About Us

Helping people, changing lives

The Gippsland Community Foundation (established as the East Gippsland Community Foundation) was formed to support the east Gippsland community in its recovery from the devastating 2019-2020 Victorian Black Summer bushfires.

Created by the community, for the community, the Foundation received $8.8 million funding from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, a partnership between the Victorian Government and the charitable arm of Bendigo Bank, known as the Community Enterprise Foundation. 

By creating close relationships with residents, community recovery committees, government agencies and local government we have been able to identify and distribute over $4.5 million in recovery funding to date. Projects range from local events and other small but important expenditures, to assisting with rebuilds and new builds of community assets, improving emergency preparedness, mental health programs, tertiary scholarships, and more.

With the lessons learned from our first three years of operation, and recognising the impact of our contribution on community recovery in East Gippsland, Gippsland Community Foundation has moved in 2024 to extend its reach into the wider Gippsland region. GCF will offer the same opportunities for community involvement, connectedness, growth and sustainability to Wellington, Latrobe and Baw Baw Shires as it has already done in East Gippsland.  GCF will also work closely with the South Gippsland and Bass Coast existing community foundations.

Gippsland Community Foundation now provides a centralised hub for community funding across four LGA’s that uniquely reflects the needs of our regions. 

The silver lining in the cloud of the Black Summer Fires.
The single best thing to come out of bushfire recovery has been the arrival of the (East) Gippsland Community Foundation. By working on the ground with our fire affected communities, who all have differing needs and priorities, GCF has enabled non-competitive access to funding for community-led projects and activities. This has reduced our workload, stress and definitely boosted our resilience. They are independent of government and government agencies which alleviates bureaucracy and red tape. They are flexible and adaptive to assist with funding to achieve our community driven recovery priorities, which are not static, our needs change over time and GCF funding flexes with our needs.
Julie Saunders
Wairewa Public Hall & Recreation Reserve, Community Recovery Committee Secretary

Proud Member of

East Gippsland Community Foundation Board and Staff at the Annual General Meeting at the Bruthen Mechanics Hall on 13 November 2023.

Board and staff

The Gippsland Community Foundation is led by a diverse and highly skilled board of directors who offer a wealth of local knowledge and understanding the Gippsland region. Directors and operational staff live and work in the region, giving first hand insight into the issues, industry challenges, community aspirations and future goals of Gippsland communities. We are able to establish partnerships and procure funding for charitable and community projects across the wider Gippsland region.

Barry Henwood


Barry Henwood is a director of the Foundation and has been chair since its inception. 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 hair 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 Black Saturday bushfires, Barry worked with the Bendigo Bank , hiand local organisations and individuals to rebuild communities severely impacted by fire. 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, the philanthropic arm of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

Helen Martin


Helen Martin is a director of the Foundation. She has held senior positions in local government, including in East Gippsland, where her responsibilities covered community recovery from disasters. She has also worked for State and Commonwealth agencies and run a consultancy business for over 20 years.
Helen’s specialist skills lie in strategic planning, community engagement and policy development for rural and regional areas. She is strongly committed to enhancing the Foundation’s role in assisting recovery and building resilience.
Helen is a graduate of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program and was previously chair of the Gippsland Coastal Board.

Lara Caplygin


Lara is an environmental engineer with over seventeen years’ experience in the Victorian water industry. She started as a graduate engineer with Earth Tech in Melbourne and held several roles at East Gippsland Water (EGW, most recently as Executive Manager Strategy & Assets.
Lara received the 2014 Laurie Gleeson Development Award (Institute of Water Administration) to explore innovation with Scottish Water and Scottish Water Horizons. In 2020 she graduated from the inaugural Executive Leadership Women in Water Program, sponsored by the Victorian Minister for Water. In 2021 she was appointed to the Executive Group of the Intelligent Water Networks (IWN).
Lara is currently working as a Senior Project Manager at Crossco, an East Gippsland based engineering and environmental consultancy.
Lara is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a passionate member of the East Gippsland community. With her husband, she is a director of the Evans Ripple Lea Farming Trust, a multigenerational dairy farm in Wuk Wuk ,near Lindenow.

Eric Sjerp


Eric Sjerp is an environmental scientist with a degree in geology and geography from the University of Western Australia. He is Managing Director of Ethos NRM – environmental assessment and natural resource management consultants.
Eric has extensive professional experience in the fields of environmental impact assessment, natural resource and conservation management, strategic land use planning, urban and rural water industries, exploration geology and government liaison. Eric’s professional career spans over 30 years throughout Australia and internationally in Malaysia and the UK.
Eric has been a director of Yarra Valley Water, East Gippsland Water and Southern Rural Water, as well as holding leadership roles in several natural resource management advisory bodies. He is also a past executive officer of the Gippsland Lakes Management Council.
Eric is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), the Environment Institute of Australia & New Zealand (EIANZ) and the Victorian Planning and Environmental Law Association (VPELA).

Joe Rettino

Deputy Chair

Joe Rettino is a director and deputy chair of the Gippsland Community Foundation and is currently a Recovery Support Officer (RSO) for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Previously he was a partnership/engagement broker for TAFE Gippsland. As a councillor of East Gippsland Shire Council he served a two-year term as mayor (2016-2018).
Joe has held directorships in key Gippsland organisations, including the Lakes Entrance Fishermen Ltd, Omeo District Health and East Gippsland Water.
During his time in local government, Joe successfully advocated for significant grants from the Commonwealth and State governments, including advocacy as a member of the Gippsland Local Government Network (GLGN/One Gippsland). Joe’s experience has given him specialist skills in stakeholder and community engagement, leadership, communication, organisational skills, relationship management, commercial management, strategic procurement and governance.

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Meg Allan


Meg Allan hails from Mallacoota, in Far East Gippsland and possesses a deep-rooted passion for Gippsland and its communities. Meg currently works for Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship, having previously worked with East Gippsland Shire Council as the place manager for Mallacoota and Cann Valley.
Meg is co-founder and chair of the Wilderness Collective Mallacoota, a social enterprise facilitating a self-determined and sustainable future for Far East Gippsland through the catalysts of enterprise, education, and co-working. She graduated from the Gippsland Community Leadership Program in 2022.
Meg’s experience has given her specialist skills in areas such as systems and strategic thinking, sustainable regional development, facilitation and leadership.

Trevor Hancock - Board member

Trevor Hancock


Trevor’s family has strong connections to East Gippsland and he is the fifth generation to continue service to the region.
His professional background is in fundraising, marketing, strategic planning, Government, corporate, crises, and public relations. Trevor started his fundraising with Red Cross organising ‘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


Monika Oudendyk is a director of the Foundation. She moved to East Gippsland five 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 remotely for Peninsula Health as an IT Project Manager.

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Paul Holton


Paul is principal at Lightwell Consulting, undertaking projects in the community and local government sectors. He was formerly Director Development with East Gippsland Shire Council ,where his role encompassed strategic management of statutory land use planning, economic development, capital projects and council enterprises across East Gippsland. His previous work in local government included arts facilities administration, cultural development, leisure facilities and events management. Paul was part of the team that initiated the highly successful Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. He is a former member of the Australia Council’s Community Cultural Development Board.

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Louise Holden

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 community.

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 former 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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Cherie Draper

Community Liaison Officer

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