About RDA Great Southern

Regional Development Australia (RDA) is an Australian Government initiative that brings together all levels of government to enhance the development of Australia’s regions. A national network of RDA committees has been established to achieve this objective.

Regional Development Australia (RDA) is a national network of 52 committees across Australia, including the Indian Ocean Territories and Norfolk Island, made up of local leaders who work with all levels of government, business and community groups to support economic and workforce development, local procurement, strategic regional planning and inform government programs and infrastructure investments.

Our Role

The Australian Government’s vision for regional Australia is one of strong, connected regions that shape our economic growth and wellbeing; are resilient and responsive to economic and environmental shocks; are inclusive, vibrant and diverse. Regions that our First Nations people have every opportunity to engage in and shape, and where people, businesses and investments thrive.

Regional Development Australia Committees (RDAs) are critical to deliver of this vision, including supporting the successful implementation of the Australian Government’s Regional Investment Framework (RIF), which will guide a more coordinated approach to regional development, underpinned by local engagement.

RDAs play a role in helping to drive economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurship in regions through facilitating investment in community, industry and the environment. RDAs assist to bridge the regional development gaps in regions by working with a broad range of stakeholders across sectors and supporting the delivery of identified Australian Government Strategic priorities.

As representatives of their local communities, RDAs will:

  • focus their activities and strategy on delivery of the RIF in their region, including investment in people, places, services and industries and local economies
  • support regional stakeholders, including local government and the not-for-profit-sector, to seek grant opportunities that advance strategic regional priorities
  • support decarbonisation efforts and transformation to a net zero economy and enable regional linkages between sectors to achieve these aims
  • build the evidence for economic development, including innovation and diversification strategies
  • facilitate meaningful engagement across the three levels of government to ensure investments deliver better outcomes for regions, and
  • contribute relevant data and local intelligence to support the evidence base to inform regional development strategies, program design and policy responses.

As use their local, cross-sector expertise and regional voice to:

  • collaborate with integrity, transparency, respect and accountability
  • engage with diverse communities, especially First Nations people
  • support the Government’s ambition of ‘no one held back and no one left behind’, and
  • support gender equality opportunities in their regions.

 

Our Committee

Andrus Budrikis

Chair

Andrus currently holds the position of Regional Manager Infrastructure for WA Country Health Services. Prior to this he held executive management roles with local government within the Great Southern as the Executive Manager Strategic Development at the Shire of Plantagenet and the Executive Manager of Property & Assets at the Shire of Katanning. In these roles he looked after the Shire’s development projects including the re-development of the All-Ages Playground, Piesse Park and the Piesse Lake residential development in Katanning. Andrus is a registered architect (currently non-practicing) and has owned and operated businesses as an architect and project manager. In his early career he worked closely with the University of Western Australia delivering iconic projects such as The University Club of Western Australia and the Motorola research development. He also taught at the UWA School of Architecture either assisting or leading design studios. 

Andrus and his family decided to make a “tree change” and moved to Kendenup in 2004 to support the family enterprise to develop Hawker Ridge Wines with his father. He was elected to the Shire of Plantagenet Council in 2007 and served until 2015. While a Councillor Andrus helped see the Sounness Park sports redevelopment become a reality. He was on the inaugural organisational committee for the Grapes and Gallops horse racing and wine festival held in Mount Barker and helped the Kendenup community raise funds to support the refurbishment of the Kendenup Agricultural Pavilion. Andrus also transformed his professional career over to the construction industry at this point and  held the position as Regional Manager (Great Southern) of a commercial building company and then the General Manager of a Perth based building company. He has worked on many award winning projects and is a member of the Australian Institute of Architects and Australian Institute of Project Managers. Andrus has many interests and has a great affinity for regional areas having worked and lived in areas from the Murchison to Eucla and the Great Southern.

Andrus was appointed to the RDA Great Southern WA Committee on 1 March 2015 and as Chairperson on 7 March 2018. His term has been extended and expires on 30 June 2025

Matt Benson-Lidholm JP

Treasurer

Matt Benson-Lidholm is a well-known and highly respected member of the south coast community, having previously served as a member of the Western Australian Legislative Council (Deputy President and Chair of Committees) whilst representing both the South West and Agricultural regions. He is also an immediate past City of Albany councillor and current Justice of the Peace. Matt is heavily involved in commercial fishing administration, being a former Chair of Southern Seafood Producers (WA) Association and a current Director with the Western Australian Fishing Industry Council (WAFIC).

Matt has previously chaired the Ministerial review of the Fish Resource Management Act during his first term in the Legislative Council.

