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VicTas Website > About Us > Synod Standing Committee

 Synod Standing Committee

​The role of the Synod Standing Committee, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, is to ensure that the work of the Synod and the oversight that the Synod offers with regard to the Church's worship, witness and service continues between ordinary meetings of the Synod itself.  It consists of 16 members elected at the Synod meeting. Ex-officio members of the committee are  the Moderator, Ex-Moderator, the General Secretary, and two representatives of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).  There are also non-voting attendees who resource the committee.  The Synod Standing Committee meets between eight and twelve times a year.


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 Aaron Blakemore, Presbytery of Port Phillip East

Aaron is a student of Communication Design at RMIT University. He is passionate about Human Centred Participatory Design as part of an innovative approach to design.  Aaron is a member of his local church council.



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Rev Stan Clarke, Presbytery of Yarra Yarra

Stan has served in congregational ministry for over 25 years in rural Victoria, Tasmania and metropolitan Melbourne.



John Diprose1.jpgJohn Diprose, Presbytery of Western Victoria

John has extensive experience in church and community in the Hamilton district where his family have a farming enterprise. 

He has served on many boards including as Chair of The Hamilton & Alexandra College board and Chair of the Hamilton Base Hospital board.  He has decades of involvement with the Country Fire Authority, including as a Brigade Captain.


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Ben Cohen, Presbytery of Port Phillip East

Ben has been involved with committees, councils and institutions of the Uniting Church for over 27 years as well as being a past board member of Methodist Ladies College board and Swinburne University board. 

He has been CEO of a global software company and a director/advisor to a range of entities including Orica, Ericsson and Elders as well as past Victorian President of CPA Australia.


Ron Gowland.jpgRon Gowland, Presbytery of Gippsland

Ron is an accountant with a wide range of experience serving on committees as diverse as the Gippsland Presbytery, Latrobe City, Gippsland Water Audit Committee and Lake Tyers Camp and Caravan Park. He has a Public Practice Certificate, CPA Australia.


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Helen Collins, Presbytery of North East Victoria

Helen has over 30 years' experience as a secondary school teacher in rural schools.  She is chair of the Presbytery of North East Victoria as well as serving on her own Church Council. Helen has a BA from Monash and a Graduate Diploma teaching French as a Foreign Language.​


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Geoffrey Grinton, Presbytery of Yarra Yarra

Geoffrey is a professional scientist, recently retired from the IT industry.  He has served on numerous councils of the church including chair of the Business Committee and Business Manager of Assembly meetings. Geoffrey has an appreciation of rural, regional and metropolitan issues.


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Anna Harrison, Presbytery of Yarra Yarra

Anna is studying honours in Anthropology and has been part of NextGen's intercultural ministry, travelling to China in 2015.  She has been involved in youth ministry, uni discipleship, schoolies' summer mission and Scripture Union camps.



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Rev Jason Kioa, Presbytery of Yarra Yarra

Jason is a former Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and has been a board member of Wesley Mission Victoria and of Aitken College. 


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Lindsay Oates, Presbytery of Gippsland

Lindsay has served in management at State Bank of Victoria, including being awarded 'Banker of the Year'. He is a former CEO of Aged and Community Care facilities and continues to consult in this area. 

He is Vice President of the Victorian Men's Shed Association and has served in the mission field in Fiji as Business Manager. He is heavily involved in the church across Gippsland, including work in remote communities.

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Karen Sooaemalelagi, Presbytery of Port Phillip West

Karen has been a youth leader at Coburg UC for four years and has been part of NextGen since 2013, as well as mission associate for Urban Seed in St Albans.



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Ken Tabart, Presbytery of Yarra Yarra

Ken is a retired consulting engineer responsible for managing practice offices of multidiscipline teams. He has been a board member of Uniting AgeWell and performed various roles in the Synod in both Victoria and Tasmania.


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Rev Sani Vaeluaga, Presbytery of Gippsland

Sani has been minister to several congregations in Victoria and New Zealand. He is chair of the UCA Samoan National Conference and has been chair of Port Phillip West Presbytery and a CTM board member. Sani also has a background in accounting.


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Rev Fiona Winn, Presbytery of Port Phillip East

Before becoming a minister, Fiona had experience as a nurse unit manager. She also has an MA in French and Politics and a Bachelor of Divinity. Fiona has been involved in a number of committees across the synod. 



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Rev Sue Withers, Presbytery of Port Phillip East

Sue is a former moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and is currently Field Education Officer at the Centre for Theology and Ministry. She has also served as a presbytery minister.


Ex Officio Members of the Synod Standing Committee

Rev Sharon Hollis, Moderator

Sharon commenced as Moderator in June 2016. Sharon is the sixth woman in Victoria and fourth in Tasmania to be appointed to the position since the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977.

She has served in two congregations, Mont Albert and St Columba’s Balwyn, as a housing officer in inner Melbourne and as an adult educator at the Centre for Theology and Ministry.


Mark Lawrence.jpg Rev Dr Mark Lawrence, General Secretary

Mark Lawrence commenced as General Secretary of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania in November 2012.

Mark was ordained in 1988 and served in congregation, presbytery, and synod placements prior to being called to his current role.  His ministry interests include peacemaking and spirituality, leadership, organisational development and mediation.

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Dan Wootton, Ex-Moderator

Dan is the immediate past Moderator of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and has served in a number of roles including as property officer and development fund officer for the church.

Dan commences in August as Yarra Yarra presbytery minister - admin.


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Rev Tim Matton-Johnson, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (
UAICC) Tasmania representative

Tim has served in a variety of placements in both Victoria and Tasmania in rural, regional and urban areas and is currently in placement with the Bridgewater – Gagebrook Parish Mission in Tasmania.

Tim is a member of the Institute of Public Accountants and worked on a part-time basis in the accounting profession for a number of years before returning to full time ministry in 2011.


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Rev Ken Sumner, Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (
UAICC) Victoria representative

Ken was ordained in the Uniting Church in 1998, and comes from the Ngarrindjeri people of the River Murray, Coorong and Lakes of South Australia. 

He has been a  national chairperson and Victoria state director for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), and a director of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) at the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA).