The RDA - Northern Inland NSW Committee
The Regional Development Australia- Northern Inland Committee's main role through its strategic plan, is to assist with the development and strengthening of the communities within the region.
The communities vary in size from larger regional service centres, through to isolated rural districts with an associated scattered population.
This population pattern does mean there has to be a commitment by all organisations at all levels to adopt local solutions for service delivery, while being conscious of regional responsibilities and economies of scale through the many strategic plans which currently exist, or are under development by commonwealth, state, regional and local organisations.
In addition, many former services which were delivered by Government are now within the administration of the private sector.
One of the Committee's key roles is to assist with assessing the need for certain service delivery through consultation with communities, organisations, businesses and individuals. This will be done through mechanisms set up under the plan to ensure, where possible, both limited financial and human resources are utilised in an efficient and effective way throughout the region.
A key aspect for the Committee is to take a leadership role in bringing together the vast array of organisations in the region which in many cases have been competing directly for the delivery of many of the services required by individuals and their communities. This will assist in the elimination of duplication and overlap and where a mutual regional boundary exists, adopt a strategy with the adjoining regional committee to assist with interests and issues surrounding the common boundary.
Russell Stewart - Chair
(Narrabri Shire LGA)
Russell was born and raised in Bellata near Narrabri and is the son of a Soldier Settler. He is a self-employed consultant and businessman after many years in Local Government. Russell is a passionate advocate of training and employment pathways that retain our young people in the region and is committed to the economic development of the 12 Local Government Areas in Northern Inland.
Russell has extensive experience across all three levels of government as well as the private sector. He is currently the President of the Narrabri & District Chamber of Commerce, Chair of the Narrabri Coal Community Consultancy Committee and a member of the Narrabri Gas Community Consultancy Committee.
Russell lives in Narrabri with his wife Louise and is the proud father of two adult children, Thomas and Ashleigh, who remain in regional Australia working in their professional capacities.
Ian Lobsey OAM - Deputy Chair
(Liverpool Plains Shire LGA)
Ian runs a small beef cattle enterprise near Wallabadah and is currently a Councilor with the Liverpool Plains Shire Council after 26 years as Mayor. Ian is also a judge of the Country Link Inland Tourism Awards and a judge of the NSW Tourism Awards.
Ian has been involved in local governments for over 25 years and has always championed regional development. Ian is passionate about providing opportunities for young people in regional areas and believes that any development must be sustainable for communities.
(Armidale Regional LGA)
James was born and bred in the Moree Plains of rural NSW with his career beginning in Electrical and Auto-Electrical trades, along with helping the family farm and harvesting. He completed his university studies at UNE, completing a Bachelor of Business & Bachelor of Economics with Honors whilst being 1 of 3 recipients of the coveted New England Award.
James is passionate about business and economic development with a strong background in mentoring and tutoring associated university units through the Economics, Business & Law School, UNE college system as Senior Academic Mentor for Wright College & Village, and with the UNE Oorala Centre helping indigenous students. Privately, James has been involved with UNE as an enumerator for research and lead a market analysis project during his undergraduate. In conjunction to this, he also held similar roles within UNE as Student support team, and College JCR Treasurer.
Outside of university, James was successful in the competitive PwC Summer Vacation Program for the Newcastle Branch with focus towards tax, audit and cloud services. James provided private consultancy services during his Honours year in the field of intensive horticulture for native plant species production.
(Narrabri Shire LGA)
Les has a rich history of working with Indigenous peoples to increase community engagement. His experience includes work in the fields of employment, education, sports, and recreation for Federal, State and Territory Governments.
Key achievements in Les’ career include:
- Development of an Indigenous Employment Strategy and running a cross-cultural awareness training for staff with the NSW Department of Sport and Recreation. His work in this area led to seventeen Aboriginal people employed by the department, exceeding the KPI of two.
- Travelling to remote communities to deliver and promote NSW Department of Employment, Education and Training programs, including ASSPA, VEGAS and Abstudy.