Prior to entering State Parliament, Matt was a secondary high school teacher (Economics) /administrator and small business owner with his wife Jan. He was also a partner in Kalgan Estate Wines, and has enduring interests in the Western Australian wine industry as a regional development consultant and wine educator, actively promoting industry development. Matt was a partner in an Albany based vineyard and wine producer business.

Matt Benson-Lidholm is also a registered State Government lobbyist, focussing primarily on the State’s Great Southern, South West and Agricultural regions. He is very much committed to the long term, sustainable development of primary industry undertakings and is a former WA Farmer’s Federation Membership Manager. Matt is also keen to work towards a greater regional emphasis on value-adding investment initiatives, especially in the food and tourism sectors.

As a former Director of Racing and Wagering WA, Matt has also overseen significant changes to funding and promotion of the State’s three racing codes. Regional WA has benefited significantly from the progressive approach undertaken by RWWA in recent years, especially in the areas of tourism and employment of local community members. As a former Chair of the Rural and Remote Education Advisory (Ministerial) Council, Matt places great value on continuing the regional education and training focus that RDA Great Southern has embraced in recent years. Of particular note has been his past commitment to promoting and developing training skills and employment opportunities for Aboriginal school age students.

At a national level Matt is an active participant/member of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians against Corruption, stemming principally from his previous Parliamentary membership of the Joint Standing Committee on the Corruption and Crime Commission.

On a final note, using his experience, skills and vision, Matt is excited at the opportunities being presented by the forthcoming 2026 Albany (Nyungar: Kinjarling) bicentenary, especially in helping to build a more inclusive, vibrant and progressive local community.

Matt was appointed to the RDA Great Southern WA Committee on 1 July 2021 and his term expires on 30 June 2024.

Jarrad Gardner

Jarrad Gardner has extensive State Government experience across the energy, water, housing, forestry and land development sectors.  His previous role at WA Treasury saw him develop financial, governance and policy advice for the Western Australian Government across as well as implement major Government initiatives, policies and industry sector reforms.

Jarrad is a passionate and committed leader that returned to the region in 2020 and is currently the Acting CEO of the Great Southern Development Commission.

Jarrad was appointed to the RDA Great Southern WA Committee on 1 July 2021 and his term expires on 30 June 2024.

Darryl Hockey

Darryl Hockey has an extensive career in the agricultural trade, mining and resources sectors and has returned to the Great Southern transitioning to retirement. He has many leadership and achievement awards for his community work including WA Citizen of the Year for community Service and a Centenary Medal.

He has held senior executive roles in major infrastructure and multinational companies and brings a high level and broad corporate perspective to the Committee.  Darryl has also worked as a senior adviser to Cabinet ministers in Canberra, SA and WA and his focussed on achieving outcomes in his business and community initiatives.  He is enthusiastic about the Great Southern region and looks forward to using his extensive work and community networks to advance the region for positive growth.

Darryl was appointed to the RDA Great Southern WA Committee on 1 July 2018. He is now serving his second term expiring on 30 June 2024.

Graeme Jones

Graeme Jones has lived and worked in the Great Southern most of his life and has been a successful farmer and grazier in the northern part of the region. His extensive agribusiness experience includes establishing pastoral companies and trading businesses in regional towns where he has provided strong advocacy for farmers and producers across many industry sectors.

Graeme has worked extensively on agricultural research for both State and Federal Governments and has been awarded on numerous occasions for his industry contributions. His diverse rural interests have seen him involved in rural counselling, fire management, natural resource management, landcare and conservation and fund raising for countless community projects. Graeme has strong leadership experience and has been involved in many community organisations at Board level throughout his career and family life.

Alex Ogg  MBA, GAICD

Alex’s diverse experience straddles fisheries production, aquaculture and the emerging ocean energy sectors. Passionate about sustainable and regenerative aquaculture and decarbonising ocean industries, Alex holds the roles of Director, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), Deputy Chair, Australian Microgrid Centre of Excellence and consults to the Australian Ocean Energy Group and Blue-X Ventures. 

Alex has been at the forefront of innovation in Australia’s pearling industry; is former CEO of the WA Fishing Industry Council; and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.  Alex holds an MBA (Melb.), is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and MIT’s IDEAS Asia Pacific SDG Leadership Lab.

A natural collaborator, Alex forges trusting partnerships across government, industry and community sectors to create purposeful impact and profit for good. Alex was appointed to the RDA Great Southern WA Committee on 1 July 2021 and his term expires on 30 June 2024.

