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Horizons - International Engagement Leadership Program

The Horizons – International Engagement Leadership Program is delivered by The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in partnership with The Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

Horizons is designed to equip economic development officers with a better understanding of how to help local Australian business harness trade and investment opportunities as part of their post-COVID 19 recovery strategy for their regions.

This free program is held twice a year and consists of interactive online sessions and masterclasses facilitated by a range of industry and government trade experts. Participants also have access to mentoring and networking opportunities that are tailored to each participant’s goals.

Program participants automatically become members of the exclusive Horizons alumni, connecting them to a vast network of national and international organisations.

Are you ready to expand your horizons?

Tag us on social media: @DFAT_TradeTalk, @RegionalAus and @DFAT_LinkedIn

Selection criteria

Successful applicants will:

  • Be employed by regional and rural shire councils, chambers of commerce or economic development organisations that are not linked to federal and state agencies.
  • Have a sound knowledge of economic development, with a demonstrated ability to effectively apply this knowledge.
  • Have a demonstrated experience in being proactive in their region and its development.
  • Have experience in business / project management roles that require the ability to set goals and objectives to achieve short-term and long-term results.
  • Have a desire to improve their leadership skills in international trade, investment and tourism for the well-being of their regional community.

Welcome to the second cohort of 2022!

Our 23 new participants are in roles that target the economic development of regional, rural and remote Australia.

Welcome to:

First Name Last Name State/Territory Organisation Job Title
Ainsley Hardie WA Shire of Upper Gascoyne Tourism and Community Development Officer
Elaine Joliffe WA Goldfields Aboriginal Business Chamber Inc Executive Manager
Elise Pendlebury  WA Shire of Broome Regional Economic Development Coordinator
Jenna Dodge WA Pilbara Development Commission Principal Regional Development Officer
Jeremy Carn SA RDA Far North Economic Development Manager
Julie Schmidt QLD Southern Downs Regional Council Economic Development Officer
Kalair McArthur QLD Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council Economic Development Officer
Leanne Douglas NSW Tamworth Regional Council Visitor Economy Development Officer
Les Pearson SA Wakefield Regional Council Grants and Economic Development Coordinator
Mark Fletcher VIC Wimmera Development Association Regional Development & Agricultural Project Manager
Mel Garibaldi SA District Council of Kimba Economic Development Manager
Nicole Hansson QLD Moreton Bay Regional Council Marketing, Communications and Engagement Manager
Qing Ye WA City of Bunbury Economic Development Officer
Sha-lane Gibson QLD Cook Shire Council Economic Development, Investment & Trade Officer
Stephen Kleinitz VIC East Gippsland Shire Council Senior Economic Development Officer
Susan Fayad VIC City of Ballarat Economic Growth Team, Coordinator Heritage and Cultural Landscapes
Suzanne Gearing ACT Canberra Region Joint Organisation Program Manager and Business and Economic Engagement Specialist
Tanya Denison TAS Cradle Coast Authority Regional Economic Development Coordinator
Thomas Michel NSW City of Newcastle Economic Development Facilitator
Thomas Adolph WA Chamber of Commerce & Industry WA (CCIWA) Principal Adviser, Govt Relations and media function
Tina Irish NSW Lismore City Council Manager Economic Development
Tony Boland NSW Orange City Council Business & Industry Development Officer
Tramy Ngo SA Yorke Peninsular Council Economic and tourism development advisor



Series 1 – 2022 Graduates

Our 19 series 1 graduates are in roles that target the economic development of regional, rural and remote Australia – from Karratha to the Fraser Coast, and from Darwin to Queenstown.

Congratulations to:




Ashley Sambrooks
Coordinator within the Industry and Destination Development Section  Coffs Harbour City Council  NSW 
  Rebecca Johnson Department Leader of the Community and Economy Team  Cabonne Council  NSW
  Samita Rai Economic Development Coordinator  Moree Plains Shire Council  NSW
  Zoe Johnson City Economy Officer Maitland City Council  NSW
Alice Percy Executive Manager City Growth and Development Services City of Darwin  NT
Edwina Marks Interim CEO for the Maranoa Regional Council  Maranoa Regional Council  QLD
Jarrod Delahunty Principal Economic Development Officer  Fraser Coast Regional Council  QLD
Jinendra Khara Senior Adviser – Strategic Partnerships  Redland City Council  QLD
  Lidewij Koene Economic Development Senior Officer  Western Downs Regional Council  QLD 
  Mark Forbes Leading Gulf Savannah Development  Gulf Savannah Development  QLD
  Melanie Lavelle-Maloney Tourism, Trade & Investment Advisor - Office of the CEO Charters Towers Regional Council  QLD
  Dylan Swincer Tourism and Economic Development Officer  City of Port Lincoln  SA
Simon Millcock CEO of the Legatus Group  Central Local Government Region SA  SA
Skye Thompson Economic Development Officer West Coast Council  TAS
  Matthew Scott Tourism and Economic Development Team Leader Moyne Shire Council  VIC 
Tim Mcdougall Coordinator of Economic Development Ararat Rural City Council  VIC
  Danelle Dowding Economic Development Project Coordinator City of Busselton  WA
  Leon Delpech Business Development Manager  Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development  WA
Nick Edwards Project Lead for a Proposed Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Hub  South West Development Commission  WA

