Meet our team:

Dr Werner Vogels


Dr Werner Vogels

The ARLF has a vision of thriving rural, regional and remote communities and strengthening Australia and our regional neighbours and I’m passionate about helping the organisation achieve this.

  • But, how do we measure the impact we have on rural and regional communities, individuals and systems? Can we actually measure that?
  • How do we best connect and facilitate building bridges between leaders in our communities, who are keen to share their vision, expertise and skills with interested others across the country, either discipline-specific or for creating connections and progressing a career or growing their own business?
  • How effective are our approaches in program delivery, and do we collect the right information?
  • How and what does drought resilience or resilient communities mean for individuals and communities, and how can mentoring play a role in that? 
  • How can we make change iterative?

These are the questions I ask myself when considering what I can do as an individual to contribute to the organisation’s greater goals.

Where does your passion for rural, regional and remote Australia come from?

My passion for rural, regional, and remote Australia comes from looking at my children and reflecting on the community where I live. A place where we collectively look after the land, the bush and the water, and think about the future and how we make sure we remain sustainable.

I used to work in primary health in regional and remote Victoria, and when I undertook an epidemiological scan to map the health and service needs of the region, I saw and heard about the lack of access to services, support, and the effects of drought and natural disasters on wellbeing. This triggered a keen desire to help and provide guidance, leadership and practical advice to a range of communities who struggle or individuals who are isolated.

Then I learned about the Japanese term ‘Ikagai’, and it all became clear after that.

What’s your favourite memory or most memorable moment in rural, regional and remote Australia?

There is a National Park behind where we live called Warby Ranges. There is a track by the name of Sunrise Track, which was a favourite of our family during the COVID lockdowns. We could just leave our house and would find the track within 500 metres.

No people around, just kangaroos and the occasional wombat. Plenty of birds around, but mostly beautiful gum trees, rocks to boulder, and enormous amounts of grass trees. One day we walked up there with a backpack with some snacks to enjoy along the way. A return (loop) hike only takes two hours, and there is a pretty cool spot near a deserted quarry where you can rest on some rocks with beautiful views over the valley below, including our township and the Alps in the distance.

That’s where my favourite memory of rural Australia is set. It was just one of those days, with a bit of sun that made its appearance at times from behind the clouds. It was perfect hiking weather. That day, when we sat down for a rest, surrounded by birdsongs, just being with family and in nature, my peanut butter sandwich tasted better than ever. 

Outside of work, you’ll find me:

  • Hiking, exploring the beautiful National Parks
  • At Crossfit
  • Reading
  • Travelling with family

What’s your professional background?

Prior to working at the ARLF, I worked as a neuropsychologist in private practice with a broad range of patient populations, healthy volunteers and various imaging techniques. As an academic for over 30 years, I’m interested in the brain and behaviour, memory, ageing and attention, and applying intervention techniques to better understand why we act how we do. I worked in roles such as facilitator, consultant, teacher, mentor and coach. I became a researcher with an interest in better understanding the needs and improving access to relevant services and support for young people in care.

As well as these roles, I worked in statewide roles in community mental health in Victoria for eight years. This involved providing MH basics, trauma and complex care training centred on neurodevelopment and plasticity and a stint as an MHFA instructor.

Three things you love about working at the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation?

  • I’m working with a bunch of smart and engaging people.
  • We’re all determined to make real change for people in rural areas.
  • ARLF really invests in its staff, associates and alumni.

Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter @wwavogels.

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