Photo of a wetlands in a housing estate in Melbourne's south

The Southern Metropolitan Partnership is an advisory group established by the Victorian Government. The Partnership is a way for local communities to engage directly with state and local governments, and advise the Victorian Government of the top priorities for jobs, services and infrastructure across the region. This advice will be become part of the government’s key decision-making processes.

The Southern partnership is taking a deeper dive into the region's priority issues to explore how we can better connect Melburnians to learning and skill building opportunities, mental health services, jobs and each other.

Meet our members

The Southern Partnership is in its second term, with the current membership appointed in August 2021. Each partnership is made of community and business representatives with varied backgrounds, experiences and networks, the CEO of each of local government in the region and a Deputy Secretary from the Victorian State Government.

Tracey Cooper is the CEO of Dokio. She is also the Chair and Non-Executive Director on boards, including Audit & Risk, Asset & Infrastructure, and Nomination/Remuneration Committees. Tracey has a Bachelor of Commerce, a Masters in Business Administration and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Andrew is CEO of South East Local Learning and Employment Network, where he works to improve outcomes for young people in the education, training and employment sectors through the development of strategic sustainable partnerships. He also sits on a broad range of committees, task forces, networks and boards.

Shabnam co-founded Noor Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, to help newly arrived refugees and migrants with their settlement in Australia and to foster a positive connection between young people and their community. She has represented Australia at the UN and other international summits and has also earned her black-belt in karate.

Jackie is CEO of Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC), an independent not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal services to Melbourne’s south-eastern communities. She has worked at the Centre since 1998 holding various roles including caseworker, program management and executive positions, prior to her role at PCLC she has worked in the welfare sector.

Vonda has more than 25 years working in senior management roles in manufacturing, substantial consulting and training/adult education experience as well as recent volunteering and work experience across diverse sectors. She is currently serving as Chief Executive Officer of South East Melbourne Manufacturers’ Alliance, a not-for-profit advocacy body for Manufacturers in the South-east of Melbourne.

Gabrielle is a shopping Centre Manager in Bayside. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a seasoned Not for Profit board director. Gabrielle works closely with all tiers of government and community groups to enrich community experiences. Gabrielle also holds a bachelor’s degree of Business from RMIT University and a Graduate diploma of Arts from the University of Melbourne.

Simon is a devoted community member both on a commercial and personal basis. He is currently the Managing Director & CEO of Corex Plastics Australia and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Monash University. Mr Whiteley has been an active community member for more than 26 years, on both a commercial and personal basis. His recent charity project, “This is IT!”, aims to equalise education through repurposing corporate laptops for secondary school students.

Kathy has 20 years of experience working in senior management roles across four higher education institutions. Kathy has been involved in extensive community engagement as part of her university leadership positions, all of which facilitated critical connections for the provision of education and impactful research in the community that spans health, business, and sustainability. Kathy holds a Bachelor of Arts and post graduate qualifications in Business and Education. She is currently a senior executive at Federation University.

Deborah Mellett is a Gurindji woman with ties to the Jawoyn people in the Northern Territory. She has more than 25 years’ experience of providing specialist advice on the education, training and employment of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and Victoria. Deb has been a partner in a business, supported the establishment of Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and is currently responsible for improving the outcomes of Aboriginal families by focusing on the early years.
Deb has recently stepped down from the role as Chairperson for Nairm Marr Djambana in Frankston after a three-year term. Deb is Ambassador for BreastScreen Australia and is active on numerous committees and networks, including the Local Aboriginal Network.
George Halkias is best known for his work at the Big Issue where he was instrumental in driving the "street soccer" and "the Homeless World Cup" initiatives that improve the health and well-being of homeless and disadvantaged people through sport.
George continues to develop innovative sports programs that have significant social impact and tackle serious community issues working with City in the Community, Melbourne City Football Club. He is also a professional speaker who marries his love of sport and community to inspire, educate and motivate leaders from all backgrounds.

