At Regional Development Australia Murraylands and Riverland, our vision for the next decade is that the Murraylands and Riverland is recognised internationally as a vibrant, world leading circular economy with high-performing businesses, resilient communities and individuals with a deep sense of wellbeing and connection with the world around us.

We are part of a national network of 52 organisations aiming to grow and strengthen Australia’s regions, through advocacy, facilitation and funded service delivery.

We raise organisational capabilities, enable more targeted and productive collaboration, encourage priority infrastructure investment to be brought forward through government support, advocate to address regional constraints, and help to close the gap on workforce planning needs.

Our Board

Our board of local business and community leaders brings specialised skills and regional expertise in economic development. With their insight, passion and support we are well poised to deliver relevant and tangible outcomes for the region.

Jodie Hawkes, Chair

Jodie Hawkes Chair

Jodie has been a member of the RDAMR Board since 2018, becoming RDAMR Chair in 2021, and is Chief Finance Officer and co-owner alongside husband Jeremy, at Bowhill Engineering, one of the largest manufacturing businesses in the region. Jodie is passionate about giving back to our region and enjoys advocating for regional living and working.

As a second-generation family business owner and a mum to four teenagers, Jodie is determined to prove to regional youth that you do not need to leave the region to be successful and that there are great opportunities to live and work within the region.

With a home base in beautiful Bowhill, and family spread across the Riverland, Jodie feels a real sense of belonging to the region.

When she’s not supporting her team at Bowhill Engineering or leading the RDAMR Board, you can find her hanging out with her kids at home, sharing a pack of tim tams or enjoying a long lunch of local food and wine with friends and family.

Elaine Bensted

Elaine Bensted
Click to learn more about Elaine Bensted

Elaine Bensted is well known across the State for her position as Chief Executive of Zoos SA, which incorporates the iconic Monarto Safari Park, the largest open-range safari experience outside of Africa, located just 15 minutes out of Murray Bridge and less than an hour from Adelaide.

With skills in business planning, financial management, marketing, community engagement and tourism, combined with her experience running a Zoos SA operation, Elaine has been a fantastic addition to the RDAMR Board from 2018.

Elaine is passionate about ensuring the future prosperity of our State and region develop in a way that considers environmental sustainability and social inclusion. Her focus while serving on the RDAMR Board is to ensure tourism is included as a key sector for future growth and that RDAMR continues to successfully drive development and support business to improve profitability and sustainability.

When Elaine is not contributing to the region’s success or poking her head into the lion’s den, you can find her appreciating the great outdoors with her much-loved German shepherd, Xeva, by her side, or enjoying the company of friends and family with some local food and wine.

Every day is different for Elaine, but what doesn’t change is her passion and commitment to the region and her love for a good cup of tea and a walk with her dog every morning.

Margaret Howie

Margaret Howie

Margaret owns and operates Nelwood Estate and Nursery, is an Export Advisor for Tradestart and is the Chairperson of the SA Rural Women Gathering Riverland.

Sheridan Alm

Newly appointed member of the Board, Sheridan Alm, Director & Business Manager of Yatco Pty Ltd.

Steven Walker

Steven joined the RDAMR Board in 2021, bringing along several years of experience in business management and passion for communities.

As co-owner of local building company Kookaburra Homes, Steven brings to the Board a diverse range of business skills, specifically in marketing, sales and people management.

A passionate and results-driven individual, Steven’s goals while serving on the RDAMR Board are to encourage economic investment across the region and raise awareness of the extensive opportunities provided by RDAMR.

Steven values community contribution and is passionate about giving back where he can, through his business endeavours and personally, guiding and supporting people of all ages, in particular our youth, to reach their full potential.

When not meeting with suppliers, reviewing business and marketing strategies, or supporting his sales team at Kookaburra Homes, Steven loves spending time with his children and staying active shooting hoops on the basketball court.

