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.

Board and staff

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.

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.

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 12 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 teach with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and a School for Student Leadership school council member.  

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.


Andy Tegart


Andy Tegart is a director of the Foundation. He is the Chair of ERGT Australia, which provides emergency response, incident management, fire fighting, HUET and safety training to Australia’s oil and gas, defence maritime, aviation and resources industries, including all Exxon/BHP’s assets in Gippsland. Andy is also the President of the Gippsland Emergency Relief Inc. He brings 40 years’ experience of private/public sector emergency management and fire protection and has worked and lived in Gippsland for 30+ years.

Andy’s career includes planning, research, and field trial work in NSW for, among others, the NSW Rural Fire Service, and CSIRO Fire Research’s project, Aquarius. His career has included fire management positions in Hawkesbury and Hunter NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, where he was responsible for industrial fire brigades, medical centres, rural fire control and prevention, security, and emergency and fire training. 

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. In the non-public sector, Michelle is an independent member of the Audit and Risk Committee of the Gunaikurnai Traditional Land Owners Management Board. She is also a Director of TAFE Gippsland, Gippsland’s Rural Financial Counselling Service, and Bairnsdale Regional Health Service.

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