Wollangarra Council

Wollangarra is governed by a voluntary Council as a non-profit association independent of any school, religion or government funding. This is because we believe that strong organisations get to be that way by fighting their own battles. Councillors are committed supporters, elected to the Council because they believe in and support the aims of Wollangarra.

Brad Woods (Chair)

Brad was introduced to Wollangarra by his son Thom (2007 Alpine Walker) who attended his first Stage I in 2003 with Camberwell High School. Brad’s interest was spiked by Thom’s stories of this amazing place in the mountains with no electricity and a flying fox as the point of entry, but more so by the positive energy and campfire smell that came home with him from visits to ‘Woll’. With Thom’s permission, Brad first visited Wollangarra on Open Day in 2005 and was energised by the place. Since that time the whole Woods family, wife Jenni and daughter Tessa (2009 Alpine Walker) included, have become actively involved in assisting Wollangarra with the rebuilding work after the floods and social activities on the flat and in the city. Brad owns and manages a four-generation-old family construction/design firm in Melbourne. Carpenter by trade and passionate about the culture of Wollangarra, he states that he is “honoured to be able to help as much when up beside the Macalister as back in Melbourne”. More importantly he uses his greatest skill, talking, to promote Wollangarra to anyone who will listen!

Aleks Svasas (Vice Chair)

Aleks first came to Wollangarra in 1995 as a young person on a Stage I. He loved Wollangarra, the philosophy and places he got to go so much that, well, he hasn’t stopped going. He went through the stages as a young person and then was staff in 2001. After the whirlwind of being on staff he settled in to being a Council member since 2003. He holds a bachelor degree with honours in Engineering and works as an environmental engineer in storm and recycled water. Because of his history with Wollangarra and the engineering field he can critically assess problems that face Wollangarra in a logical manner that still respects Wollangarra philosophies.

Jodie Steel (Treasurer)

Jodie was a staff member at Wollangarra in 2000 and has since completed a Bachelor of Business with a major in professional accounting and a minor in law and economics. Jodie works in the logistics industry in a combined role covering financial and productivity analysis, administration and safety. Prior to this she spent a year in Japan teaching English. Jodie plays hockey, basketball and golf. She is interested in environmental accounting and is currently studying to become a Certified Practicing Accountant.

Helen Collins (Honorary Solicitor)

Helen Collins is a lawyer from north east Victoria. She is a keen bushwalker, having been first introduced to the Victorian mountains on a Mittagundi course as a student. Helen helped out on early Wollangarra work parties – carting building materials across (and through) the river, planting trees and digging holes and trenches (including helping with the dugout – twice, and the old telephone line). During 1993, Helen was a staff member at Wollangarra, and has been on Council since 1996, including holding the positions of Secretary and Chair. Helen has extensive remote area bushwalking experience, both with young people and on private expeditions in Victoria, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Nepal. On the Council, Helen brings skills and experience in law, risk management, remote expedition planning and environmental science.

Gabrielle Bridge (Secretary)

Gabi is a Yackandandah girl. She spent much loved time at Mittagundi while growing up and has always enjoyed the mountains for skiing and hiking. Following in her father’s footsteps, who was once a Mittagundi staff member, she became a staff member at Wollangarra in 2012. She loves Wollangarra’s idea of forming relationships with the bush and finding purpose in everyday life. This year she is studying Science at Melbourne Uni. She hopes to major in Botany and Zoology but enjoys breaking up her studies to spend time back in the country. Her favourite smell is lemon-scented eucalypt. Her favourite things to do are gardening, painting, sleeping under the stars, drinking tea, reading and chopping wood.

Ross Richards

Ross was Director at Wollangarra from 2005 to 2007. He has an honours degree in Aerospace Engineering, Graduate Diploma in Education and a Masters of Education. Ross’ background encompasses engineering, farming, music, and teaching, and he is currently employed by Origin Energy as an engineer in their wind farm development business. In his spare time, Ross enjoys mountain bike riding, mandolin playing in a gypsy jazz band, surfing, kayaking and hiking. And calling the occasional bush dance at Wollangarra and Mittagundi.

Rob Gilder

Rob is Wollangarra’s closest neighbour. He runs Glenfalloch Station, a 5000 hectare farm north of Wollangarra, which has been in the Gilder family for over 100 years. The Gilders were the last private owners of the famous Wonnangatta Station. Ian Stapleton purchased the Wollangarra property from Rob’s auntie, Barbara, in 1988. Over a number of years Wollangarra has restored Burgoyne’s Hut, an old stone settlers cottage on Rob’s property. Rob is married to Marnie and they have two children, Annabelle and Alfred.

Michael Gibbs

Michael was introduced to Wollangarra by his wife and together they worked as staff at Wollangarra in 2008. He describes this as one of the most challenging yet constantly rewarding and influential experiences he has had. Michael has a Bachelor of Nursing, post grad qualifications in Occupational Health and Safety and Risk Management and has 8 years professional experience in the Risk Management Industry. He works for a large Local Government in regional Victoria as their Risk Managment Co-ordinator. Michael sees being a council member as a meaningful way to continue contributing to Wollangarra and its ongoing success.

Christine Hill

Born in Heyfield, Christine was recruited as a Council member in order for the Council to have some valuable local input. Through her volunteer work at St Vincent de Paul over the last thirty years, she had the pleasure of working with Aunty Molly Lanigan (from Ian’s book ’Jim & Molly’). Now her father (in his 80’s) has Molly’s old job at Vinnies: cutting the buttons off unusable items. It is through this work that she has had contact with a lot of the Directors and staff in the past. Knowing a lot of local people who have supported Wollangarra since its inception has meant that she has helped with various projects, demolishing houses, working bees, and woodchop weekends. Some of you may even remember Sneaky the kangaroo who she and Paul raised then gave to Wollangarra when she became too big for their town block.

Paul Wiley

Unlike Christine, Paul has only been in the area for thirty-five years so he is ’not quite a local yet’. As an active bush walker and skier, he was quickly enlisted into the SES. A lot of SES members like Charlie and Cath Noble and Des Sinnot became supporters of Woll and it was through this connection that he first became involved with Wollangarra. While not getting up in the bush as much as he used to, it was the idea of encouraging young people into the mountains and the idea of living sustainably that led him to accept the offer of becoming a Council member.

Geordie McCallum

Geordie grew up in Glenmaggie and as the son of a Park Ranger, he was introduced to the bush from an early age. He attended Wollangarra as a young person and was an Alpine Walker in 2002. Geordie studied Outdoor Education at La Trobe University in Bendigo and worked as a Wollangarra staff member in 2005. He spent several years in Western Australia where he worked in an indigenous community, before returning to Victoria in 2011. Geordie is now based in Melbourne where he works as a carpenter.

Hamish Macrae

Hamish first took the flying fox to Wollangarra on a stage one program in 2004 to take on the amazing opportunities he had heard about from his siblings. He kept coming back at every opportunity, through stage two and then onto stage three and then stage three committee. To him Wollangarra offered, and still offers, an amazing opportunity to be in the beautiful mountains, be part of a community and contribute in a meaningful way. In 2012 he took the logical next step of committing a year and worked as staff member, hoping to help other young people experience all the place has to offer. Recently Hamish completed a Diploma of Outdoor Recreation and currently works as a freelance outdoor education instructor.