Our Associates

Susan Benedyka

Susan Benedyka

Susan specialises in bringing together government and non-government agencies, and regional communities and industries for sustainable outcomes.

As the managing director of the Regional Development Company, Susan lives and breathes rural and regional development, as well as strategic planning and delivery. Susan has first-hand experience of the challenges and pressures uniquely affecting rural Australia, having lived and worked in regional communities for most of her professional life. Her great strength is in using her highly developed communication and facilitation skills to enable other people’s visions to become reality. Often dealing with highly controversial and potentially inflammatory issues, Susan designs forums that allow people to engage and react in a constructive manner.

Susan is currently chair, North East Integrated Water Management Forum, chair of The Executive Connection (TEC 402, Albury Wodonga), and a board member of the La Trobe University Regional Advisory Board, Albury-Wodonga. She has just completed a three-year term, initially as acting chair, then as chair of Hume RDA, and is a member of the Ovens Murray Regional Partnership. She was a director of the Telstra Foundation, and chair of the Telstra Kids Fund.

Susan holds a Graduate Diploma in Business, and a Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training. Through the International Association of Facilitators, she is a Certified Professional Facilitator and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Professional Facilitators. Susan is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and an Honorary Graduate of the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program.


Leith Boully

Leith Boully

Leith specialises in team and organisational development, change management, negotiation and conflict resolution, and women’s leadership. She has significant experience in strategic leadership roles in the water sector, including as former chair of Sunwater Ltd.

Growing up on a farm near Roma in Queensland sparked Leith’s passion for water, while formative years spent in the bush fuelled her interest in effective leadership in remote and challenging environments. The Brisbane-based leader has also spent time working with indigenous cattle stations in the Northern Territory.

Leith has 30 years’ experience farming near Dirranbandi in southern Queensland, and a compassionate understanding of the complexity faced by primary producers on a daily basis. She draws on her own time in agriculture to inspire others with shared industry experience. Her commitment to working in and for rural communities informs her leadership development work, empowering people who aspire to make a difference.

In 2016, Leith won the Local and Regional Award in the Westpac, Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence Awards. She is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. She holds a Bachelor of Rural Science and a post graduate diploma in Business Studies from the University of New England.

Elizabeth Brennan

Elizabeth Brennan

Elizabeth is a dynamic leader in Australia’s agricultural sector, with experience as a facilitator of research and aid projects, and a consultant and mentor. She currently coordinates an agricultural research for development program in Papua New Guinea on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Elizabeth is the co-founder of ‘agdots’, a small consultancy that brings together strategic people, groups, businesses, and communities in the agricultural industry.

Inspired by her upbringing on a sheep and grain farm in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt, Elizabeth is a passionate advocate for her industry. She is ministerially appointed to the WA state Industry Funding Scheme Appointments Committee and as a Commissioner for the Agricultural Produce Commission. She is currently non-executive director with ASX-listed Wide Open Agriculture, board director for the RRR Women’s Network of WA, a mentor for the Australia Awards DFAT Women’s Leadership Initiative and ECU Career Alumni Mentoring Program.

Elizabeth is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. She holds a Bachelor of Business and is currently studying a Master of Food Security. Elizabeth has been awarded Most Outstanding Emerging Leader at the inaugural Women in Australian Agribusiness 100, and WA Young Achiever of the Year for her voluntary and community contributions.


Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown

Stephen’s more-than 30 years of experience in education and the public sector means he has rich insights into how organisations and individuals adapt to change and thrive in times of transition. He is a former senior public servant and educator in the education systems of Victoria and Queensland. The Brisbane-based leader is passionate about enhancing individual and organisational performance.

He is the founder of global professional services company, ‘The Brown Collective’ – a professional community of world experts in the school sector that specialise in policy and strategy, capacity-building and sustainable change. Stephen is highly regarded nationally and internationally for his work in leadership development in the education sector.

He holds a Doctor of Education from the University of Southern Queensland, and a Master of Arts from the University of London. Stephen is a graduate of ANZSOG Executive Fellows Program, a participant in Victorian Leadership Development Centre’s Executive Leadership program for future deputy secretaries and secretaries.

Stephen was awarded the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL) Nganakarrawa Award. He is a Scholar-Practitioner Fellow at the Asia Centre for Leadership and Change, Hong Kong University of Education; former external expert advisor to the Scottish College of Educational Leadership;  a National and State Fellow of ACEL; a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Managers and Leaders,  a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors program; a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, and a former Foundation Board Director.

Stephen is a former Rotary Foundation Scholar, the recipient of the prestigious Miller-Grassie (ACEL Qld) and Australian Institute of Management (Qld) Professional Manager of the Year (2000).


