About Us

Helping people, changing lives

The East Gippsland Community Foundation is a philanthropic community foundation established for the purpose of providing funding to support the east Gippsland community in its long-term recovery from the 2019-2020 Victorian bushfires.

Established by the community, for the community, the Foundation was seeded by donations to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

Community foundations are uniquely placed to understand and respond to the immediate and long-term needs of their community. As the trustee of charitable funds, the East Gippsland Community Foundation works in partnership with donors, local organisations and communities to benefit the region.

The Foundation has received funding from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. This is a partnership between the Victorian Government and the charitable arm of Bendigo Bank, known as the Community Enterprise Foundation.

The Foundation’s role is to distribute this funding in ways that support the east Gippsland community in its long-term recovery from the 2019-2020 Victorian bushfires and to act as the trustee of a trust established to provide relief to victims of these fires.

In addition to this, the East Gippsland Community Foundation operates a Public Ancillary Fund. This provides the legal framework that allows the foundation to operate into perpetuity, to conduct its own fundraising activities and to support activities that are not related to bushfire recovery.

East Gippsland Community Foundation Board and Staff at the Annual General Meeting at the Orbost Exhibition Centre on 14 November 2022.

Proud Member of

Board and staff

Barry Henwood


Barry Henwood is a director of the Foundation. After a long and successful career in retail and community banking, Barry became Director of the Board for the Hurstbridge Bendigo Bank Community Bank, then its Chair, and later, its CEO/Chair. Today, Barry has stepped down from these roles, but he remains the CEO of Valley Community Financial Services Limited.

Barry’s comprehensive experience includes roles as Chair of the Hurstbridge Traders Association, and of the Community Bank Stadium in Diamond Creek’s fundraising committee (a $10.5 million project). After the 2009 bushfires, Barry worked with the Bendigo Bank, his local community bank, and the local community to rebuild communities severely impacted by the bushfires. Subsequently, he was invited to present at several public forums and, in 2010, became the Nillumbik Shire Council’s Citizen of the Year. In 2011, he was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow award from the local Diamond Creek Rotary club.

The East Gippsland Community Foundation is led by a diverse and highly skilled board of directors. Its directors offer a wealth of local knowledge and understanding of the complex issues that confront our region.

The board was appointed by the Independent Advisory Panel of the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Appointments are for a period of up to three years, and board members may apply for a further term.

The directors and staff are focused on creating partnerships and collaborations to connect East Gippsland’s communities with the resources and skills needed to recover from the 2019-20 Black Summer and to tackle disadvantage.

David Impey


David Impey is a director of the Foundation. He is currently chief executive officer of the Community Enterprise Foundation which is the philanthropic arm of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

Helen Martin


Helen Martin is a director of the Foundation. She is a long-time resident of East Gippsland and formerly ran a small consultancy company. Previously, Helen held senior positions in local government where her responsibilities included community recovery from disasters. She has also worked for State and Commonwealth agencies. She has been a member of several government advisory councils and boards, and chair of the Gippsland Coastal Board.

Helen’s specialist skills lie in strategic planning, community engagement and policy development for rural and regional areas. She is an active volunteer with the Country Fire Authority’s District 11 Headquarters Brigade and Red Cross Emergency Services and served with both during the 2019-20 bushfires. The fires’ aftermath, with her professional experience, has given her a clear view of the impacts of natural disasters on individuals, communities and the environment. Helen is a graduate of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program and is strongly committed to enhancing the Foundation’s role in assisting recovery and building resilience.

Sue Medson


Sue Medson is a director of the Foundation. A long-time resident of East Gippsland, she only recently stepped down from her role as Chief Executive Officer of Gippsland Lakes Complete Health, after 10 years. Sue’s over-thirty-year career includes senior management roles and over 15 years in CEO positions for community health and social service organisations across Victoria. These include Latrobe Community Health Service, FamilyCare in Shepparton, Goulburn Valley Community Health Service and Otway Health and Community Service. Sue has also held roles on the Boards of local Aboriginal organisations, including Lake Tyers Health and Children’s Service, Lakes Tyers Aboriginal Trust Transition Board, and Lakes Entrance Aboriginal Health Association.

During her professional career, Sue established partnerships with local agencies, including the East Gippsland Health Services Alliance and Connect Well. Sue was the executive producer of the compelling documentary “Beyond the Fire”, which follows the stories of Australians coming together to create life from ashes of the Australian Black Summer Bushfire Crisis.

Brendan Pfanner


Brendan Pfanner is a director of the Foundation, a photographer, and, for 13 years, a teacher at the School for Student Leadership, Snowy River Campus focusing on year nine residential education and personal development. Brendan’s areas of expertise include educational leadership, curriculum development, digital technologies and building community partnerships.  


