Our Purpose Build a thriving rural Australia through igniting entrepreneurship in young people and their communities.

The Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship (ACRE) is a small and rapidly growing for-purpose organisation operating as a social enterprise.

A social enterprise is an organisation that trades intentionally to tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people access to employment and training or help the environment.

We use social enterprise as a valuable learning tool for developing citizenship and enterprise skills simultaneously in support of community leadership, resilience and rejuvenation.

Our targeted service offer combines learning and development programs, advice and support and community brokerage services to build the entrepreneurial capability and capacity of individuals, entities and rural communities.

 Our values define our work:

  • Find strength and greater impact through working with others
  • See opportunities in challenges
  • Are role models for entrepreneurial thinking and action
  • Prepared to fail in order to succeed
  • Don’t need to find excuses to enjoy ourselves
  • Take our work seriously, not ourselves
  • Be the bridge-maker between industries, sectors and generations
  • Measure what matters
  • Are tenacious, fiercely independent and nimble

The issue

ACRE is taking a whole of community approach to developing an entreprenuership ecosystem and is playing the role of ‘bridgemaker’ between sectors. In support of the research below our work needs to start early and take a whole of community approach. 

  • By 2020, technology will replace 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies. This will affect every person, every business and every community. Preparing young people who are entrepreneurial-minded innovators is a must. (Australian Learning Lecture, Yong Zhao, Mitchell Institute 2016)
  • Youth unemployment has tripled since 2007 and is up to 50% in some rural areas (Brotherhood, Lost Generation Report 2013)
  • 60% of young people are training for jobs that are unlikely to exist in 10-15 years (FYA, New Work Order, 2015)
  • Young people are not learning the mindset, skills and behaviors required to create their own jobs in the future. From job seeker to job creator!
  • Only 30% of our young people return to rural Australia after leaving for study and career opportunities. (McKenzie, DPCD 2011)

From job seeker to job creator

One of our great challenges is how we prepare students for the 21st century and a knowledge economy that is rapidly changing, highly globalised and uncertain. To date we have successfully prepared students as job seekers for positions and industries with strong employment. However, as we speak these industries are moving employment off-shore and to technology.

Globally there is a fundamental shift towards students being supported to become job creators and not just job seekers through involvement in entrepreneurial learning. We are piloting the potential benefits in our part of the world without having to re-invent the wheel.

Entrepreneurial learning engages a students entire range of talents and results in experiential education that builds leadership, enterprise and employability skills.

Our Team

Matt Pfahlert | CEO


Matt is a well-known social entrepreneur with a long standing commitment to rural Australia.

In 1996 Matt received the Sir Weary Dunlop Young Australian of the Year Award for his work in establishing the Typo Station Youth Project for disadvantaged young Victorians (now named Evolve).

Matt received Leadership Victoria’s Community Leader of the Year award in 2004 and in 2013 was awarded a Churchill fellowship to study youth entrepreneurship programs and social enterprise models in rural communities in the UK, Canada, and the US.

Peter Sacco | Program Manager


Peter is a highly accomplished, experiential educator, facilitator and project leader.

Peter has delivered a broad range of successful community based natural resource management initiatives in Australia, US, Europe and South Africa. He has a proven track record of working on projects with multiple stakeholders and across sectors including community, government, tourism, education and business.

In 2014 Peter was awarded a position on the Sante Fe, New Mexico 2015 Study Tour to research the role that schools play in their communities and the benefits of broader school community engagement on student outcomes.

Caz Humby | Operations Manager


Caz has a strong background in community engagement and communications and is well recognised across the region.

Caz has worked in the government sector for over 15 years and has an excellent understanding of project delivery, strategic planning and stakeholder engagement.

Caz has also worked with a diversity of sectors across the community and has experience in team leadership and internal communications. Caz has also worked as an educator, locally and abroad and provided support to many volunteers across the region.

Clayton Neil | Strategic Projects Manager


Clayton has extensive experience in working in rural areas and a strong background in economic and community development.

Clayton moved to North East Victoria in 2007 to take up the Cycle Tourism Development Manager role with the local council and become a trusted advisor on this issue nationally. Clayton is an avid cyclist and has a strong background in economic development, tourism, events, business development and business finance.

Clayton brings experience and skills in community development, stakeholder engagement, rural development and entrepreneurship and is leading the community buy back of the Old Beechworth Gaol.

Imogen Thomas | Administration Assistant


Imogen has an interest in supporting young people and is keen to work with the team in developing leadership and entrepreneurial skills. 

Imogen has recently taken on a traineeship with ACRE and works on a part time basis. Imogen has lived in Beechworth for the past couple of years whilst studying a Bachelor of Education at Swinburne University by correspondence and is working towards primary teaching.

Imogen brings to the team a great energy and interest in rural and regional rejuvenation and is keen to see our region support more young people to stay and work locally.

Our Board

Jonathan Chapman

Jonathan has been involved as a volunteer, leader, trustee, board member and a chair for a range of not for profit organisations and is now working with family companies, professional services practices, corporates and charities where there is a need for an executive who can bridge the gap between the different sectors. His specialist skills are in effective leadership, developing and implementing strategic plans and enhanced financial sustainability.

Clayton Neil

Clayton brings experience and skills in community development, stakeholder engagement, rural development and entrepreneurship and is leading the community buy back of the Old Beechworth Gaol. Clayton is an avid cyclist and has a strong background in economic development, tourism, events, business development and business finance.

Matt Pfahlert

Matt has worked as business consultant specialising on projects combining economic and social benefits. This work involved strategic and business planning, organisational development, & leadership programs. For his contribution to rural Victoria and young people Matt was awarded Leadership Victoria’s – Community Leader of the Year in 2004.

Julia Keady

Julia is a social impact strategist with 20 years’ experience in strategy, marketing, communications, fundraising and philanthropy. She is the founder of social purpose business The Xfactor Collective, and leads a growing community of specialist consultants who support individuals, enterprises and organisations to achieve their social impact goals.

Kerrie OBrien

Kerrie O’Brien is a journalist, writer and editor with more than 30 years experience. She is currently a senior writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and has covered architecture and design, the arts and entertainment, food and travel, and business and finance.

Anne Gripper

Anne has enjoyed working in leadership roles in sport for 23 years.  She is currently the Executive Director of Sport and Recreation at the NSW Office of Sport. Anne became involved in philanthropy when she founded the June Canavan Foundation in 2010.  As Chair of the Board,  she takes an active role in contributing to  raising the profile of small scale philanthropy.   She is also a Director of Cycling Australia.

ACRE ADVISORS

  • David Brookes – Managing Director of Social Traders (Australia)
  • Gerry Higgins – CEO Community Enterprise Scotland (Scotland)
  • Tim Draimin – Executive Director of Social Innovation Generation (Canada)
  • Pete Ekstedt – Executive Officer of Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation (Australia)
  • Peter Holbrook – CEO of Social Enterprise UK (England)
  • Maggie McGuire – CEO of Abbottsford Convent (Australia)

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