Our People

Our Committee

The Country Education Partnership is managed by an elected Committee of Management.

 The CEP Committee of Management is elected annually by the members of the Partnership. It is chaired by an invited individual who possesses extensive expertise and knowledge of rural and remote education. To guide its work, the Committee of Management has a ‘Compact’ which details the mission, values, key focus areas, roles and operations of the committee.

Committee of Management Compact

 The committee further consists of several key stakeholders who sustain an active interest in rural education. The below table details our current committee members: 



Helen Clarke

Deputy Secretary

Mark McLay



Jodi Walters

Swan Hill


Fran Waterman


Committee Members

Arn Gorman


Jason Whiteley


Jim O’Brien


Kimberley Tempest


Leigh Mellberg


Joanne Amott


Patricia Perry


Catherine Grace


Co-opted Member

Sally Baker

South Gippsland Shire

CEO Representatives

Kaye O’Connor

CEO Office – Sandhurst Diocese

Sue Crowe

CEO Office – Ballarat Diocese




Our Staff

Phil Brown

Phil Brown

Executive Officer


Phil has been Executive Officer at CEP for more than a decade now and has a wealth of knowledge regarding the function, benefits and challenges of rural and remote education.

Phil has been instrumental in a range of initiatives aimed at fostering enhanced education outcomes in rural communities.

He has further represented these communities through involvement in a range of government and education sector working groups, as well as peak national education bodies.

Trish Hodge

Trish Hodge

Business Manager


Trish began working with CEP in 2005.

She has extensive knowledge of finance and administration support, highlighted by a period of twelve years, from 1982 to 1994, working in the Australian Airforce, in the areas of finance and purchasing.

She made her first step into the education sector in 2002, working as an Executive Assistant with her local North East Tracks LLEN.

Trish Hodge

Matt Copping

Project Manager


Matt has worked in special education for over two decades across Australia and the United Kingdom. He began his professional life in Education Support and has progressed through roles as a Teacher, Assistant Principal and Principal. He spent the previous ten years as Principal of Horsham Special School, developing a range of innovative programs that saw his team awarded the Victorian Award for Outstanding Inclusive Education and the Principals Association of Special Schools Award for Best Team in 2019.

Residing in Quantong in rural Victoria with his wife, Matt has a passion for supporting and developing initiatives that provide rural and disadvantaged youth the opportunity to shine. He is a strong advocate for people with a disability. He has worked tirelessly in his community and across western Victoria to support schools and educators in the provision of inclusive education for all, with a core focus on celebrating diversity.

Leanne Baxter

Project Manager


Leanne has an extensive career spanning over 28 years filling various leadership positions in various P – 12 schools based in Queensland, Northern Territory and Victoria – but she has always returned her leadership focus to smaller rural schools.  She has had extensive experience working in leadership in Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory and in outback Queensland schools as well as Catholic and within the Government sector.

From an educational and research perspective she has primarily focused on literacy across the curriculum, leading change in curriculum innovation, student aspirations and engagement and teacher growth and development.  Leanne is based in Longford, Gippsland where she hopes to catch up with our small schools Cluster in the near future. If you have any queries or would like some information about possible resourcing or projects, please do not hesitate to call.  Leanne looks forward to working with you all.

Britt Ditterich

Joe Collins

National Project Officer
Rural Youth Aspirations


Joe’s involvement with CEP began in 2016 when he signed up as a Youth Ambassador as part of the Rural Inspire Program. He has since maintained close contact with the organisation as a board representative and moved into a Project Officer role in 2021. His passion for improving country education opportunities comes from his strong belief that rural and remote communities are villages that grow some very impressive people. Joe grew up in Woomelang in Western Victoria and attended Tyrrell College in Sea Lake. He completed his Bachelor of Agriculture Technology through La Trobe University in 2020.

Bill Jeffs

Leah Coles

Communication and Media Officer 


Leah’s passion for rural education stems from her own experiences growing up in Wangaratta in North East Victoria on the lands traditionally owned by the Bpangerang people. Leah recently completed her Masters of Teaching through La Trobe University and has a background in communications having previously worked for rural newspapers and as a media adviser to former parliamentarian Cathy McGowan AO. She will use the combinations of her studies and career experience to continue to advocate for rural students to experience opportunities in culture and leadership and develop high aspirations for their futures. 

Loni Jeffs

Communications and Social Media Officer


Loni joins the CEP team as a Communication and Media Officer supporting both CEP and the Rural Inpsire iniative.

Hailing from South Gippsland in Victoria, Loni has since moved to Melbourne to undertake further study.

She has previously worked in Arts Administration for the National Gallery of Victoria, Moonee Valley City Council and with RMIT’s non/fictionLab.

Jemma Walsh

Project Officer
Rural Inspire


Jemma grew up in country Victoria, though currently lives in Canberra while working and studying full time. Jemma is in her final year of a double degree of Political Science and International Relations. 

Jemma participated in the 2014/15 group of Rural Youth Ambassadors. This group of young rural Australians were one of the first drivers of the Rural Inspire initative.

Renae Feder

Project Officer
Rural Inspire


Renae grew up in Kaniva, a small country town in Victoria just 10kms from the SA boarder. She went to high school at Kaniva College where she finished year 12 in 2017 alongside a class of 8 others. Renae has been living in Adelaide for four years studying a Bachelor of Education (middle/Secondary)/ Health Science (PE teaching) at Flinders University. She wants to be a PE and Agriculture teacher in the country. Hopefully one day (years down the track) she can be a principal. 

Renae is passionate about ensuring all students gain a quality education no matter their location and CEP advocates for this. She likes seeing change happen in the education sector that supports every student.

Julia Enter

Julia Enter

Project Officer
Rural Inspire


Julia is an alumni of the Rural Youth Ambassador program. She grew up on her family dairy farm in South Gippsland in Victoria and went to school in Leongatha.

Julia has been involved in the Rural Youth Ambassador program and Rural Inspire since since 2016.

She is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in International Studies and Politics at the University of Melbourne.

Julias brings to the role within Country Education Partnership with a real passion in helping other rural students have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

In her down time, Julia loves going to the beach, helping on her dairy farm and enjoying all of that inner city living has to offer.

Julia Enter

Caitlin Britten

Caitlin is a recent alumni ambassador that has joined the team as an intern. She grew up in Maryborough Victoria always being involved in the community through sport and volunteering. Caitlin has recently made the move to geelong to study exercise and sport science.