Who We Are

Chris Hain – Chairperson, Committee of Management


Chris has been a resident of Central Victoria for 18 years, moving here to live a more authentic life and enjoy the bounty of this abundant region and contribute to a sustainable and thriving community.

With an extensive background in IT Project Management, Organisational Development and Business development, Chris brings a broad range of skills and experience to the Committee of Management with respect to Governance and Community engagement.

Chris has always had a passion for knowing where his food comes from and connecting with the people that grow and raise it, pick and process it. Now managing the Bendigo Community Farmers Market, Castlemaine Farmers Market and the Maldon Market and as Vice President of the Victorian Farmers Market Association, he is actively engaged in the local food system in Victoria and is committed to ensuring that everyone has access to local, delicious, nutritious and fresh produce to enable a healthy lifestyle and to ensure producers can make a viable and sustainable living for themselves and future generations.

Elaine Atkinson – Treasurer, Committee of Management


Elaine grew up in a Milk Bar and Corner Store in a country town which gave her an early solid grounding in the value of ‘community’. She bought a small property outside Castlemaine nearly 35 years ago and has loved being the custodian of her little plot ever since. Elaine has worked as a social worker in many jobs in the Community Services sector and was a TAFE teacher in Bendigo in the Community Services/Community Welfare Work area for 17 years. More recently, Elaine worked at Castlemaine District Community Health. Elaine has liaised and worked with state and local governments as well as the non-government sector.

Elaine brings her experience of governance from involvement in numerous committees throughout her working and civic life. She is passionate about people and social justice, the power of community and the need to transform our communities to live more sustainably. Elaine joined the Growing Abundance committee at the end of 2017 and brings her skills and enthusiasm to the next chapter of Growing Abundance, keen to build on the amazing achievements to date.

Janet Phillips – Committee of Management

janet Janet has been one of the Growing Abundance bunch since its inception, after co-initiating Transition Mount Alexander and instigating an early version of the local produce guide, and baking the first ever ‘100 mile cake’…as far as she knows anyway.

Then from the other side of the fence, Janet project managed a foundational grant to Growing Abundance for the State Govt. Janet came to Castlemaine in 1996 to co-create an innovative organic, vegetarian cafe and sourdough bakery; the Screaming Carrot.

Janet is a social ecologist and focuses her skills as a community facilitator working in the sustainability, community development and social change fields. Janet is currently co-convener of the Mount Alexander Local Produce Network, at member of the Nalderun Upper Loddon Group (local Aboriginal events group), and mentors a Yolngu woman in East Arnhem Land on an Early Childhood Nutrition Outreach program. Janet is committed to local living and is passionate about living lightly in the Earth.

Frances Howe – Committee of Management

Frances grew up in Melbourne but fell in love with central Victoria during numerous childhood visits. Frances became a part-time Castlemaine resident in 2000, when she and her partner bought a run-down old church.

As an environmental scientist, for many years Frances helped manage the environmental and social impacts of large development projects around the world. She also worked as an environmental management mentor for a non-government organisation in Lesotho (Africa).

Having travelled far and wide, including living in the Middle East, Africa and the United States, her heart belongs in Castlemaine. Frances is passionate about environmental sustainability, and producing and enjoying good food and wine.

Karla Rawles – Committee of Management


With a background in marketing and communications across a range of industries, Karla joined the Committee of Management to assist Growing Abundance with its messaging to the world of Mount Alexander and beyond.

While she’s a Newstead local, Karla is a relatively new resident of regional Victoria, but has never felt more at home since leaving England in 2006. Following a conventional suburban British upbringing, with next to no concept of where food is grown, Karla became interested in yoga. This led her to appreciate the interconnectedness of life and opened her mind to health and wellbeing, and how food contributes to this. From there, Karla found herself starting to check food labels and commenced a rollercoaster journey of learning to make healthy food from wholesome ingredients. Meanwhile, disheartened with the rat race of her marketing career, she set off with a backpack to explore the world. Having always dreamed of visiting Australia since childhood, it seems fitting that once here, Karla remained.

Karla is currently in career transition to becoming a naturopath, which will combine many of her passions. Karla knows through personal experience that a healthy mind and body is the result of a healthy environment and community – which was also her inspiration to contribute to Growing Abundance.