President Keith Darke
Secretary Caroline Brown Vice President Deanne Eccles
Treasurer Roger Williamson
Click on Committee Members’ name to read more.
President Keith Darke
Tel: 03 5962 1669 or 0418 378 751
After a teaching career of forty years Keith and his wife Christine were exploring what to do next. Previous recent work in Healesville schools and a period living in Healesville many years ago, brought them back. The initial plan was to downsize but instead they bought a one hundred year old house in two acres of garden, spent a year restoring it and opened Graceburn Gardens where they offer bed and breakfast accommodation.
As a local person, growing up in Seville and teaching in the region, Keith has witnessed first hand the re-emergence of the Yarra Valley wine industry and associated tourism. Joining the industry has been challenging, exciting and rewarding. As beginners Keith and Christine availed themselves of the industry programs run by TNYV. The information provided at these events was very helpful in the early days of the business and TNYV remains a starting point in answering business questions that inevitably arise. When invited to join the committee Keith took the opportunity to put his many years of committee experience to use to help TNYV develop its networking and information goals.
Vice President Deanne Eccles
Tel: 0417 829 670
Deanne has been the owner/manager of Strathvea Guesthouse for the last ten years. It is one of the last remaining guesthouses in the valley. She and her husband Toby live on the twenty-acre property with their two boys aged ten and eight.
As well as being a tourist operator, Deanne is a teacher, an artist (painter) and spent many years performing in theatre. She and Toby lived in Europe for two years before coming to the valley in 2008. They see the guesthouse as not only a wonderful place to spend your weekend or get married, but as a place which can inspire people on a creative level.
Since joining the TNYV committee, Deanne has found the network to be an enormous benefit to her personal growth, particularly when it comes to keeping her finger on the pulse of the ever changing culture of tourism. It is an area which moves very quickly particularly in understanding the needs of people. If we are to provide a quality product that not only meets our visitors’ needs but can also guide them towards a wholesome lifestyle, then we as tourism operators will help maintain the enthusiasm that is present within the Yarra Valley.
Secretary Caroline Brown
Caroline grew up in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne and after finishing her schooling she moved to Bairnsdale to study an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Resource Management. Nature and open spaces were always a drawcard, but a relationship brought her back to the city where she then spent the next 15 years bringing up 4 children and working in various administration roles. The pull to the country was finally realised in 2010 when the family moved to Healesville after Caroline accepted a position working in hospitality administration. With nature on the doorstep, so many attractions to keep both adults and kids entertained, yet still so close to suburbia & family, meant Healesville was the perfect place to settle.
In early 2017, Caroline and her husband Anthony took the plunge and purchased their first accommodation property “Healesville House” in the heart of the Yarra Valley. They increased their portfolio late last year, adding a second property and expanding the business by offering private tours and transfers around the Yarra Valley to their guests. Joining the TNYV has not only increased their network and started new friendships but has opened up a world of opportunities and greater knowledge of the region and the tourism industry. Caroline is looking forward to working with the TNYV team, putting to use her organisational and administration skills as Secretary.
Treasurer Roger Williamson
Mobile: 0402 259 236
Roger first lived in the Yarra Valley for twenty five years before moving to the gateway of the Yarra Valley at Lilydale where he has been for the past ten years. He has worked in voluntary roles for thirty years working with youth and community wellbeing.
Roger has served on numerous executive committees including Board of Management for Anchor which administers the region’s foster care programs and those at risk of homelessness.
He has been with the Dandenong Ranges Tourism group for the past seven years and joined Tourism Network Yarra Valley in 2017 taking on the role of treasurer. Roger owns the local accommodation supply business Yarra Valley Trading in Coldstream.
Mobile:0434 308 540
George Van Graas
Mobile: 0409 325 687
George’s involvement with the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges dates back over 50 years, as a long term resident, primary producer and horticulturist. His family emigrated from Holland and settled in Monbulk in the early 1950s. They cleared bushland, built a home with the on-site timber and successfully established a thriving bulb and cut flower farm with products to the Australian nursery and florist industry.
As the business (and family) expanded over the years, a second farm was established on the northern side of the Yarra Valley in Toolangi to produce not only flower bulbs, but also the boutique vegetable known as Witlof or Belgian Endive. This was grown, packaged and supplied to the vegetable industry nationwide and also for export.
Changeable consumer and home gardening requirements saw the family collectively exit farming and follow individual pursuits. Being agriculturally inclined with a passion to be active in this beautiful region with its many tastes and experiences, providence guided George into the Yarra Valley tourism industry.
He now operates Driven Indulgence as a private, small group, bespoke tour driver and guide.
He feels suitably placed with his wealth of area knowledge and rural industry skills to assist the TNYV committee with its regional networking aims.
Prue Van de Linde
Mobile: 0407 266 916
After two years of searching all over Victoria for a property, they discovered the Yarra Valley. A run down horse stud, “the worst house in the best street” property beckoned to them and so the project began. With only five trees on 53 acres, they was plenty of scope to develop and build something interesting and unique. In 2008 they won the Gardening Australia, National Garden of the Year, which was a great thrill. In 2013. Alowyn also won the Tourism Ministers’ Encouragement Award for an up and coming tourism venture.
New to the tourism industry, and to the Yarra Valley, Prue and John joined the TNYV to meet other tourism operators from all parts of the industry, learn from their experience and start the steep learning curve. Many members provided great advice and ideas on how to develop Alowyn Gardens as a destination for tourists and to move forward in its development.
The gardens opened to the public at weekends and public holidays for a few years initially, then, wanting to make a lifestyle out of it, the gardens were then opened every day from 10.00am to 5.00pm. As a TNYV committee member, Prue is keen to assist others in the continuing development of this wonderful tourism area.
Tel: 0438 368 870
Sarah Rees has lived in Murrindindi and the Yarra Ranges for the last 20 years and her family have owned farms in the district since 1975. She has a background in media, marketing, design and e-learning with a focus on environment, business and community. Sarah is a prominent strategist, negotiator, educator, fundraiser and advocate for the environment and has received several awards for these roles.
Sarah has owned several businesses in the region and currently runs her own communications consultancy with a range of clients from all over Australia. Sarah mentors students, is the mother of two, avid nature adventurer and photographer.
Mobile: 0419 582 410
Mary is married with two daughters and four grandchildren. She migrated to Australia from the UK in 1967.
She runs a B&B in Mount Evelyn for the last seven years and worked in the local Tourist Visitor Information Centre in Upper Ferntree Gully as a volunteer for two years.
Mary was TNYV secretary for three years and also the President of Dandenong Ranges Tourism Network and a Director on the Board of Yarra Ranges Tourism.
She is very passionate about Tourism in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges, believing it capable of becoming one of the top tourist regions in Australia and will work hard to ensure or region achieves its rightful place.
Joan and her husband run a bespoke tour business called Tour the Valley and their motto is “Yarra Valley tours designed by you, for you”. They offer an itinerary from wineries, cider and beer halls, gardens, art galleries and adventure tours plus of course gin, chocolate and cheese.
Joan and John have lived in the Yarra Valley for over forty years and in Healesville for the last eighteen years. Joan joined the TNYV committee in 2017 as she wanted to be part of a tourism network team and meet other people in the industry.