Our 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 thirty five years.

Current Life Members include:

  • Maureen Chiswell
  • Ian Rogerson
  • John Stafford
  • Don Edgar
  • Gary Allen
  • Al Balfour
  • Wendy Graham
  • Philip Scambler

Maureen Chiswell

Maureens’ 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 role 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 that ensured the organisation was established on a strong base.

Ian Rogerson

Ian Rogerson (Rogo) was involved in supporting the work of CEP from 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 on 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 had many involvements in CEP projects – the main being his involvement 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 a local, area and state-wide levels will be a long standing legacy that he leaves.

John Stafford

Johns involvement in CEP Inc has spanned numerous years with his first involvement being a Field Officer within the Gippsland region of Victoria. He provided valuable support to a number of clusters of rural schools throughout the region.

A number of years later he became the state Director of Country Education Project where he was instrumental in the development of a number of 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 undertaking research focusing on rural education are a few of these initiatives.

His knowledge of CEP at a state level, and rural Victoria was invaluable for those in the development of the CEP Inc – being a committee of management member of CEP Inc for a number of years.

John remains involved in a number of current CEP Inc initiatives – the one which he is well known is the RACV Energy Breakthrough program. He also played a valuable role in the development of the Working Together framework.

Don Edgar

Don was the inaugural director of Country Education Project, established in Victoria as part of the commonwealth governments Country Areas Program in 1977. His fore-site 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 commitment to the idea that a community owned and developed education provision was critical for the sustainability and ongoing viability of these communities. Working together, sharing ideas and resources and allocating resources to communities were central 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 and as a result has stayed connected with the work of CEP Inc.

Gary Allen

Gary has been involved is supporting rural education within Victoria for a number of years now.

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

In 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 seen it become a key stakeholder within the Victorian education scene.

Al Balfour

Al Balfour has been involved at all levels in supporting rural education within Victoria for a number of years. He was involved in CEP since its establishment in 1977.

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

As a Senior Education Officer for the Department of Education in Gippsland during the 1980’s and chairperson of the implementation committee for  Commonwealths Governments “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. Through his leadership, rural areas of Victoria lead the way in curriculum provision through technology during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, 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 role 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 Gippslands rural and remote areas is still acknowledged today.

Al contributed enormously to the extensive consultation during 1993 that lead to the formation of CEP Inc. –  “the voice of rural education as we know it today”. He served as chairperson of CEP Inc during 1997 and 1998.

Als work has always reflected the values of the Country Education Project.

A video tribute to Al was presented to the CEP Annual Meeting. Click on Als Tribute to see this video.

Wendy Graham

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

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

Wendy and her her husband ran a very successful farm, predominantly sheep, in the Lake Bolac area, where it was here that there two great kids were born. In any conversation you have with Wendy, this is an experience that 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 within her community. She was instrumental in working in partnership with Brendan Ryan (the then principal of the High School) in the development of the Lake Bolac P-12 College – her facilitation and leadership skills through this development was 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.

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

Her real passion for schools working collaboratively to cater for all students has not wained and still remains a key belief 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.

On finishing with the Department of Education, Wendy has not stopped her involvement within rural education. She has been involved in a range of programs and roles that have a strong focus on rural education. She has become one of the highly regarded facilitators of leadership programs both within Victoria and Interstate – delivering within the Small Schools Leadership Program; Facilitating in the Eleanor Davis Womens Leadership program; facilitating Aspiring Leadership programs; Remote Schools Leadership program in the Northern Territory, and also providing couching support to a range of current rural education leaders.

It was a few years ago that she accepted an invitation to take on the Chairs role of the Country Education Partnership (CEP), a role she undertook for six to seven years. Within this role, she was a strong leader in ensuring that rural education across Victoria had a strong voice through CEP, and was seen as a key aspect of the Victorian education system, building on the great work that Gary Allen had begun as chair prior to her. 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 acknowledge 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 chairs 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 the leadership area.

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

Philip Scambler

PSPhilip 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 for a great maths science teacher. It was while he was in these positions that he had the 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 both 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, he was instrumental in facilitating the College to being seen as one of the best performing schools within the state – with student achievement being acknowledged across the state. The strong partnerships that he built with his community was highly regarded. Forming strong links with the Birchip Cropping Group, and the Birchip Lions Club are two strong example of his community involvement – he still goes back to Birchip to help out with the shearing.

In addition to his role as an education leader within the Birchip community, he 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 – a role he has held until today.

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


The criteria for Life Membership is on the Life Membership Criteria