Brendan has been a secondary school teacher since 2000, both in Australia and the United Kingdom. He also worked with Skills Victoria, regulating apprenticeships and traineeships. He is a registered teacher with the Victorian Institute of Teaching. 


In 2017, Brendan graduated as a Fellow of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program. Recently, he became a General Firefighter with the Country Fire Authority and has been appointed to the Orbost District Community Recovery and Transition Committee to support the strategic direction of the community’s recovery and transition from the 2019-2020 bushfires. 

Joe Rettino

Deputy Chair

Joe Rettino is a director and deputy Chair of the East Gippsland Community Foundation Ltd and is currently a Recovery Support Officer (RSO) for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Previously Joe was a partnership/engagement broker for TAFE Gippsland and also a former councillor of East Gippsland Shire Council. As a Councillor he served a two year term as mayor (2016-2018). Joe has held directorships in the following key Gippsland organisations, Lakes Entrance Fisherman Ltd, Omeo District Health and East Gippsland Water.

During his time in Local government, Joe successfully advocated for significant grants from the Federal and State governments, including advocacy as a member of the Gippsland Local Government Network (GLGN/One Gippsland). Joe’s experience had given him specialist skills in stakeholder and community engagement, leadership, communication, organisational skills, relationship management, commercial management, strategic procurement and governance.


Kevin Perry ESM - Board member

Kevin Perry ESM

Board Member

Arriving in East Gippsland in 1970 (Buttermaker, Bairnsdale Factory), Kevin joined the Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) in 1976 when it was first formed, setting up and training volunteer groups throughout East Gippsland. Promoted to Regional Director (1989) he was in charge of emergency management planning, operations and training, being recognised in the 2006 Australia Day Honours with the Emergency Services Medal (ESM) for his work. Kevin retired from SES in 2007 after 31 years and currently volunteers with the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) and (President of) Sarsfield Community Association, along with other organisations. Previously he volunteered with sporting groups committees, School Council and Puffing Billy. The 2019 fires destroyed his home of 43 years in Sarsfield, giving him a personal insight to the long recovery journey many East Gippslanders are still on.

Kevin was recently awarded the Alan Alder Award by the Australian Institute of Emergency Services recognising his long-term commitment to emergency services.

Trevor Hancock - Board member

Trevor Hancock

Board Member

Trevor’s family has strong connections to East Gippsland and he is the fifth generation to continue service to the region. Several sporting and community awards and streets are named after his forbears. His professional background is in fundraising, marketing, strategic planning, Government, corporate, crises, and public relations. Trevor started his fundraising with Red Cross organizing “Red Cross Calling” in Victoria. He has been responsible for fundraising, communications and marketing at the Austin Hospital, Deakin University, and the University of Adelaide. He established the Hackett Foundation at the University of Western Australia and advised The Howard Flory Institute on fundraising. Trevor has been a Councillor of the City of Malvern and Vice President of the Metropolitan Municipal Association. He was Chairman of Chittering Financial Services, a community owned company with the franchises for three Bendigo Bank Branches. With considerable expertise in Australia’s cultural heritage, he holds Federal Government advisory roles in the area. Trevor was an inaugural Fellow of the Williamson Community Leadership Program and is the current President of the Bairnsdale Chamber of Commerce.

Monika Oudendyk - Board member

Monika Oudendyk

Board Member

Monika Oudendyk is a director of the Foundation. Moved to East Gippsland 5 years ago from Melbourne. Monika was the Project Management Office Manager at Monash University and has held a number of Program and Project Management roles, specialising in Information Technology and Educational Program Development as well as Business Continuity Management.

Monika currently works for Peninsula Health remotely as an IT Project Manager.

Louise Holden

KMJ_0463 -1

Governance & Administration Officer

Louise Holden is the Foundation’s Governance Officer. With over 20 years’ experience
across various aspects of the Victorian Water Industry and Not-for-Profit sector she has
extensive knowledge in corporate governance and administrative roles.
Known for her attention to detail, maximising operational excellence and delivering
governance performance, Louise is focused on streamlining business operations and
ensuring clarity and accountability across the Foundation.
Louise holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and is a Graduate of the
Australian Institute of Company Directors. Louise is an active participant in the local

Michelle Dowsett

Executive Officer

Michelle Dowsett is the Foundation’s Executive Officer. Michelle has a demonstrated history in the management consulting industry. Her skills include business planning, management, risk management, strategic planning, and business strategy.

An active participant in public and non-public sector boards and committees, Michelle is the current Chair of the Regional Development Australia Gippsland Committee and represents the Committee on the Gippsland Regional Partnership. She is also a Director of TAFE Gippsland and Bairnsdale Regional Health Service.

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