Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Council

The Victorian Agriculture and Climate Change Council (the Council) is a ministerial advisory committee that provides independent, expert and strategic advice to the Minister for Agriculture on how the agriculture sector can prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change.

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 meets formally up to 4 times a year. 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.

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.

In 2021, Professor Eckhard was named on the Reuters list of the world’s 1,000 most influential climate scientists and was appointed as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Gillian Hayman

Ms Hayman has worked across south-eastern Australia in the areas of natural resource management, agriculture and community engagement for 3 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. A dairy supply chain professional with extensive networks across industry in Australia and New Zealand, Mr Holden is also 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).

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.

Professor Lauren Rickards

Professor Lauren Rickards is a senior interdisciplinary academic with extensive experience and expertise in climate adaptation. Her research focuses on the social dimensions of agriculture, sustainability, climate change adaptation and system resilience, including exploration of the social complexities of managing climate change in agriculture and rural communities.

Professor Rickards was a lead author with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest Working Group on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. She is currently a professor at La Trobe University and Director of the La Trobe Climate Change Adaptation Lab.

Luke Hooke

Luke Hooke is the Manager of Sustainability, Standards and Regulations at Nutrien Ag Solutions and has a strong understanding of Victorian farming systems, their linkages to global markets, and networks relating to suppliers of key agricultural inputs.

He has previously worked with the Victorian Farmers Federation and as a senior advisor to a member of the Parliament of Victoria. Mr Hooke holds a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of International Relations and a Graduate Diploma in Professional Political Practice.

Catherine Jenkins

Catherine Jenkins is a founding director of agribusiness coaching service Rural People Co, working with agricultural businesses and organisations throughout the Australian supply chain. Ms Jenkins ran a family dairy business in western Victoria for 15 years before transitioning the farm to a free-range egg and livestock operation.

Ms Jenkins has previously held roles working in ANZ Agribusiness Banking and at Fonterra Australia. She is currently the Chair of Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and the Chair of Vic Catchments, the peak association of all Victorian Catchment Management Authorities.


As part of the Council’s reporting commitments under its terms of reference, the Council, with the support of Agriculture Victoria, should develop an annual report for each year of operation. All previous reports from the Council’s first term can be found here:

More information

For more information about the Council, please submit your enquiry below:

Page last updated: 12 Jul 2024