Steve Colman

Steve Colman

Steve is a veteran of change management and a specialist in leadership development and the design of strategic programs. He has more than 30 years’ experience leading and facilitating leadership programs for organisations that rely on collaboration, teamwork and interpersonal effectiveness.

He is the founder of ‘Global Learning’, an organisation that grows adaptive leaders and builds resilient, productive workplaces. Steve’s professional experience enables him to help link key strategic organisational issues and challenges to practical behavioural solutions and outcomes. He is passionate about experiential learning design, and enjoys working at the intersection of social, business and natural environments. While Steve knows the power of working with people in settings connected to nature, he understands how to connect and inspire people when digital and online forums are the only means of coming together.

Steve, formerly a professional wilderness guide, lives on the far south coast of New South Wales, and is an avid explorer of the planet’s remote and wild places. He has adventured to Antarctica, sea kayaked through remote islands in the Norwegian Arctic and trekked in Nepal and the Indian Himalayan Region. Steve holds an economics degree from ANU, and is an active volunteer in his community.


Michelle Deshong

Michelle Deshong

Michelle is a Fullbright Scholar, leader and advocate, with extensive experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has an in-depth knowledge of indigenous affairs, and in the mechanisms of government, advocacy and political change. She is an accredited trainer and facilitator in leadership, governance, Australian and international politics, and human rights fields.

Michelle runs her own consultancy, providing training, community development, strategic planning, gender equality and policy and service delivery reforms and reviews. She has worked as national manager for Indigenous Services in Centrelink and senior advisor in the Department of Prime Minister in Cabinet. She has been Queensland state manager for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategies for the Australian Red Cross, and has headed the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute.

Throughout her career, Michelle has remained strongly connected to community organisations. She has worked as director of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library Services, Fair Agenda and is currently a director of Supply Nation and the Asia Pacific Indigenous Women’s Network.

Michelle holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Political Science and Indigenous studies at James Cook University, and is completing her PhD. Awards include the National NAIDOC Scholar of the year, 2015; the Australian/American Fulbright Indigenous Professional Scholarship, and a Churchill Fellowship. Michelle is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Russell Fisher

Russell Fisher

Russell is a strategist, facilitator, educator and ecologist. He draws on experience in the fields of science, education and organisational and community development to help clients problem-solve, and adapt with agility to challenges and change.

Russell is principal with ‘Reos Partners Australia’ – global leaders in the art and science of systemic change. Through his work, Russell has developed a broad set of systems and stakeholder engagement, problem solving and consulting skills. Russell’s strength is his ability to think strategically, listen deeply, and create a space that encourages imagination, new mindsets, and diverse thinking.

As a facilitator, Russell has worked with hundreds of leaders from rural and regional industries and communities. He is adept at communicating with people often engaged in highly practical industries, while understanding the highly variable forces that challenge Australian agriculture and other rural sectors.

Internationally, Russell has worked with organisations in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East, helping them navigate complexity, solve problems, and build capacity to lead change. A number of his strategic projects have helped his clients win national awards in training and development, sustainability and community action on climate change.


Scott Gorringe

Scott Gorringe

Scott is a Mithaka man who has worked in indigenous education for over 20 years. He is a champion for positive discourse of indigenous identity and culture in schools, and is co-founder of the ‘Engoori’ method. This is a strength-based approach which acknowledges that when dealing with complex challenges, having conversations with structure, purpose and process, is often the most powerful action that can be taken.

Scott began his career working with Education Queensland, and then as director of Murrimatters Consulting, which delivers programs for organisations tackling complex issues. Their programs help clients to navigate organisational change, resolve conflict, enhance cultural awareness, and deliver effective leadership.

Scott is an active leader on Native Title processes and securing the permanent protection of traditional waters and country through negotiations with government, pastoralists, mining, and other key stakeholders. He is a practical and compelling communicator, skilled at building consensus and mobilising collaboration across industries and communities. He has addressed academic and public forums on issues such as indigenous education, community development and water protection.

Scott has a Master in Rural Systems Management from the University of Queensland (UQ). He is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, and in 2013 he was appointed Visiting Fellow at Queensland University of Technology and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at UQ.


Karim Haddad

Karim Haddad

Karim is a professional educator and mentor with extensive experience in designing and running effective personal development programs. He is a natural communicator, skilled at guiding individuals and teams to greater self-awareness, and perspectives that are open to change and innovation. He has spent years delivering leadership programs, working with young and emerging leaders, as well as seasoned leaders and experienced professionals. Karim volunteers with the ACT Rural Fire Service, where he has served as a tanker driver and crew-leader. He knows first-hand how critical planning, communication and effective team-work are in conditions that are beyond conventional control.

Karim currently directs leadership programs with Outback Initiatives. He is the former CEO of Outward Bound Australia, and has also worked as the Program Manager at the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.

Karim is also a bladesmith and blacksmith. He owns and operates Australia’s largest bladesmith school, which incorporates personal development fundamentals through making.

Alana Johnson

Alana Johnson

Alana is widely recognised for her work in rural development and gender equality. In January 2020 she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to women.

Currently, Alana is chair of the Victorian Catchment Management Council and a director of Goulburn Murray Water. She is adept at creating community consensus and running inclusive consultation on complex issues affecting rural communities and industries. She is part of a fifth-generation family farm engaged in cattle production, farm forestry and an award-winning habitat restoration near Benalla in north east Victoria.

A pioneer of the rural women’s movement in Australia, Alana is a founding member of Australian Women in Agriculture Inc. and former president of the Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women. She is the chair of The Victorian Women’s Trust. In 2018, she was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and appointed to the inaugural Ministerial Council on Women’s Equality in Victoria. She holds numerous other awards for her advocacy for rural and regional women.

Alana is a founding member and past President of Voices for Indi, the acclaimed democracy project that saw Indi become the first electorate in Australia to elect an Independent candidate as their representative Member of Parliament. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Social Work. Alana is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Craig Jones

Craig Jones

Craig is a leader that relishes problem-solving and bridging differences. His work is dedicated to helping people and communities resolve issues, and achieve economic benefit, while maintaining and valuing what is socially and culturally important. He has extensive experience working with indigenous communities in Australia and across the Pacific. Much of his professional life has been spent working with rural land-holders in their dealings with the resources sector.

Craig is the principal of ‘RREDD’ – a majority indigenous owned-and-managed company that helps communities to share the benefit of appropriate development. He has worked in the public sector, the resources sector and for NGOs, and has a deep understanding of the frameworks in which representation and advocacy need to take place in order to be effective. At the same time, he is highly adept at translating complex regulatory or industry-specific language into terms that are clear and easily understood.

Craig has a highly successful track-record of seeking mutually beneficial outcomes between institutions (companies and governments) and rural communities (rural, indigenous and Pacific communities). He specialises in using a form of collaborative problem-solving rather than adversarial bargaining.

Craig holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in environmental science, as well as an Executive MBA. He is qualified in dispute resolution, under Australia’s National Mediator Accreditation Service, and in Papua New Guinea in the national and supreme court.


Zoe Routh

Zoë Routh

Zoë is a leadership expert with an understanding of the many challenges that can hold people back from meaningful collaboration and problem-solving. For over 30 years, Zoë has been empowering individuals and teams in Australia and internationally. She runs her own consultancy, ‘Inner Compass’, and has a long association delivering leadership programs and facilitating for the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. She is also a facilitator for Outback Initiatives.

Zoë is an author, mentor, speaker and strategist, passionate about showing people struggling with office politics and silos how to work better together. She has worked with leaders in industries often experiencing rapid change and being affected by destabilising forces. Zoë is skilled at devising and implementing strategies to prepare for change, meet challenges proactively and adopt sustainable, stabilising processes.

Her published works include ‘Composure – How centred leaders make the biggest impact’; ‘Moments – Leadership when it matters most’; and ‘Loyalty – Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates’. Her fourth book is ‘People Stuff – Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership’.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from McGill University and has completed the Thought Leaders Business School program.


Ali Wass

Ali Wass

Ali is an experienced educator and facilitator. She works in the ACT TAFE system as an education support person within the Aboriginal unit, and as a program facilitator with Outback Initiatives.

Ali has worked at senior managerial levels in outdoor education, volunteer management, community development and leadership programs. She currently directs therapeutic programs at historic Cuppacumbalong Station in the ACT, including meaningful engagement courses for veterans under active rehabilitation.

Growing up on the land, Ali’s practical farm-based skills include fencing, sheep husbandry and general station-hand work. These foundational lessons of rural life are evident in her care and understanding of country today, and her advocacy of stewardship that enables the sustainable use of land and environment.

Ali has a passion for working with and understanding cultural practices with local Aboriginal communities to strengthen her approach to education and leadership. She holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of New England and an Advanced Diploma in Vocational Education from the Canberra Institute of Technology.

Jen Wressell

Jen Wressell

Jen has led teams in some of the most isolated places on earth – from Antarctica, to outback Australia and Saudi Arabia. It is through achieving outcomes in these challenging environments that Jen realised the importance of building productive teams and safe workplaces, no matter how challenging the context.

She is the founder and executive director of ‘Mindful Innovative Action’, a company committed to improving mental wellbeing in the workplace and community.

The Geelong-based leader has 15 years’ practical leadership experience, including as an expedition and station leader in Antarctica. She is a qualified behaviour support practitioner, mindfulness facilitator and experienced health professional. She supports leaders, service providers and individuals to manage behaviours of concern in the workplace and community.

Jen holds a Master of Health Administration from Curtin University, a Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) and is a Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation.