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Thursday, April 10, 2014

  • New online network for youth launched with support of Victorian Coalition Government
  • Benalla local, Sam Heywood contributes to the project
  • The Exchange will help young people connect and share ideas

 Young Victorians now have a new way to connect and share ideas with the launch of a new website that has been designed for and with young people, Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today.
Dr Sykes said the innovative virtual meeting place for young Victorians, created through Victorian Coalition Government investment, has been designed to provide young Victorians with a place where they can have their say and communicate directly with State Government.
“The Exchange has been designed to give young people access to a range of information and resources and support them to be actively involved in their local communities and with other young people from across the state, including north east Victoria,” Dr Sykes said.
“The site is a virtual meeting place where Youth Advisory Groups from across Victoria can connect, share ideas and showcase events and plans for their local areas.”
Young Benalla local, Sam Heywood played an integral role in the creation of the website submitting his own reflections on working with a youth group and the difficulties it presented.
Sam attended the launch of the website in Bendigo where he got to meet and engage with other like-minded youth as well as influential public figures.
He said, “The experience was fantastic and allowed me to experience the passion that the Coalition Government has for working with youth.
“I made a lot of new contacts and friends and it has really helped to improve my skills in working in the community.
“I feel that this project has a lot of potential and I am excited to see future results,” he said.
The Exchange is a key part of Shape It!, the Coalition Government’s $3.2 million investment over five years to support young people to become involved in local decision making.
To find out more visit The Exchange at



Thursday, April 10, 2014
Sykes encourages local primary schools to participate in Gallipoli Oaks Project
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes today encouraged schools in the Benalla Electorate to commemorate Australia’s involvement in World War I by participating in the Gallipoli Oaks Project and planting a Gallipoli Oak tree.
Dr Sykes said the project is an initiative led by the National Trust and supported by $10,000 from the Victorian Coalition Government which is set up to provide primary schools in Victoria with a Gallipoli Oak seedling to plant.
“The Gallipoli Oaks project provides an opportunity for schools to educate the next generation of Victorians about the extreme sacrifices made by Australia’s service men and women during World War I.
“The project also celebrates the ongoing friendship between Australia and Turkey and recognises the significance of the Gallipoli campaign in the history of both nations,” Dr Sykes said.
“It is encouraging to see a number of primary schools in the Benalla Electorate have already registered to participate and I urge our primary schools to make the most of this program opportunity and provide our young people with the chance to deepen their understanding of the Anzac campaign, and, in particular, the participation of Victorians.”
In addition to their Gallipoli Oak seedling, participating schools receive a teacher resource kit and digital e-book developed by the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria and a plaque to mark the occasion.
The Gallipoli Oak is a small, prickly tree that grew along the ridges and valleys of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Acorns were collected by soldiers, including General Sir John Monash, during the Gallipoli campaign and planted in Australia. Seedlings from a tree planted by a soldier in 1916 at a property in Hamilton are now planted at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. Seeds from the same tree will be provided to schools between 2015 and 2018 for ceremonial planting on significant dates such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. The Gallipoli Campaign, which took place between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916 on the Gallipoli Peninsula in south-western Turkey, is considered a defining moment in Australian and Turkish history. The campaign was the first major battle involving Australian and New Zealand troops, costing the lives of more than 8,000 Australians. For more information about the project or to register your school, visit:  


Friday, April 04, 2014
• Mobile business van to visit Mansfield and Bonnie Doon
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes announced today that the Mobile Business Centre will visit Mansfield and Bonnie Doon in April 2014.
The announcement comes after Dr Sykes requested the Minister for Small Business, Russell Northe to outline what support is available to small businesses in north east Victoria, especially for small rural communities such as Mansfield and Bonnie Doon.
Dr Sykes said, “The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to building stronger regions and it is important to ensure the delivery of services all over Victoria.
“These communities in the Mansfield Shire, including the rural townships of Jamieson, Tolmie and Merrijig, have an economy that is based both on longstanding agricultural interests in livestock and grass seed production and tourism, which is a growing industry.
“There is also a manufacturing industry in Mansfield, such as Crawford Kitchens, which has great ideas and staff but needs support from government to take the next step.”
Dr Sykes said the region had a smorgasbord of recreation opportunities such as cycling, water-based sports, houseboats (which have been supported by government), kayaking, fishing, horseriding, four wheel driving and bushwalking and it was important to grow the tourism sector.
“We need to provide opportunities through the small business program and the mobile business centre to provide mentoring for businesses in places such as Mansfield and Bonnie Doon.”
Mr Northe said that the Coalition Government has a number of initiatives in place to support the small business sector.
He said, “I am very pleased to say that the mobile business centre will be visiting Bonnie Doon, Mansfield and a number of other localities in the Hume region throughout April and May.
“One of the matters we have sought to improve is the Mobile Business Centre that has served our communities very well over a period of years. This government has committed $1.5 million over four years to ensure that it delivers this important service all over Victoria.”
The Mobile Business Centre offers businesses a 45 minute free mentoring session which includes advising on understanding the viability of businesses, setting clear goals and objectives, ensuring growth and expansion and developing business plans.
In the 2013-14 financial year to date over 670 mentoring sessions have been provided with approximately 3,200 ‘walk-ups’. The mobile centre has been to more than 100 locations across Victoria. The centre also plays an important role in response to emergencies.
Mr Northe concluded, “It is important to service not only the metropolitan area of Melbourne but also regional centres with the mobile centre; it is about more services in more locations more often.”
For more information on assistance for small businesses go to:
The $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, which has invested more than $393 million to support almost 1,400 projects across regional and rural Victoria, also aims to create new jobs, boost confidence and provide new opportunities for regional and rural communities.
The Mobile Business Centre will be at Bonnie Doon on Monday 28 April and Mansfield on Tuesday 29 April and is open between 10am and 4pm.


