JAMES ROBINSON, Independent Chair

James is the Managing Director of SMS Marketing Solutions. He has strong marketing and sales experience across businesses of all sizes. James has held CEO roles for consumer products businesses in Australia, Europe and Asia, and was a member of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council. On returning to Melbourne eight years ago he started his own marketing business in Melbourne focussed on digital and mobile marketing.


James is the Chair of the Yarra Ranges Tourism Digital Infrastructure Sub Committee.

Skills Based Appointments

LEIGH HARRY – Director, Leigh Harry Advisory Pty Ltd.

Leigh has a long history in the tourism industry and many of our Partners will recognise him from his previous roles as CEO of Tourism Victoria and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. During his career he has held a number of significant Board roles in the Tourism and Business Events industry at a state, national and international level.


Leigh’s career experience includes roles in both the private and government sectors, and he holds a Commerce Degree with honours in accounting.

KATHIE VAN VUGT – Manager, Committee Services and Victorian Board Services at AHPRA.

Kathie brings with her 15 years of professional experience, including substantial involvement in the Yarra Valley tourism industry, and relevant tertiary qualifications as a Bachelor of Business in Travel and Tourism Management. Her career in tourism has encompassed owning and managing tourism businesses in the Yarra Valley and liaising with operators in the region during her tenure at Entertainment Publications. In her current roles as Manager, Committee Services and Victorian Board Services at AHPRA, she is responsible for overseeing the governance and secretariat services provided to 39 boards and committees.


Kathie is the Chair of the Yarra Ranges Tourism Marketing Sub Committee.

RALPH HENDERSON– Owner/Manager, Yarra Gables Motel, Healesville

Ralph has a broad range of skills, knowledge and experience in tourism, corporate governance and finance. His tourism experience comes from 20 years working for a variety of State and Federal tourism agencies and more recently owning and managing Yarra Gables Motel in Healesville. Ralph has several years’ experience in senior corporate roles in state government with responsibility for customer service, governance, finance, human resources, asset management and information technology. Ralph has been a company director for 12 years and worked as a wine consultant prior to moving to the Yarra Valley.


Ralph is the Chair of the Yarra Ranges Tourism Governance and Finance Sub Committee.

Council Appointment

JAMES COLLINS, Yarra Ranges Council

James is currently the Director Social & Economic Development at Yarra Ranges Council and has over 15 years senior leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. His current portfolio is diverse covering planning, aged and disability, arts & heritage, economic development, tourism, family & youth, community development, local laws, emergency management, environmental health and libraries.

He holds a Masters of Business and sits on a number of industry and NFP boards. James has a demonstrated capacity to create a positive and progressive workplace, and drive a culture of improvement and innovation.

KYLIE LETHBRIDGE, Nillumbik Shire Council


Industry Appointments

DANNY KANE, Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association (Wine Yarra Valley)

Danny is a member of the Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association Marketing sub committee. Raised in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, he has long had wine running in his veins.
With a diverse range of local and international career experience, where he has worked in leading hotel and resorts.

 He is a skilled Sommelier, Event Manager and in 2000, was voted in the top 10 Australian Sommeliers of the Year.

 As General Manager Sales/Marketing & Hospitality at Oakridge, he draws on the years of experience and networks he has within the hospitality industry. Danny boasts an energy that is filled with dedication and commitment to provide customers with an unforgettable wine and dine experience that he brings to the Yarra Ranges Tourism Board.

He currently sits on the Marketing Sub Committee

MICHAEL HIBBERT, Warburton Valley Community Economic Development Association (CEDA)

Michael represents Warburton Valley CEDA and is passionate about the Upper Yarra Valley where he has lived for 18 years. As General Manager of Shortlist Marketing (since 1995) he published tourism and hospitality magazines for participating hotels resorts and conference venues throughout S.E Asia and the Pacific. He now consults to a range of business and tourism products primarily in the Yarra Valley. Michael brings a wealth of business management and tourism marketing knowledge and experience to the board.

He currently sits on the Finance and Governance Sub Committee and Marketing Sub Committee.

MARY WIKING, Dandenong Ranges Tourism

Mary Wiking has run Yarra Ranges Country Apartment together with her husband for the past six and half years. She is the current Vice President of Dandenong Ranges Tourism. Mary has volunteered at the Upper Ferntree Gully Tourism Information Centre and is very passionate about our beautiful region. Her previous experience has been in Adult Education and is a trained Life Coach.

KEITH DARKE, Tourism Network Yarra Valley

Following a successful career in the Education sector, including several School Principal class roles, Keith and his wife Christine took on the the restorations of Graceburn Gardens. The property includes a 100 year old house and two acre garden, and is now offered to visitors as a traditional Bed and Breakfast. Born and raised in the region Keith has witnessed first hand the re-emergence and growth of the Yarra Valley wine and tourism industry. Keith is the President of Tourism Network Yarra Valley, and enjoys drawing on his years of committee experience to help support local business.

BRETT SPURLING, Yarra Valley Regional Food Group

As a Director/Partner of Yarra Valley Gateway Estate, Brett is involved in the Farming, Food production, Value adding and Tourism. He has been a committee member of the Yarra Valley Regional Food Group for seven years and is also on the Board of Agribusiness Yarra Valley. With an interest in many different facets of business within the Yarra Ranges, Brett brings a balanced and considered view as well as 13 years of experience operating in the region.


He currently sits on the Digital Infrastructure Sub Committee.

Our Directors are appointed in accordance with our Constitution. Annually our Industry Based representative members have the opportunity to nominate or retain their nominated Director. The current representative associations have been selected based upon the tourism operator networks they work with in the region. Only associations within the Yarra Ranges Council boundary are afforded this privilege in recognition of their significant financial support of Yarra Ranges Tourism in growing tourism in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges.

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