The Chief Executive Officers of Casey, Cardinia, Kingston, Frankston, Greater Dandenong and Mornington Peninsula local governments are ex officio members of the Western Metropolitan Partnership.

Argiri Alisandratos, Deputy Secretary, Children, Families, Communities and Disability at the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

Argiri has held a number of senior leadership roles within the department including: Deputy Secretary South Division, Chief Operations Transformation Officer; Director, Southern Melbourne Area; Director, Inner Gippsland Area; Assistant Director, Placement and Family Services in the Children, Youth and Families Division; and Manager Community Services, Loddon Mallee Region. Argiri holds an Executive Masters in Public Administration from ANZSOG - Monash University.

What we've heard

We undertake a range of engagements to understand the issues and opportunities faced by the communities of Melbourne’s southern region.

A series of three online engagements will be held across November and December to address issues facing all Melburnians. These will explore the recovery and future of inner Melbourne and how the suburbs interact with it; emerging economies and the jobs of the future and social cohesion in Melbourne's suburbs.

In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the partnership moved engagements online to ensure community voices from Melbourne’s south continued to be safely heard by government.

In October a roundtable was held to bring together community and industry leaders, government and MPs to discuss a recovery vision for the region from the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Participants explored what the regions priorities in economic recovery were, the role of the Partnership in recovery and what support is required, and challenges need to be addressed, in order to pursue a path to recovery.

The partnership also continued its engagement work to further explore the issues of:

  • transport connectivity
  • jobs and skills
  • housing

The Partnership explored these issues in a Community Forum in September and was complemented by interviews, surveys and online mapping exercises.

Youth Engagement – Festival of Learning

The Partnerships held a two-day online engagement with diverse young people from across metropolitan Melbourne. The engagement sought to understand the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic upon young people and to seek their ideas on what the road to recovery might look like.

We formed a co-design committee of young Melbournians to ensure the event was structured in a format that appealed to young people.

We heard that the pandemic had worsened the existing issues that young people already faced – especially employment and mental health.

Participants shared recommendations to address these issues, some of which included:

  • A Youth Mental Health Strategy
  • A Statewide Youth Jobs Strategy
  • An increased focus on International Students
  • Connected services for young people

You can read a summary of the engagement by downloading the summary report.

The information surfaced in these engagements informed the partnership’s advice to government in 2020.

Community Forum

The Southern Metropolitan Partnership chose to dive deeper into community connectivity. The Partnership held three well-attended community forums, focusing on jobs and skills, transport and social isolation. The targeted forums were held in Mornington, Cardinia and Dandenong and attended by 159 community representatives. The smaller groups, rather than a whole-region assembly, allowed for more focused and targeted place-based discussions.

The forums provided an update from the Partnership on the priority issues and the MPDF projects endorsed by the Partnership. The Minister for Training and Skills and Higher Education the Hon Gayle Tierney MP attended the Dandenong forum.

Key priorities discussed in the sessions included:

  1. Housing
    Ensuring that people in the Southern Region have timely access to crisis accommodation.
  2. Jobs and Skills
    Linking young people and other community members to pathways that lead to jobs and training opportunities.
  3. Transport Connectivity
    Providing timely and reliable public transport connections across the region to enable people to access employment, education and community infrastructure.

Southern Metropolitan Assembly

The Partnership held its second annual Assembly on Wednesday 1 August 2018 at Patterson River Secondary College, Seaford, where it heard directly from the community about how to further progress the region’s priorities. Participants represented a mixture of community members, business owners, service providers and various levels of government.

In reviewing the 2017 outcomes, participants generally agreed they were still relevant, but added two additional priorities:

  1. Community Safety
  2. Celebrating Indigenous culture and sense of place.

Participants were then asked to identify the top four priorities of 2018 by considering the 2017 priorities, the additional priorities raised in the engagement, and those raised by young people in the Youth Assembly . Participants arrived at:

  • Transport
  • Youth (life skills, engagement, jobs)
  • Housing and affordability
  • Mental Health

You can read the discussions on priority issues in greater depth by downloading the Summary Report.