Janine Thornton

Janine has lived in the Great Southern for most of her life, rearing a family and running a few small businesses as well as being involved within her community on many levels.

Experienced in Construction, Hospitality, Alternative Therapies, Agriculture and also as a Small Business Facilitator, NFP Manager and Micro Enterprise Development Manager in the Goldfields for 6 years.

She is passionate about building rural communities and providing essential services to help with maintaining and growing populations to support decentralisation and viable self-sufficient and environmentally friendly lifestyles, promoting the values and advantages of Small Communities and their benefits.

Holding and maintaining many roles in community organisations, Janine assists start-up commercial enterprises and community groups.

She has had extensive experience assisting within Indigenous Communities and is passionate about helping to support and develop self-sufficiency within Communities and Corporations.

Janine is passionate about the Great Southern Region and is looking forward to helping develop it further to be an even more amazing place she knows and loves.

Janine was appointed to the RDA Great Southern WA Committee on 1 July 2021 and her term expires on 30 June 2024.

RDA Great Southern Staff

Simon Lyas

CEO

Simon Lyas

CEO

Simon joined the RDA in April 2009, when his chief responsibility was to manage the establishment of the new organisation after its transition from the Great Southern Area Consultative Committee.

Simon brings over 25 years’ experience in corporate, community and government organisations where his skills and experience in business management, product development, community consultation and marketing has served him well. His experience includes working with several State and Commonwealth agencies including the NSW Dept of Environment and Conservation, the Commonwealth Dept of Human Services in Canberra and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in North Queensland.

An active member of the Great Southern community, Simon also serves on several boards and committees and enjoys maintaining strong local and regional networks.

Renee Tan

Research Officer

Renee Tan

Research Officer

Renee joined the RDA Great Southern team in October 2022 and is actively supporting RDA in the areas of human capital (education and training), skilled migration, and sustainable communities through investments and social initiatives.

Renee has 18 years’ experience in corporate organisations, nationally and internationally, and is a member of CPA Australia.

When not in the office, Renee commits to her visual arts deadlines and serves on various art and community committees.

 

Catherine Bailey

Project Officer

Catherine Bailey

Project Officer

Catherine has joined our team to facilitate the implementation of upcoming projects and provide strategic support to the organisation.

Catherine has a strong business background with a Masters and over 11 years’ experience as a project manager on mega events around the world, including Commonwealth Games and FIFA World Cup tournaments.

Originally from a farming community in Zimbabwe, she now calls Albany home and is dedicated to developing the Great Southern community through economic entrepreneurship and sustainability. Spare time for Catherine is spent in nature, volunteering and exploring the unique diversity of this region. She can also often be found kindly coercing people into building cat enclosures or soliciting native seedlings, plants, and general growing tips.

Kaye Pitman

Executive Assistant

Kaye Pitman

Executive Assistant

As Executive Assistant, Kaye works closely with the CEO, Committee Members and Great Southern Universities Centre staff, providing secretarial and administrative support that allows our office to operate efficiently. She manages all office procedures to ensure smooth operations in a busy work environment. She assists in the development and implementation of policies and procedures, maintains accounts payable and receivable, and provides organisational support on strategic projects.

Great Southern Universities Centre Staff

Mike Eastman

Director, Great Southern Universities Centre

Mike Eastman

Director

Mike comes to the GS-UniCentre from the WA Academy of Performing Arts, a School within Edith Cowan University. As a former employee of a ‘dual-sector’ university (one providing programs at both vocational education and higher education levels) Mike has extensive experience in both sectors, bringing a contemporary approach to skills development to the Great Southern region. He also brings a very strong student-centred approach to the role, which will be key to his management of the GS-UniCentre.

As the Co-ordinator of contemporary music at WAAPA, Mike established strong links with high schools in the region through the Radio Active program, which required him to regularly work in the Great Southern region. As he continues to build his local networks, Mike can look forward to working with all Australian universities who have students in the region, as well as those which will engage with the Great Southern in the future.

Kristina Low

Student Support Officer

Kristina Low

Student Support Officer

Kristina joined the Great Southern Universities Centre in March 2023.  She’s dedicated to helping the region’s online and remote students navigate the world of online study, University, and study life.

She runs and facilitates study skills and wellbeing workshops, and manages the Centre’s communications.

Kristina has spent the last 14 years supporting students, teachers and researchers across WA and Tasmanian universities, and has worked in  corporate communications for local government, health, and not-for-profits.

In her ‘spare’ time, Kristina enjoys meaty conversations with her fellow book clubbers, crooning to her plant babies and creating chaos with her human ones.

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