- Coordinating and running sports development programs in remote communities throughout Central Australia for the NT Department of Sport and Recreation. Also, providing information to communities on available programs for developing sports activities. Through this role, he introduced soccer and cricket to all the communities in Central Australia, where neither were played previously.
- Development of Narrabri Shire Council’s Social Policy, Recreation Policy, and tourism initiatives as a Community Development Officer.
- Establishment of a business to help the unemployed obtain their driver's licence to increase job opportunities. This initiative was an overwhelming success, with 100% of participants achieving their driver’s licence.
- Creation of initiatives to develop a closer working relationship between Aboriginal people and the NSW Rural Fire Service as a Support Officer. He encouraged thirty-six Aboriginal people to become RFS volunteers across Moree, Gunnedah and Ballina through this role.
Les’ achievements and contribution to the community he has worked with have been recognised with a meeting with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, Former PM Bob Hawke and Australian cricketer Ian Chappell and by being a baton relay runner in Gunnedah for the Commonwealth Games.
Les Parsons OAM
(Inverell Shire LGA)
Les owns and operates Olives of Beaulieu and is a Director of Gwydir Olives Pty Ltd. In addition he is also Managing Director of Arlington Pty Ltd. Les has 15 years experience in tourism development in NSW and has served as Chairman of several tourism organisations.
Les is a previous Chairman of the Inverell Regional Business Enterprise and is the Chairman of the Inverell Enterprise Resource Investment Centre, a project management group.
(Moree Plains Shire LGA)
Since graduating from University in 1989, Lou has been priviledged to work with many wonderful people, who have taught her so much. With Rhone Poulenc Rural, she travelled all over Australia while broadening her skills base. Lou is currently a Project Officer with the Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association.
Although having a great time living the high life in both Sydney and Melbourne, she is a country girl at heart and is happy to be back home. Like so many other professional women, Lou choose to work in regional Australia. Her work with regional business allows her to help them set business direction and effectively plan their communication strategies to target their key markets. There is so much potential for regional businesses. Lou is also actively involved in facilitating community events and responses to poor public and political decision making.
(Armidale Regional LGA)
Neil Argent (PhD) is an Associate Professor in Geography at the University of New England, Armidale. Prior to joining the University in 1996, Neil worked as a self-employed grazier and shearer in South Australia.
Neil has stayed somewhat true to these roots in his academic work; researching and teaching in the fields of regional development and rural social, economic and demographic change.
Through his active teaching and research roles throughout the Northern Inland, Neil has an excellent understanding of many and various economic, social and environmental opportunities available within the region, as well as the potential and real threats to future development opportunities.
(Glen Innes Severn LGA)
Riarna is an Accredited Building Certifier and Town Planning Consultant who operates a small building certification and town planning consultancy business with her husband that services the New England Region. Prior to opening the business, Riarna worked for over 10 years in local government, predominantly throughout the Upper Hunter and Newcastle / Lake Macquarie Regions prior to making the move to a property outside of Glen Innes to pursue a sustainable lifestyle.
Throughout her career, Riarna has gained vast experience in the areas of project management, development, town planning, building certification, governance and local government management (with her final role being Manager of Planning & Regulatory Services at Glen Innes Severn Council). Riarna has also earned a number of qualifications throughout her career with the most recent including a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Graduate Certificate in Management (both through the University of New England).
Riarna was drawn to the role at RDANI due to realising that despite the New England being mostly well-equipped in terms of attracting development and business to the locality, there is more she believes can be done, particularly in the connectivity / technology spheres within rural / remote New England locations and with the implementation of sustainable ‘green’ building practices.
(Moree Plains Shire LGA)
Following a career in marketing with Coles/Wesfarmers in Brisbane, Susannah moved to the Moree Plains in 2010 with her husband to continue a sixth-generation farming legacy. She held roles in both local and state government across economic development and communications prior to becoming Deputy Mayor of Moree Plains Shire Council in 2022.
She is a mother of three and a passionate advocate of regional Australia and the creation of vibrant, sustainable, inclusive and prosperous communities.
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