Life Members

The Country Education Partnership has bestowed a number of Life Memberships on individuals who have provided valuable and significant contributions to the organisation over the past 40 years.

CEP Education Forum

CEP inaugural Life Members Lunch 2023.

Maureen Chiswell

Maureen’s experience of CEP began as a parent representative from Colbinabbin Primary School on the Loddon Campaspe Area committee. From her first contact with CEP, Maureen has been prepared to roll up her sleeves and ‘get the job done’.

She became the Project Co-ordinator of the Loddon Campaspe area where she worked closely with the local communities in the development and provision of a range of education programs.

During this time she was also involved at a state level providing executive officer support to the Country Education Areas Association. She was involved in this role at the time of CEPs transition to an incorporated organisation. She worked to ensure that the organisation was seen as a strong advocate for rural education within Victoria.

It was Maureens’ involvement in CEP Inc, her commitment and enthusiastic approach which ensured the organisation was established with a strong base.


Ian Rogerson

Ian Rogerson (Rogo) was involved in supporting the work of CEP during its formation in the Mallee area until his untimely death in 2007.

He has been involved in rural education for numerous years and has supported the role of CEP from its inception in the Mallee area from the late 1970s. He was a member of the local area committee (often holding positions of responsibility); a member of the state-wide Country Education Areas Association; and the secretary and public officer of the Country Education Project Inc.

With the change to an incorporated structure in 1993, Rogo played an instrumental role in the development of the ‘new’ CEP, undertaking the bulk of the work developing its constitution and operational base. He was the inaugural public officer and secretary of CEP Inc and held these positions until the AGM in 2007.

Rogo was involved in many CEP projects, most significantly in the RACV Energy Breakthrough program. His involvement spanned 13 years overseeing the operation of the human-powered and hybrid-powered components of the event.

Rogos passion for rural education provision at local and state-wide levels has left behind a long standing legacy at CEP. 

John Stafford

John has provided valuable support to a number of clusters of rural schools throughout the region.

Eventually John became the State Director of the Country Education Project where he was instrumental in the development of several new Areas and provided valuable support to the then State Committee. As State Director he also initiated a number of activities including RACV Energy Breakthrough, use of ICT in delivery of VCE, and conducted research focusing on rural education.

His knowledge of rural Victoria and the CEP at a state level was invaluable for the development of the CEP Inc. John continued his involvement as a member of the Committee of Management for several years.

John remains involved in a number of current CEP Inc. initiatives including the RACV Energy Breakthrough, for which he maintains a strong affiliation. He also played a valuable role in the development of the Working Together framework.

Don Edgar

Don was the inaugural director of the Country Education Project, established in Victoria as part of the commonwealth government’s Country Areas Program in 1977. His foresight and passion for rural communities saw the establishment of ‘Area Committees’ (representing education, business and community organisations) throughout the state to explore and develop innovative learning opportunities for their communities.

His committed belief in a community-owned and community-developed education provision was critical for the sustainability and ongoing viability of rural communities. Working together, sharing ideas and resources, and the allocation of resources to communities were central characteristics to this thinking and as a result saw many innovative education initiatives developed.

Following his involvement with CEP, Don was the inaugural director of the Institute of Family Studies and has been involved in a range of roles that support community development.

His commitment and passion for rural education has continued over the years, as a result he has stayed connected to the work of CEP Inc.

Gary Allen

Gary has supported rural education within Victoria for a number of years now.

He first became strongly involved in rural education when he was principal at Lorne P-12 College in the early 1980s. As part of this principal role, he became involved in the local Country Education Project Committee – a committee which he chaired for several years.

He was also a member of the statewide Country Education Areas Association for a number of years and represented rural education organisations on the State Committee of Country Education Project – a role that saw a number of innovative programs developed to support rural education provision.

On leaving Lorne, Gary became principal at Ararat Secondary College.

In 2003, Gary was invited to chair the Country Education Project Inc – which he did for five years.

During this time he was instrumental in developing strong links with the various education sectors at a state level; the establishment of the Life Membership award for CEP Inc; and invited Mr Baillieu Myer AC to be CEP Inc patron.

He was also instrumental in developing links with key national rural education organisations, where he was the CEP Inc representative on the Society for the Provision of Rural Education in Australia.

His passion and drive to build the CEP Inc organisation has ensured its place as a key stakeholder within the Victorian education scene.

Al Balfour

Al Balfour has long been involved at all levels in supporting rural education within Victoria. He was involved in the CEP since its establishment in 1977.

