Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Council

The Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Council (the Council) is a ministerial advisory council that provides independent and strategic advice to the Minister for Agriculture on how the agriculture sector can prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change and inform the government’s broader climate change agenda as it relates to the agriculture sector.

The Council supports the Victorian Government’s commitment to deliver strong and lasting action on climate change for the agriculture sector, which is already experiencing the impacts of an increasingly variable and extreme climate. This includes working in partnership with the agriculture sector to take climate action, build resilience and reduce emissions while maintaining the sector’s productivity and profitability.

The Council plays a key role in this work by:

  • providing independent advice about the challenges and opportunities the Victorian agriculture sector faces from climate change
  • supporting the Minister for Agriculture to develop actions that respond to climate change, reduce emissions and build sector resilience
  • identifying networks and approaches to engage and manage key stakeholders
  • providing advice on other strategic components of government’s climate change responses for the agriculture sector.

The Council meets formally up to four times a year, and its members represent a diverse set of skills and experience in agriculture, climate change, regional and rural development, water management and finance.


Chairperson – Alexandra Gartmann

Ms Gartmann is an experienced leader of rural, agriculture and community development focused organisations and is the former CEO of the Rural Bank, a division of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

Ms Gartmann has served previously as CEO of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and the Birchip Cropping Group. She contributes to a number of boards across agriculture, banking and the environment, including the Australian Farm Institute and the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust.

Deputy Chairperson – Mark Wootton AO

Mr Wootton is a beef and wool farmer who is well-known in the Australian agriculture industry as a pioneer in carbon-neutral farming, having achieved carbon neutrality on his property – Jigsaw Farms.

Mr Wootton has also held a number of national and state-based roles including Chair of the Independent Advisory Panel for the Victorian Government’s Agriculture Energy Investment Plan, as well as being instrumental in the creation of the Climate Institute, a not-for-profit organisation focused on climate science and policy in Australia.

Fiona Conroy

Ms Conroy is a sheep and cattle producer with experience in carbon-neutral farming practices. She was previously a journalist and livestock editor at The Weekly Times before becoming a partner of Nicon Rural Services, a rural consulting business.

Ms Conroy has also worked for the Victorian Government in agriculture research and advisory roles. She is currently Secretary of the Victorian Farmers Federation Bellarine Branch and sits on various other local agricultural boards and committees.

Lisa Dwyer

Ms Dwyer is a south-west Victorian dairy farmer and former Non-Executive Director of the Murray Goulburn Cooperative, Dairy Australia and Australian Livestock Export Corporation.

Her career spans roles in finance, sales, marketing and business development. She is the director of Racing Analytical Services Limited, and currently serves as a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Great South Coast, and as Chair of the Great South Coast Regional Partnership.

Professor Richard Eckard

Professor Eckard is a Professor and Director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on carbon farming, managing extreme climate events and options for agriculture to respond to a changing climate.

Professor Eckard holds a number of national and international science leadership roles and sits on various advisory panels for the Australian, New Zealand and UK governments, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the European Union, on climate change adaptation, mitigation and policy development in agriculture.

Richard was recently named on the Reuters list of the worlds 1,000 most influential climate scientists and was appointed in 2021 as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Gillian Hayman

Ms Hayman runs her own consultancy business in Gippsland.  She has worked across south-eastern Australia in the areas of natural resource management, agriculture and community engagement for three decades with a focus on climate change adaptation and community resilience.

Ms Hayman is a Managing Partner at Montrose Dairy in Fish Creek, which was awarded a Victorian Landcare Award for innovation in sustainable farm practices in 2015.  She serves on the Board of the Promontory District Finance Group, which oversees the operation of local Bendigo Bank branches at Toora and Foster.

Jack Holden

Mr Holden is the General Manager – Sustainability (Global Markets) at Fonterra Group and has been with Fonterra since 2012.

Previously he worked as a sustainability practitioner and advisor, most recently at KPMG. After completing a degree in Environmental Management he worked with the forestry and agriculture sectors in the Victorian Government in Western Victoria.  He was also the inaugural Coordinator for the Southern Otway Landcare Network. Currently, Mr Holden is the Deputy Chair of the Australian Dairy Sustainability Framework, is a Board member of Meat & Livestock Australia and  is the former President of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (Australia).”

Professor Lauren Rickards

Lauren Rickards is a Professor at LaTrobe University where she has a cross-university role fostering applied interdisciplinary research and leads a range of research on the social dimensions of climate change.

Professor Rickards is a Lead Author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. A human geographer by training, Lauren’s research includes exploration of the social complexities of managing climate change in agriculture and rural communities and, most recently exploration of infrastructural interdependencies and cascading impacts.

Prior to academia, Professor Rickards was an Associate Partner at RMCG where she led work including a large, longitudinal study of farm families’ experiences of the Millennium Drought with Birchip Cropping Group.

Caroline Welsh

Ms Welsh has over 25 years’ experience working with government on horticulture, irrigation and grains policy. She is a partner in Renney Farms, the family grain farm in Berriwillock.

Ms Welsh is the Deputy Chair of GWMWater, is a member of the Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee and was the Chair of the Birchip Cropping Group for seven years. Ms Welsh is well-connected with stakeholders across the water sector, farmers, local and Victorian government groups and local community, and belongs to Australian Institute of Company Directors.


As part of the Council’s reporting commitments under its Terms of Reference, the Council, with the support of Agriculture Victoria develops an annual report for each year of operation. All reports can be found here:

More information

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Page last updated: 31 Aug 2023