regional Development Australia, which is responsible for determining strategy for the region in the areas of development, sustainability and resilience. He is also an Executive Committee Member of the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland.

Peter holds post-graduate qualifications in Agribusiness from Monash University and has lectured in agribusiness and risk management subjects at the University of Queensland.

Peter maintains a keen interest in a family farming business on the Darling Downs in Southern Queensland. He is married to Sonja and has 3 children.

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Marco Otaola

Marco Otaola is Managing Director of Ago Vires. A regionally based construction company in Thargomindah working extensively throughout regional Australia and specialising in the delivery of Oil and Gas related projects in remote areas and supplying trades and services for local communities in far west Queensland. He has been working in the building, construction and manufacturing industry for two decades. Throughout his career, Marco has strengthened his ability firstly, as a tradesman and then later as an experienced Construction m=Manager, Project Manager and now Managing Director. He has extensive experience with community services and is strongly involved in community groups. He is an avid businessman whose approach is to build relationships that customers can trust. Marco has always had a strong focus on family and community and is looking to help better the region within his capabilities.

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Kate Venables

Kate Venables, Executive Director of CatholicCare Social Services SW QLD, has spent the last 20 years working history in the social services sector across Central QLD and the Darling Downs and South West Queensland. Working with teams who provide services to families and individuals needing support, refugees and migrants, our first nation peoples and separated parents, Kate is aware of the many vulnerabilities and complexities of our varied communities in SW Qld as well as the enormous resilience they are able to develop.

Covering more than 450,000 km2 in her executive role, she is aware of the invaluable benefits of collaboration and partnership across many sectors in our part of the world.
Married to Cam, and mother of three adult children (26, 21 and 19), Kate is also committed to family and her local church community at St Barts, and squeezes in a bit of exercise, some baking and reading in her down time.

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Sean Rice

Sean Rice, better known as Ricey is the Managing Director of Proterra Group, a regionally based Civil Engineering Business that works with State and Local Governments across Rural and Regional NSW and QLD.

This role has allowed has allowed him to become very well connected in our RDA Area and well informed of the issues that affect our communities and lifestyles.

Born and bred in the bush, Ricey is an outspoken advocate for the regions and is passionate about all things country.

Being an RPEQ and Civil Engineer he has a real focus on our public infrastructure and what needs to be done to connect our communities.

Over the past 15 years Ricey has been fortunate to have worked with 50 Regional Councils in his role with Proterra Group, including all 10 Councils that form our amazing Darling Downs South West Region.

He has been involved with many local community organisations and sporting groups and has a particular interest in our Youth including indigenous issues, junior sports, arts and cultural programs, mental health and work opportunities for school leavers.

Ricey spends his spare time enjoying moments with his 8 children (including two young foster kids), hiking, cooking over a fire and travelling across our amazing country.

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Rouz Fard

Rouz is an experienced industry consultant and relationships manager with a demonstrated history of working in skills development to build a future ready workforce in collaboration with industries.

He is highly skilled in Learning Management, Higher Education, Industry Linkage, Business Development, and consulting with great passion for regional Queensland.

Rouz holds a number of professional memberships, including:

  • Australian Association of Graduate Employers
  • Australian Computer Society
  • Australian Collaborative Education Network
  • Graduate Management Association of Australia
  • National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory
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Michele Berkhout

Michele is Director, Corporate Solutions and Industry Engagement at TAFE Queensland South West with responsibility for developing, promoting and facilitating relationships between TAFE Queensland, Industry, various levels of government and community representatives and groups.

Michele is a catalyst for creating and mobilising integrated, customer-focused strategies that deliver brand-aligned values-driven market growth through effective customer experience management. Michele has a bias for action and a focus on uncovering business value at the intersect of people and their conversations and the data and technology to support these conversations.

Michele’s current projects include whole of organisation digital transformation and innovation, B2B and B2C marketing automation; customer journey mapping and customer experience management, customer-facing business process improvement, database management, data analysis and dashboard reporting enablement. Change management to reorganise around the customer, focus on business solutions and help organisations transition their workforce through automation and digital disruption.

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