Friday, April 04, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes encourages locals to take part in a new tourism campaign aimed at attracting more Victorians, especially from Melbourne, to pay us a visit.
The ‘Our Patch’ campaign is a Victorian Coalition Government initiative through Tourism Victoria joining with Fairfax Media to deliver an integrated print and online campaign to increase the understanding of the depth and diversity of experiences across north east Victoria.
Dr Sykes said, “This campaign will run through to June 2014. The first phase involves The Age readers sharing their favourite regional Victorian experiences and destinations. These experiences will be brought to life in a series of articles in both print and online.”
‘Our Patch’ follows the 2013 ‘Spotted by Locals’ intrastate campaign, which was successful in raising awareness of regional destinations and increasing Melburnians’ intention to visit. During the campaign period more than 72,000 visitors engaged with the dedicated online hub.
Dr Sykes said, “This new campaign builds on the momentum created by ‘Spotted by Locals’, now giving all Victorians the chance to share their favourite experiences across the state, whether it’s a unique hideaway, a cosy café, amazing restaurant, hidden beach or great local bakery.
“On my travels throughout my electorate I am constantly amazed by our beautiful landscape, our rivers and lakes, mountains and plains and the quality accommodation available whether that is a humble cabin hidden away in a valley or a five star resort.
“We are also extremely blessed with a superb range of cafes, wineries and hotels, restaurants, parks and gardens and rail trails.
“So I hope everyone gets their camera, ipad or iphone out, gets creative and captures their favourite experience to enter into this campaign.”
When you share your favourite piece of Victoria you can also go in the running to win one of three luxury weekend escapes; Murray River Houseboat Experience, Gourmet Escape to the High Country and Grampians National Park Adventure.
In the second phase of the campaign, ten full page stories will be featured in The Age and across Fairfax Media’s Victorian regional titles, bringing these experiences to life. The content will be available online, supported by video content and imagery.
For more information go to  


Friday, April 04, 2014
• Local exhibitors showcase the best of north east Victoria at Regional Victoria Living Expo
• Expo encourages Melburnians to make the “Good Move” to regional Victoria
• Victorian Coalition Government is committed to growing our regions
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes encourages Melburnians to visit the Regional Victoria Living Expo at Jeff’s Shed from 11 to 13 April.
Dr Sykes talked about the importance of the Regional Victoria Living Expo in Parliament this week and said, “This Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government initiative is embraced by local government and local businesses who are working collaboratively and successfully to attract people and businesses to make the move to regional Victoria.”
Of the 140 plus exhibitors, local exhibitors at this year’s expo are Alpine Shire Council, Benalla Gliding Club, Benalla Rural City Council, Elloura Lake Nagambie, Goulburn River & Ranges Collective Group, Mansfield Shire Council, Murrindindi Shire Council and Strathbogie Shire Council.
Dr Sykes said the 2014 Expo gave Melburnians the chance to experience life in country Victoria – from great jobs and investment opportunities to the benefits of quality education and welcoming communities.
“The Regional Living Expo showcases regional and rural communities to a Melbourne audience, encouraging them to make the ‘Good Move’ to regional and rural Victoria. Attendees will learn much about business and lifestyle opportunities in regional Victoria,” he said.
“It provides visitors with free, first-hand advice from local government, key industry and community groups on careers, health, housing and education in our regional areas.”
Regions throughout the Benalla Electorate will be on show to up to 10,000 Melburnians.
Dr Sykes said this year’s Expo will feature a comprehensive arts and culture program, fresh food, interactive sports and family experiences.
“A number of famous faces will be in attendance, as well as top athletes and live music performances.
“Entry to the 2014 Regional Victoria Living Expo is free, providing the opportunity for even more Melburnians to experience the best of regional and rural Victoria at one easy location.”
The Regional Victoria Living Expo had gone from strength to strength since it was established by the Coalition Government in 2012, attracting more visitors, exhibitors and sponsors each year.
“8,200 visitors enjoyed the inaugural Regional Victoria Living Expo. Attendance then increased by 15 per cent to almost 9,500 in 2013. This year we expect to attract up to 10,000 people,” he said.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the Regional Victoria Living Expo was an important part of the Coalition Government’s plan to grow our regional and rural communities.
“The Coalition Government is promoting the fantastic employment and investment opportunities available in regional Victoria through initiatives like the Regional Victoria Living Expo and the Good Move advertising campaign,” Mr Ryan said.
“We are also backing this up with real investments in our regions through initiatives such as the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, which has invested more than $394 million to support almost 1400 projects across regional and rural Victoria, leveraging $1.57 billion in total investment.
“This record investment is creating new jobs, boosting confidence and providing new opportunities for regional and rural communities.
“The Coalition Government understands that when regional and rural Victoria does well, the whole state prospers.”
For more information on the Regional Victoria Living Expo, visit
For a full list of exhibitors, visit