Peter Walker, Deputy Chair

Peter Walker

Peter comes to the RDAMR board with a wealth of knowledge and experience, as a self-employed horticulturist with a state of the art farm at Ramco in the Riverland. Peter is passionate about water security, primary production and the future development and sustainability of the region as a food and wine producing area for Australia and the world.
Keenly involved in many community bodies throughout his career, Peter is keen to build productive community and business relationships in the region in order to foster development and sustainability of infrastructure, services and industry. With an interest in regional tourism and its development in the region, Peter previously Chaired the Board of Destination Riverland. Peter is currently a Loxton Waikerie District Councillor and a Director of Central Irrigation Trust and is well placed to support the goals and strategy of the RDAMR.

Peter lives with his wife on a medium size citrus farm, growing traditional varieties of citrus and new varieties including Cara Cara Navels and Afourer mandarins. He is married to Carole and has three daughters and 8 grandchildren.

The Riverland offers opportunity to grow produce in one of the best growing regions in the State and the Murray River provides a diversity of experiences in a Community lifestyle.

Andrew Kassebaum

Andrew Kassebaum

Since retiring from the Royal Australian Air Force, Andrew has invested in two vineyards and now serves on the Berri Barmera Council. He is a member of the South Australian Murray Darling Basin NRM Board and the Berri Hotel group.

Petrina Coventry

Newly appointed Board Member, Prof. Petrina Coventry, an experienced business ethicist has worked in Asia, the United States and Europe in global leadership roles for The General Electric Company, The Coca Cola Company and Proctor and Gamble. In parallel to her role as a Professor she is a Non-executive director of Beston Global Food Company Ltd, The Australian Human Resource Institute and the Australasian Association of Philosophy.

Bridget Mather

Newly appointed Board Member, Bridget Mather, an experienced senior executive and board member in a variety of settings. A graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors along with being an experienced mentor.

Sandy Iosefellis

After dedicating many years to RDAMR as an employee, Sandy joined the RDAMR Board in 2021, taking her passion for the region to the next level.

Growing connections and relationships, supporting the RDAMR vision and delivering value to the Murraylands and Riverland communities through RDAMR projects, are just some of the many drivers behind her continued commitment to the organisation.

Calling the Riverland home, Sandy understands the importance of connections and relationship management. With a successful horticultural enterprise, YFRESH Pty. Ltd., she is well experienced in developing business models that enhance sustainability, viability, and resilience, and has a strong skill set across the many areas of business development, tourism, marketing, and communications.

Passionate about building capacity and capability to see industries thrive, coupled with a desire to promote informed conversations across region, Sandy is dedicated to improving the region’s liveability through sustainable development, population retention, growth, and attraction of a skilled workforce. In addition to her business and RDAMR Board roles, Sandy balances her regional and sustainable development interests by also sitting on the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board.

Sandy describes herself as a quiet achiever who enjoys spending time at home in her garden or taking in the beauty of the Murray River, surrounded by friends and family. You can often find her immersed in the daily tasks of business management or out on the farm, picking and packing fruits alongside her partner Bill.

Our Staff

Our staff are highly skilled professionals who are passionate about the future of our region. We strive to provide timely information and assistance to industry, business and the local community on a range of topics and issues with the purpose to connect our region for a resilient and sustainable future.

We encourage you to contact us to find out how we can connect you to get the most out of your region.

Ben Fee, Chief Executive

With a strong background and extensive understanding of the region, built throughout his twelve-year career in South Australian Government, Ben is passionate about sustainable development throughout the regions. 

In addition to roles in State Government, Ben has run his own business, commenced a PhD in resources economics focusing on Murray-Darling Basin water recovery programs and took on the role of Acting CEO of RDAMR in February/March of 2018.

Vanessa Leigh, Deputy Chief Executive

Vanessa joined the RDA team in April 2016, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in practical business operations having owned and operated her own small business in regional South Australia.

Qualified in International Business, Trade and Government, she is passionate about building regional capability and assisting businesses to grow and be sustainable in a competitive market.

Spencer Hameister, Executive Assistant to the Board and Chief Executive

Spencer joined the RDAMR team in August 2019, initially as an Administration and Marketing Support Trainee. 18 months later, after successfully completing her studies locally, she took on an exciting new challenge as Executive Assistant to the Board and Chief Executive where her skills in customer service and team support flourished.