Horizon Series 2 Program

(August – November 2022 Round Timeline)

*Note that these are subject to change 

Webinar Series 

 Date  Activity   Agenda
 4 August  Session 1  Introduction to the Program
 12 August  Team Catch-up  Your Program - Deliverables and Expectations 
 19 August  Session 2  International Tourism Attraction with Tourism Australia and Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC)
 26 August  Masterclass  Place Branding - Brand Tasmania 
 2 September  Session 3  The Export Journey with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
 9 September  Team Catch-up  Your Pitch - Review 
 16 September  Masterclass  Financing Exports and Overseas Infrastructure with Export Finance Australia (EFA)
 23 September  Masterclass  A prosperous, vibrant and sustainable Indigenous business sector with Supply Nation (SN)
 7 October  Team Catch-up  Your Strategy - Update 
 14 October  Session 4  Stories and Strategies from Regional Voices
 21 October  Team Catch-up  Your Progress - Update
 29 November  Session 5  Project presentations and winner Announcement.


Applications are now open for the August 2022 Horizons Leadership Program. We invite you to submit your expression of interest (EOI) for this round.

If you would like to be put on our Horizons mailing list to be notified of the next program, please send your request to [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should apply for the Horizons program?

Individuals in economic development roles within regional and rural shire council, chambers of commerce and economic development organisations are encouraged to apply.

We are looking for a diversity of leaders who are interested in connecting with others and gaining the necessary tools to achieve their goals in their region.

How do I apply for the Horizons program?

Apply now!

Tell us about your experience in economic development, your current role, and your vision for your region.

Your application should include a short introduction answering the following four questions and responding to the selection criteria, as well as your CV and/or LinkedIn profile support material.

  • Who are you, and why do you do what you do?
  • How have you explored and developed ways to promote your region so far?
  • How do you see your role as an advocate for your region?
  • Why this program, and why now?

How is the program structured?

By participating in the program, you are committing to:

  • A mix of online sessions and masterclasses (12.5 hours in total)
  • Online team catch-ups (4 x 1 hour)
  • Mentor meetings (2 x meetings) 
  • The project (minimum investment of 10-15 hours)

What does the development of an International Engagement Strategy entail?

The international engagement strategy is an end-of-program evaluation tool that you develop to actively apply the lessons of the program to your region. As an exercise, the strategy can but does not require your organisation’s backing. It does, however, require out-of-the-box thinking and the application of the program’s learnings to your specific region.

Through the program, you will receive guidance to develop a pitch, then you will meet with a mentor to flesh out your ideas and test whether or not they are applicable to your region. You will meet with your mentor a second time once you have drafted your strategy, to review content before submission to a judging panel.

You will also be expected to submit your pitch in video form – editing skills are not required – to present your ideas to the cohort. Support will be provided along the way!

What does it take to join the Horizons alumni?

A badge of successful completion is distributed to all those who follow the online sessions, meet with their mentors, actively engage with the facilitators and other participants, and develop an international development strategy that is evaluated by the judging panel at the end of the program.

What are the benefits of being a part of the Horizons alumni?

Being a part of the Horizons alumni is being connected to a vast network of national and international organisations. It provides you with the opportunity to meet other leaders in economic development roles across the nation, and to exchange knowledge and tools. Your strategy will be presented to a vast range of actors in the field who will support you during and after the completion of the program in the expansion of your horizons.

What regions are represented in the first cohort for 2022?

New South Wales

  • Coffs Harbour City Council
  • Cabonne Council
  • Moree Plains Shire Council
  • Maitland City Council

Northern Territory

  • City of Darwin


  • Department of State Development Infrastructure Local Government and Planning
  • Maranoa Regional Council
  • Fraser Coast Regional Council
  • Redland City Council
  • Western Downs Regional Council
  • Gulf Savannah Development
  • Charters Towers Regional Council

South Australian

  • City of Port Lincoln
  • Central Local Government Region SA


  • West Coast Council


  • Moyne Shire Council
  • Baw Baw Shire Council
  • Regional Development Australia (Gippsland & others)
  • Ararat Rural City Council

Western Australia

  • City of Busselton 
  • Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development
  • South West Development Commission
  • City of Karratha and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation


Facilitators and Mentors

Thank you to our past and present facilitators and mentors who continue to guide and support the Horizons Alumni:


News and Stories

Learn more about the program through our news & alumni stories. If you are part of the alumni and have a story you’d like to share, contact us at [email protected]