Youth Assembly

Young people aged 15-19 years from school and youth organisations across Melbourne’s six regions, including the south, came together in a Youth Forum hosted by the Metropolitan Partnerships at the State Library of Victoria in May 2018.

The full-day engagement included small group discussions, a panel seminar and region-specific breakouts to discuss life in their regions. The three top priorities nominated by young people from Melbourne’s south were:

  • Mental health
  • Life skills
  • Housing

These priorities informed the Southern Metropolitan Assembly  and the Partnership’s advice to Government.

You can read the issues discussed by the young people from Melbourne’s south, and other young Melburnians, by downloading and reading the 2018 Metropolitan Partnerships Youth Forum report.

How the Victorian Government responded

Our community engagement work informs our annual advice to government. You can read how the Victorian Government responded to our advice on the priorities for the Southern Metropolitan Region by downloading How Government is responding: The 2019 Report Back.

The inaugural assembly of the Eastern Partnership, held 11 October 2017, brought together more than 130 representatives of community, business, service providers and local and state government to determine the key priorities for the Southern Metropolitan Region.

The top priority statement discussed during the engagement was:

‘Our neighbourhoods will be better connected to employment, education, recreation and services with upgraded roads and higher frequency public transport’

The top priority outcomes from the engagement were:

  1. Housing
  2. Transport
  3. Education and youth engagement
  4. Water
  5. Family and community
  6. Environment
  7. Access to local jobs

You read about the 2017 Assembly in greater detail by downloading the summary report in PDF or Word formats.

What we've done

Since our establishment in 2017 we've invested in research and projects to further explore, and act upon, the priorities raised by the people of our region.

We commission this work with the Metropolitan Partnerships Development Fund and then share the findings and outcomes with government to inform policies and programs.

In response to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and with the knowledge from numerous community engagements on youth and local employment, the Partnership endorsed MPDF funding for this pilot project to connect up to 200 job seekers with local upskilling and employment opportunities.

The program is focused upon supporting young people from CALD communities and women. The program will seek to create training and work placements in industries with high demand for skilled workers including manufacturing and allied health care.

Completed in 2021, the Southern Integrated Transport Framework (SITF) aims to improve public transport and reduce social isolation in the southern region by making short-term, practical proposals which contribute to long-term aspirations of efficiency, road space allocation, new active transport networks and station upgrades.

The project conducted research to develop a consolidated regional view on social isolation in Melbourne’s south and proposed interventions for governments to take to address it.

The research focused upon:

  • Regional transport constraints and their impact upon access to employment, education and services
  • Other barriers that impeded the effectiveness of regional services in supporting socially isolated people

The principal barriers to addressing social isolation in the region were identified as:

  • Lack of transport services and the vast distances involved in physically accessing services and communities.
  • Lack of coordination of available services meaning a holistic approach to client servicing is elusive.
  • Income and time constraints for socially isolated people, along with their difficulties in engaging with services due to low awareness of available services and issues linked with self-confidence, proficiency with English language, access to technology, and/or cultural barriers.

The Southern Region

Melbourne’s Southern Region spans bayside, growth areas and regional hubs of Frankston and Dandenong, and extends from its northern border at Cheltenham and Moorabbin, to the southern tip of the Mornington Peninsula and the eastern limits of Pakenham and Officer.

We acknowledge the Aboriginal people as Australia's first peoples and as the Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and water on which we rely.

Read more about the Southern Region.

Local Government Areas

  • Cardinia Shire Council
  • Casey City Council
  • Kingston City Council
  • Frankston City Council
  • Greater Dandenong City Council
  • Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

Contact us


Page last updated: 03/11/21