Growing up and living in the Murraylands, Spencer is passionate about her local community and helping the region thrive. Spencer has a bright future ahead with RDAMR.

Kathy Stringer, Finance and Operations Manager

Kathy started with the RDA in September 2015, bringing over three decades of experience in administration roles, mostly within the farming and agribusiness sector. Kathy uses her broad knowledge of bookkeeping to keep our financial systems running smoothly, while implementing continuous improvement measures to contribute to the organisation’s efficiency.

Having lived in Murray Bridge all of her life, Kathy has a keen interest in and passion for the local community, and enjoys working with RDA to build a better and brighter regional future.

Analise Gates, Marketing and Communications Manager

Analise joined the RDA team in July 2019 bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience in practical business operations and event management having owned and operated her own small business and a range of community events across the Murraylands.

Growing up in a farming family and now raising her own family in Murray Bridge, Analise is passionate about showcasing the many benefits generated from living, working and enjoying the region.

Shaun Harris, Strategic Policy Advisor

Commencing in August 2016 in both Project Support and Career Connections Practitioner roles, Shaun has now taken the lead of our employment and training projects. Shaun is excited about fostering community development and running initiatives that bring positive results for our community and economy.

Shaun started his career as a printing apprentice and worked his way into management, and has run his own successful café and catering business. With a Bachelor of Social Work, Shaun has been fortunate to work with Aboriginal communities on the APY lands for the SANFL.

Jarrod Bielby, Regional Manager - Infrastructure

Jarrod joined the team in February 2017. With a strong work history in personal and business banking, real estate, management and sales, Jarrod provides a high level of quality business advisory services.

Jarrod has a wealth of experience in helping established businesses to grow, and has a keen passion for assisting start-up and small businesses. Jarrod is excited about delivering sustainable initiatives that create positive and transformative change in the region.

Julie Bates, Regional Manager - Business

Joining the team in May 2016, Julie is passionate about representing the region and supporting regional businesses.

With previous experience in management roles including the South Australian Tourism Commission, School & Beyond, Majestic Apartments and Bridge Aluminium, Julie has expertise in tourism, community engagement, business and local government.

Lorena Lyon, Programs Manager

Joining the team in January 2021, Lorena has a keen interest in working to support and develop the indigenous community and a passion for assisting business.

With 22 years in media and advertising, coupled with her most recent experience in the employment services sector and her own small hobby business, Lorena has a solid understanding of regional business needs and requirements, both right now and for future planning.

Living in Waikerie with her family, Lorena is looking forward to using her skills to support and assist local businesses to grow and develop.

Daniel Gutteridge, Project Manager

Daniel joined the team in October 2020, bringing experience from the education and retail sectors. Qualified in Project Management and I.T, Daniel’s experience involves a wide array of projects including the implementation of digital workflows, infrastructure master planning, community engagement, and media technology.

Growing up in the Murraylands, Daniel knows the importance of community and the strength in local knowledge. He hopes to use his skills along with the strengths of the community to help shape a prosperous region.

Mandy Tennant, Project Manager

Joining the team in May 2021, Mandy brings 20 years experience within the Agriculture, Manufacturing and Employment industries.

Mandy has a passion for her local community and thrives in being able to assist business and producers with opportunities to help reach their potential.

Mandy is excited to be working in an environment where she can support many industry sectors.

Tammy O'Malley, Project Manager

Tammy joined the RDA team in May 2021. Born and raised in the Murraylands Tammy has a true passion for our regions and all its potential. A Mallee farmer, Tammy and her husband run a dryland cropping & sheep enterprise.
Tammy comes to the team with 16 years of Local Government experience in the Corporate & Community sector and most recently drought support and resilience.
She is used to working in a diverse environment and is excited to be supporting many different projects within RDAMR.

Bill Nehmy, Tourism Development Manager - Murray River, Lakes & Coorong

Joining the team in late 2020, Bill is responsible for the overall growth of tourism in the Murray River, Lakes & Coorong region, including marketing, destination development and strategic direction for the tourism industry.