As principal at Tallangatta Secondary College he was acknowledged for his school and community development within the local area. Many of these initiatives are still operating today – the development of the Tallangatta Hub is one example of his work.

Al was a Senior Education Officer for the Department of Education in Gippsland during the 1980s and chairperson of the implementation committee for Commonwealth Government’s ‘Resources Agreement 3’. Al’s commitment to the development of community partnerships had an enormous positive impact on the educational outcomes in rural areas across the state. Thanks to his leadership, rural areas of Victoria lead the way in curriculum provision through technology during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a diverse range of subjects being taught via telematics. Seventeen years later we are on the edge of delivering curriculum through the second wave of technology use.

Al provided great leadership for rural communities within the Far East of the state, serving as the Country Education Project Area Coordinator for Far East Gippsland from 1988 until 1993. This position was combined with the School Community Development Officer role within the Gippsland Region. His vision and work in establishing partnerships between schools and their communities in Gippsland’s rural and remote areas is still acknowledged today.

Al contributed enormously to the extensive consultation during 1993 that led to the formation of CEP Inc.: ‘the voice of rural education as we know it today’. He served as chairperson of the CEP Inc. between 1997 and 1998.

Al’s work has always reflected the values of the Country Education Project.

Al sadly passed away in 2013, and will forever be remembered as the ‘Champion of Rural Education‘. A video tribute to Al was presented at the CEP Annual Meeting in 2013.

Wendy Graham

Wendy hails from the Western District of Victoria, and has always had a strong passion for that part of the world – especially for places such as Harrow, Balmoral, Lake Bolac and the surrounds of Ballarat.

Her teaching career began in this region and before long, she gained education leadership roles within the Wimmera.

Wendy and her husband ran a very successful farm in the Lake Bolac area, which was where her two great kids were born. Any conversation with Wendy will reveal this to be an experience which she cherishes and will never forget.

As principal of the Lake Bolac Primary School, she gained a great recognition as a high quality education leader. She was instrumental in working in partnership with Brendan Ryan (principal of the High School at that time) in the development of the Lake Bolac P-12 College – her facilitation and leadership skills through this development were highly praised by the community and the education system. She also became heavily involved in the wider Lake Bolac community, and was quickly acknowledged as a community leader.

Wendy was also a strong advocate of rural schools working together in clusters to enhance education provision, and provided strong leadership to the Mid West Cluster of the Wimmera.

Her desire to see school collaborate for the benefit of all students has not waned, and still remains a key value she holds in supporting rural education provision.

After a few great years at Lake Bolac, Wendy was appointed as Assistant Principal within the Ballarat Secondary College, where she quickly gained a reputation for being a high quality educator.

From here, Wendy accepted a position within the Grampians Regional Office of the Department of Education where her role was centred on curriculum consultancy and project management. It was in this role that she further developed her passion for rural education, working with numerous rural and remote clusters throughout the Grampians region providing invaluable advice and support.

Although no longer at the Department of Education, Wendy has not stopped her involvement within rural education. She has become a highly regarded facilitator of leadership programs both within Victoria and Interstate. Wendy delivers the Small Schools Leadership Program; the Eleanor Davis Women’s Leadership program; Aspiring Leadership program; Remote Schools Leadership program in the Northern Territory, and also provides coaching support to a range of current rural education leaders.

Wendy then accepted an invitation to take on the role of Chair for the Country Education Partnership (CEP), which she undertook for seven years. Within this role, she was a strong leader in ensuring that rural education across Victoria had a clear voice through CEP, and built on the great work that Gary Allen had previously started in his tenure as Chair. She has represented rural education communities on a number of government Key Stakeholder Reference Groups and within all these gained a high regard from all the other stakeholders for her leadership and facilitation skills. She is acknowledged by many on the Committee of Management for ensuring that rural education is represented at the highest level within government and education sectors – a legacy that rural communities will be appreciative of for many years to come.

On retiring from the chair role, Wendy has maintained her commitment and passion for rural education, and has stayed heavily involved in the development and provision of programs and initiatives that CEP facilitates, especially in educational leadership.

Wendy has certainly lifted the profile of rural education in Victoria, and indeed across Australia, she is a worthy recipient of a Life Membership.

Philip Scambler

Philip qualified as a Chemistry, Science and Maths teacher in 1968 and gained his first employment as a teacher at Donald High School where he taught for a number of years.

He then gained employment in a number of Melbourne suburban schools including Footscray, Essendon and Dandenong gaining a reputation as a great maths/science teacher. During this time he had an opportunity to undertake an International Teacher Exchange to Denver, Colorado.