Thursday, April 03, 2014
• ‘You’ve Got What It Takes’ Weary Dunlop Award recipients from Benalla, Mansfield, Nagambie, Myrtleford and Falls Creek join Bill Sykes at Parliament
• Students and their family and friends have tour of Parliament and lunch
Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes yesterday hosted students from local primary and secondary schools in the Benalla Electorate at Parliament House as part of their ‘You’ve Got What It Takes’ Weary Dunlop Award.
Student award winners and their families and friends experienced the wonders of Parliament House including a tour and a light lunch.
Being a Parliamentary Sitting week students had an opportunity to witness first hand Parliamentary debate from the public gallery in the Legislative Assembly.
Students who joined Bill Sykes were; Isaac Armitage (Falls Creek PS), Lucy Anderson (Myrtleford P-12), Caleb Annuscheit (Mansfield PS), Lauren Barton (Benalla P-12), Georgia Clarke (Marian College), Sara Green (Benalla P-12), Tamara Marshall (Nagambie PS), Amelia McAuliffe (Benalla P-12), Rachael Smyth (St Joseph’s Benalla) and Stevan Sovacki (Winton PS). Absent was Shaun Jones (FCJ College Benalla).
Dr Sykes said, “This was a fantastic chance for these young people to get an idea of what goes on in Parliament during a Sitting Week and to view the impressive architecture of this historic building.
“Of course they all enjoyed the experience of eating in one of the building’s magnificent dining rooms.”
The ‘You’ve Got What It Takes’ Weary Dunlop award honours and recognises young people who, like Weary Dunlop, have shown persistence and resilience, along with compassion, humility, friendship, forgiveness, courage, leadership and integrity.
“I congratulate these amazing young people on receiving this award as they are all deserving recipients and I look forward to following their progress as they work towards achieving their goals.
“I wish them all the very best with their future endeavours.”
Other award recipients will travel to Melbourne on Saturday 24 May to attend an AFL match with Dr Sykes at the MCG to watch Collingwood vs West Coast Eagles. The award is generously co-sponsored by the AFL.


Thursday, April 03, 2014
Expressions of interest are now open for community representatives to participate in the Mount Buffalo Chalet Community Forum, Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today.
Dr Sykes said, “This is a great opportunity for community members to provide input into the future of this treasured icon.”
The Mount Buffalo Community Forum is being established to provide opportunities to get involved with the Victorian Coalition Government’s $7.5 million commitment to the re-development of the Mount Buffalo Chalet as a day visitor facility.
Dr Sykes said, “Work has already commenced on the restoration of the Chalet with high priority maintenance work well underway, including restumping and asbestos removal.
“The Department of Environment and Primary Industries is working closely with Parks Victoria, the Alpine Shire Council and project partners to deliver the project which is hoped to be open by 2015.”
The Buffalo Chalet Community Forum will comprise six community members and representatives from local organisations such as the Alpine Shire and Tourism North East.
To be considered for a seat on the Forum members are required to have experience in fields such as tourism, business, media, marketing and cultural heritage, and the ability to be able to communicate with the community on the project.
Expressions of interest need to be received by 15 April 2014. Further information is available by contacting Ty Caling from Parks Victoria on 13 1963 or from 


