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Our Board

About our Board

Our Board operates according to the Board Charter: Board Charter 

Our Directors have extensive experience and knowledge of land protection, water resource management, primary industry, environmental conservation and local government. More than half are primary producers.

Each year, directors not only meet to undertake their governance role, they also work with management to formulate organisational strategy and meet with members of the community to ensure they are informed of natural resource management issues throughout the North East Catchment.

The Board has established sub-committees who meet regularly to oversee the specific areas of audit and risk, remuneration, and engagement and partnering.

For more information on what our board has accomplished during the year, refer to our latest Annual Report.

Information on becoming a board member is available from DEECA.


Our Directors

Chris Cunningham (PhD), Chair

Christine (Chris) is an experienced Non-Executive Director and Chairman with more than 15 years experience on health, social enterprise and education boards.  She is currently Deputy-Chair Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Board, Chair of the Quality and Population Health Committee and Chair of the Workplace Culture Review Committee. Chris is also Chair of the Merriwa Industries Board, a NFP providing all-abilities employment. Chris was previously the Chair of Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW, 2009 – 2014) and a past member of a TAFE board.  She operates a boutique research, evaluation and governance consultancy for government, NFP and private sector organisations. Chris is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors with a PhD from the University of Melbourne and a Master’s Degree in Science (Applied Statistics).  Chris is also a primary producer with a farm on the King River.

Chris was appointed to the North East CMA Board in October 2021.

Judith McDonald, Deputy Chair


Judith is a proud Gunditjmara woman. A descendent of Susannah McDonald, Judith moved back to live and work on Country in 2020. Currently Judith is the Managing Director of Watnanda Consulting Pty Ltd.  She currently sits on the Victorian Ombudsman’s Audit and Risk Committee, the Victorian Aboriginal Women’s Leaderships Program Advisory committee member and Elder in Residence and is a Board Director of the Northeast Catchment Management Authority. Judith has sat on many Boards, Advisory committees, Councils and working groups over the past 35 years.

In 2015 Judith was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour roll for the contribution she has made to ensuring access to and equity in education, community and health services that meet the needs of First Nation Peoples living in north east Victoria.

In 2017, Judith was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from La Trobe University for the contribution she has made to community and research. Judith has a degree in Social Work and a Master of Social Work - Research. Judith has worked in the health, justice, mental health, and community sector organisations. She is the co-founder and managing director of her small business, Watnanda Consulting, which she started in 2016.

Judith was appointed to the North East CMA Board in October 2019.


Miriam McGowan

Photo of Miriam McGowan

Miriam comes from a farming family with 5 generations of history in north east Victoria. She brings a depth of knowledge and experience to the North East CMA with studies in law, management, environment and planning, science and practice in commercial law. She is a supporter of community engagement and enjoys farming with her family in the region. 

Miriam was appointed to the North East CMA Board in 2017.

Donovan Jacka

Donovan Jacka is the Executive Director - People and Culture with Benalla Health.  For the last 10 years he has lived on a Goat Farm in Tarrawingee.  From 2013 to 2022 he established and ran a cheese and agri-tourism business. Prior to moving to north east Victoria, Donovan was employed in a range of senior Industrial Relations and Human Resources positions within the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and the Victorian State Government.

Donovan holds a Graduate Diploma of Industrial Relations, and a Graduate Certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution.  He is also currently serving as Board Chair for Alpine Health.

Donovan was appointed to the North East CMA Board in October 2021.

Dr Ashlen Francisco

Ash is the engagement lead at Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership and ensures the Centre and its services remain responsive to business and community wants and needs. Her interests span from historically guided restorative justice to amplifying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurial spirit through shared experiences. Ash is a proud Wiradjuri woman, published researcher, lecturer and engagement lead at the Dilin Duwa Centre for Indigenous Business Leadership at the University of Melbourne and Melbourne Business School. She has a PhD in NSW Aboriginal History from the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle and is an inaugural member of the Yuma Yirramboi Victorian Aboriginal Economic and Employment Council, a board member for Ganbina, and an advisor of Richmond Football Club’s reconciliation advisory group and MCA's Bangawarra Art Yarns Reference Group. She lives and works on Taungurung Country in regional Victoria and is committed to advancing regional business connection and opportunity.

Ash was appointed to the North East CMA Board in October 2023.

Brendan Foran

Prior to joining the Board of North East CMA, Brendan was the CEO of Greening Australia (GA) for 11 years where he led an organisation-wide governance and strategy reform program that led to greater levels of impact, efficiency and resilience. Brendan is a highly experienced Executive and Director and has held other roles such as:

  • Corporate Affairs Manager, Eastern States for Alcoa of Australia
  • Founding Chair of the Australian Land Conservation Alliance (ALCA), SeedX and Canopy- Nature Based Solutions
  • Founding Director of NatureCo
  • Non- executive Director of North-East Water and the Gordon Institute of TAFE.

He holds an MBA and an Advanced Diploma in Business Management, was a 2011 Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange participant in Iceland and a 2016 Harvard Club of Australia non-profit fellow.

Brendan was appointed to the North East CMA Board in October 2023.

Elisa Raulings


Elisa is a technical specialist driving evidence-based and practical action for people and nature.  She is committed to working with local communities to improve Australia's natural capital and build resilience to adverse events. 

Elisa has worked with farmers, First Nations people, research organisations, corporates, government and not-for-profit organisations to develop strategy, build strong partnerships and deliver on-ground action. 

Elisa is currently the CEO and Founder of an environmental consultancy and previously held roles in academia, government, not-for-profit and consulting organisations.  She has a PhD and Bachelor of Science (Honours) from Melbourne University, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Garden Design and is currently studying Natural Capital Accounting.  Elisa is currently on the Advisory Board of the Sustainable Floristry Network and an Associate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

Elisa was appointed to the North East CMA Board in October 2023.