On his return he gained the principal position at Birchip High School in 1988 where he remained as the principal for numerous years. One of his first education initiatives as principal was to work with the Birchip community and the Department of Education to establish the Birchip P-12 College as the primary school and high school were co-located on the same site.

With his interest in P-12 education settings, he was also heavily involved at a state-wide level working with other rural P-12 Colleges in promoting the fantastic learning opportunities that such settings provide.

Throughout his time as principal at Birchip, Phillip was instrumental in facilitating the College to being seen as one of the best performing schools within the state – with student achievement being acknowledged statewide. The strong partnerships that he built with his community were highly regarded. His dedication to community involvement allowed for strong links with the Birchip Cropping Group, and the Birchip Lions Club – indeed he still goes back to Birchip to help out with shearing.

In addition to his role as an education leader within the Birchip community, Phillip was also involved in a range of other regional and area organisations – the Kara Kara Country Education Project Area Committee is one outstanding example.

He has held the role of treasurer with the Country Education Partnership for numerous years now, continuing in this role after retiring as principal in Birchip.

His commitment to rural education, and his ongoing support of its role within Victoria is unwavering. Phillip thoroughly deserves the Life Membership bestowment.

Glyn Milner

Glyn spent his childhood and youth in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne before undertaking studies in education.

After undertaking a number of roles across Melbourne suburbs, as both a teacher and education leader, Glyn was appointed as the principal at the newly formed Corryong College – A P-12 education setting.

He played a significant role in its establishment and development, being acknowledged not only as an education, but a local community leader being involved in a number of community groups and activities.

He was then appointed as principal of Maffra Secondary College, one of the state’s largest rural schools, where he led a number of exciting and innovative education programs within the Maffra community.

It was while he was in this role that he became involved in the Country Education Partnership, nominating for the Committee shortly after. He played a significant role in the growth of the CEP at that time and was appointed the Secretary and Public Office of the organisation for a number of years. His experience and knowledge were greatly appreciated by the members of the Committee during this time.

Glyn had the opportunity to take up a position as a Senior Education Officer within the Wellington area where he gained a high recognition by principals and education system leaders for his work in supporting and advocating for rural and remote education.

Following his retirement from the Department of Education, Glyn continued his passion for rural community, purchasing a property in Maldon where he enjoys the lifestyle and community with his wife.

His commitment to rural education, and his ongoing support of its role within Victoria has been unwavering, and he thoroughly deserves the Life Membership bestowment.

David Griffin

David is a typical rural education leader, a local in a small rural community, he has taken on numerous leadership roles, not only in the school setting as a principal, but also in many community groups and committees – horse racing and lawn bowls being two of his passions.

Growing up in East Gippsland, David took the career pathway of teaching and after a number of varied positions, he was appointed principal at Manangatang College a position held for over ten years.

With a clear focus on lifting the aspirations of rural young people, David spent much of his time thinking about how he could improve the education opportunities that were provided for young people in a town with a population of one thousand. He was instrumental in the development of the Mallee Education Cluster, a group of schools along the ‘Mallee Track’ who came together to share their resources and approaches to improve the opportunities and outcomes of young people within the Mallee.

The development of a shared VCE and VET program, the instigation of mobile resources that travelled across the Mallee and the sharing of staff across the cluster schools were all initiatives established with David’s enthusiasm for rural education.

This passion and enthusiasm was rewarded when the group was recognised as one of the state’s best VCE schools with students achieving top results, often outperforming schools in metropolitan Melbourne.

To continue his passion for rural education, David was elected as a Committee member of the Country Education Partnership where he served as a member for a number of years.

David’s enthusiasm and passion for rural education has never been questioned and his Life Membership is due recognition for his unwavering commitment.

Mark McLay

Mark McLay was recognised as a LIfe member in 2021. He was a member of the CEP Committee of Management from 2005 to 2021. Mark has been a committee member, secretary and deputy chair.

Mark represented CEP on a wide range of sub-committees and events during his time on the committee. Mark was a school principal from 1998 to 2021 in both remote Northern Territory, rural and regional Victoria. Schools in which Mark was principal were involved in a wide range of CEP programs included Energy Breakthrough, teaching farms, e-kids, Rural Alliances and many others. Mark is passionate about rural education.

In January 2022, Mark became the Chief Executive Officer for CEP.

Life Membership Criteria

The criteria for Life Membership is detailed in the below document. 

Life Membership Criteria