Growing up in Mannum, Bill has great knowledge of our region’s tourism offerings and with decades of experience in national tourism, transport and wine marketing industries, Bill is a strong advocate for the region.

Dilsher Grewal, Project Officer

Dilsher joined the RDA team in September 2021 after retuning home to the Riverland. Growing up on a vineyard in Renmark, he understands the importance of community resilience within the Riverland region.

Qualified in Corporate Finance and Management, Dilsher brings experience working within the banking sector and supporting businesses that have experienced financial hardship.

He is very passionate about closing the education gap and supporting regional businesses within the Riverland and Murraylands.

Claire Garner, Project Officer

After relocating to the Murraylands from the UK in 2007, Claire joined the RDA team in April 2022 as a strong advocate for regional living.

Owning her own photography and graphic design business, Claire brings her expertise in Business and Office Management to the organisation alongside extensive leadership and relationship-building skills.

With a Diploma in Personal Assistance and a Cert IV in Business, Frontline Management, and Employment Service, Claire is excited to be part of the RDAMR team where she can continue to foster relationships within the community and support local businesses on their path to a better future.

Emily DeMichele, Social Media and Digital Marketing Support Officer

Emily joined the team as a Social Media & Digital Marketing Support Officer in March 2022. Fresh to the field, she brings a creative outlook and high attention to detail to our team.

Balancing a few roles, Emily has competent experience in managing social media platforms and creating digital marketing content. She is also currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in professional communications majoring in marketing.

Born and raised in Murray Bridge, Emily continues to live, study and work in the Murraylands. Being involved in many aspects of the community she feels very passionately about the future of the region.

Emily is keen to gain experience and expand her knowledge across the marketing and communications field alongside the highly skilled staff at RDA. She also hopes to enhance the community by marketing and promoting the many fantastic aspects of living and working in the Murraylands and Riverland.

Jody Mills, Project Officer

Joining the RDA team in April 2022, Jody brings with her many years of experience in the local government sector.

Holding an Advanced Diploma in Business and Tourism, and having worked on significant regional events such as the 2016 SA Masters Games, the 2020 Tour Down Under and various local community events, Jody is eager to continue to showcase the very best that our region has to offer.

With her worthy knowledge and managerial skills across tourism, community events, and product development activities, Jody is passionate about connecting with communities and businesses across the Murraylands and Riverland.

Leanne Rathbone, Project Officer

Leanne joined the team in April 2022, growing up in South Africa and spending most of her childhood there she developed a huge passion for the natural environment and the communities who depend on it.

Since moving to Australia in 2002, Leanne has gained valuable experience across multiple roles such as being a Fire Fighter, Park Ranger, Student Support Officer, and Project Manager.

Having studied a Diploma in Agriculture, Leanne has a great understanding of the ag sector bringing various skills in business, human resources, and agronomy to her role with RDA.

As a qualified yoga teacher, Leanne has a passion for well-being and is currently studying a Diploma in Counselling where she hopes to use her new learnings alongside her previous skills and experiences to support the region in becoming a vibrant and sustainable place to live, work and do business.

Our Partners

We have earned a reputation for delivering exceptional outcomes through productive partnerships.

To get the best results for our region, we are working closely with leadership organisations like:

• Industry and business associations

• Community groups and organisations

• All eight local councils in our region

• Murraylands and Riverland Local Government Association

• Australian Government agencies

• South Australian Government agencies, including:

– Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA

– Department of State Development

– Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure

– Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

– South Australian Tourism Commission

Our partners value our extensive regional knowledge and networks, our ability to deliver services that exceed expectations, and our creative approach to enabling economic development. If you need a trusted partner in the Murraylands and Riverland, contact our team today.

An Australian Government Initiative
Government of South Australia
Renmark Paringa District Council
District Council of Loxton Wailerie
Southern Mallee District Council
Karoonda East Murray District Council
Rural City of Murray Bridge
Mid Murray Council
Coorong District Council
Berri Barmera Council
RDA Murraylands Riverland South Australia

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RDA Murraylands Riverland South Australia