Thursday, April 03, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today grants of up to $30,000 are now available to help local communities redevelop and modify existing Men’s Sheds in the Benalla Electorate.
Dr Sykes encourages local community groups with existing Men’s Sheds in north east Victoria to apply for the latest round of grants from the Victorian Coalition Government’s Strengthening Men’s Sheds initiative.
Dr Sykes said, “We are extremely lucky in north east Victoria to have many active Men’s Sheds including in Mansfield, Euroa, Nagambie, King Valley, Myrtleford, Mt Beauty and Benalla.
“I recently opened the newly refurbished Myrtleford Men’s Shed and I was impressed with the commitment of members to ensuring that the shed is inclusive and open to new participants as well as providing support for local and overseas projects.
“Men’s Sheds across north east Victoria provide men with opportunities to develop and use new skills, establish social networks and give back to their community. These grants are welcome as they help to improve sheds throughout the region.”
The grants can be used for;
• refurbishment for expanding activities due to a growing need or community demand,
• modifications to increase disability access, or
• modifications to meet OHS standards.
Funding is available to incorporated not-for-profit organisations and local councils.
“Applications that demonstrate strong support from the community, through local council, neighbourhood house or local learning centre endorsement will certainly be considered favourably,” he said.
Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge said the new funding round of $500,000 is part of the Victorian Coalition Government’s $4 million Strengthening Men’s Sheds initiative to either build new sheds or refurbish existing buildings.
“The Coalition Government is a great supporter of the Men’s Shed movement, which plays a significant role in the lives of many Victorian men.
“To date the Coalition Government has provided funding to refurbish 36 sheds and to build 41 new sheds across Victoria,” Ms Wooldridge said.
Applications for grants close on Friday 27 June 2014. More information, including details of information sessions, is available at:  


Tuesday, April 01, 2014
• Survey conducted on trout populations in north east Victoria
• Survey results to be presented at a public meeting
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes said today that recreational anglers have the opportunity to hear the results of a recent trout population survey undertaken in several north east Victorian rivers.
The results will be delivered by expert freshwater fisheries managers next week at a public meeting in Mansfield which would include an examination of the surveys undertaken.
Dr Sykes said, “This provides an opportunity for interested parties to hear firsthand the results of the survey which was conducted promptly by Fisheries Victoria in response to fishers concerns that had been raised with me over the past few months.
“The trout fishing community has expressed concern about poor trout catches in local rivers and streams so scientific surveys were undertaken in four rivers at 13 sites to determine the abundance and health of wild trout stocks,” Dr Sykes.
“Four sites were surveyed on the King River and three each on the Howqua, Jamieson and Upper Goulburn rivers.
“Victoria's wild trout fisheries are highly valued by freshwater anglers and make an important contribution to regional economies so we want to understand more about what is happening and why angler catches have decreased.”
Dr Sykes said it was not unusual to observe some natural variation in riverine trout populations, and how they fished, from year to year however angler reports suggested trout abundance was very low in many north east rivers currently.
“Prior to next week’s public meeting, fisheries managers will convene a workshop to digest the results and consider management options.
“The outcomes of that workshop and the trout survey results will be presented at the public meeting, which will be held on Thursday 10 April at the Alzburg Resort, Mansfield between 3pm and 4pm.
“Anglers and members of the community who are interested in attending the public meeting should contact John Douglas on 03 5772 0254.”


Friday, March 28, 2014
Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes has today opened a new $1.5 million State Emergency Service (SES) regional headquarters in Benalla.
Dr Sykes said the facility included an incident control centre that could also be used by other agencies during large emergency events, which would improve the ability to respond and manage a major incident in the region.
“The new SES regional headquarters in Benalla is particularly important for this region which has been subject to floods, storms and fires,” Dr Sykes said.
“It’s fantastic that the CFA and the Fire Services Commissioner’s office has had input into the design of the incident control centre.”
Dr Sykes said the Victorian Coalition Government was committed to the SES, one of our key emergency services.
“In regional areas, the SES is an exceptionally important part of any emergency response and partner to the other services,” Dr Sykes said.
“SES volunteers and staff are prepared to swing in to action at any time of the day or night, and do what needs to be done to keep the local community safe and informed during an emergency or natural disaster or to help others.
“The Coalition Government is committed to ensuring the SES is well resourced so its volunteers and staff have what they need to do their job.”
The Coalition Government committed $47.23 million to the SES in 2013-14 budget to support the more than 4,500 SES volunteers across the state.
More than $2 million has also been provided to the SES for equipment and resources under the Victorian Government’s Volunteer Emergency Services Equipment Program (VESEP).
“Whether it’s a severe storm, flood, earthquake, car accident, search and rescue or supporting another emergency agency, the SES can be relied on to provide assistance,” Dr Sykes said.
“That’s why it’s important that SES personnel have the equipment and facilities to help them carry out their vital work.
“It is a priority of this Coalition Government to ensure our emergency services can respond safely and effectively to emergencies.”
Last financial year Victoria’s SES volunteers worked 325,274 hours supporting the community.

Contact: Electorate Office: Shop 2, 55 Carrier Street BENALLA 3672. Phone: (03) 5762 2100 Fax: (03) 5762 4478.