History of GVG
Gippsland Veterinary Group has a long and proud history of service to the South and West Gippsland and Bass Coast regions. Our current company started as two separate groups until a merger in July 2017 – here is a short history of the two groups leading up to the history we are making today proudly as GVG.
Tarwin Veterinary Group
Stan Dennis established the first private vet in Leongatha, in 1952 after working for the Dept of Agriculture. Peter O’Connor joined him the following year, forming Dennis and O’Connor. Dennis left 3 years later and Peter Jackson joined forming O’Connor and Jackson. Ted Groom joined in the 1960’s and the name of the practice continued to grow. Angus Young replaced Ted Groom later in the 1960’s and Peter Jackson left for Tasmania at the end of 1971 allowing Murray Hooper to join as a new graduate. In 1973 Angus Young moved away from the cold and Murray joined with Peter O’Connor to form O’Connor and Hooper. Lindsay Moore, who had graduated with Murray joined the practice in 1973 and became a partner in 1978/79, forming O’Connor, Hooper and Moore. Phil Poulton graduated in 1981 and joined OH&M on 28th November 1981, when there were 5 vets, 3 partners and 2 associates, a vet nurse and an accounts lady, Mrs Beirsteker. Barb Dell started as our accounts person in February 1984. Barb and her husband Graham ran a dairy farm in Smith’s Rd, Mardan at the same time. At the end of 1984, Peter O’Connor retired and Lindsay Moore left while staying local in Meeniyan. Phil Poulton and Murray Hooper now formed a partnership on 1 January 1985. With few staff covering much of the calving needs in the region, when Will Bullock arrived after immigrating to Australia to help his brother on a dairy farm in Middle Tarwin he was gleefully welcomed as an additional vet and a new partnership was formed at the start of 1986. For the record, the sales of the practice at that time were $932,000 with 6600 diagnoses on cattle and 2000 diagnoses on small animals. David Hall’s practice at Foster was acquired in 1987 and Graham Hancock was “thrown in with the deal”. Will moved to Foster and the practice bought out Keith Mill’s practice, a 5 vet group based in Foster and Yarram and John Steinfort, a 2 vet group in Mirboo North. Andrew Bissett started as a locum in May ’87 for a few months after graduating in 1985 with Carolyn. He returned in July 1989 and Carolyn Bissett started in March 1990. The couple left in 1994 for Ballarat and returned 8 years later. The Bissett’s became a partner in 2002 when John Steinfort retired. Barb Dell returned as our accounts person in 2003 after a few stints in different small businesses. On 1 January 1989 Hooper Poulton Bullock amalgamated with Steinfort’s group and Tarwin Veterinary Group was born. Barb Dell left TVG in Feb 1993 but returned as practice manager in August 2003. Gerhard Labuschagne joined in 2003 after working for 2 years in Numurkah after immigrating from South Africa and became a director in 2003. Mary Holland (Smith) started work as a new graduate in 1996 and became a director in January 2010. Peter DeGaris started as a new graduate in early 1992, went overseas in 1994 and returned to TVG in 1995. Pete joined as 50% director in January 1996, became a full shareholder in 1998/99 but left to work for Bovine Strategic Services in 2003, returning as a director in 2007. Dave Lemchens started working for us in October 1994 after graduating in 1989 and became a 50% director in January 1996 and a full shareholder in 1998/99. Melissa Trew ( Rogers) started a s a new graduate 17/1/2005. Michelle Addison started as receptionist at Mirboo North in July 2007, after a couple of years progressing to assist in administration. Michelle went on to manage our practice management duties (after the retirement of Barb Dell) and she left the merged Gippsland Vet Group in 2019. In 2008 Murray Hooper retired after 37 years of service. Tom Gilheany started as a new graduate February 2011. Pieter Malherbe joined us in January 2012 after working at Korumburra for a number of years after immigrating from South Africa. Will Bullock and Phil Poulton retired from the board in Feb 2016. Melissa Rogers and Pieter Malherbe joined the board. Will Bullock retired from the business in late 2016. Gerhard Labuschagne retired from the board in Feb 2017 and left the company in August 2019. Tom Gilheany joined the board in February 2017.
Wonthaggi, Newhaven and Inverloch
The practice at Wonthaggi commenced during the post war period, making it one of the oldest rural practices in the state. It was originally founded by Dr John Crawford in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Many of the older farmers tell of John’s antics as he madly raced around the countryside attending calls; by all reports he was quite a character. At the beginning of 1982, he employed two new graduates, Tony Gedye & Mark Mackie, and within two years he had sold his practice to them. For the next few years they worked extremely hard to cover a large area, and start to build up a practice at Newhaven, which then operated out of a room at Mark’s house. Coming in as a third vet in 1987, Barry Zimmerman soon became a partner as well, and began to run two evening clinics a week from his house in Inverloch.
In 1988, Jenny Hibble joined the practice, making 4 vets in total, and ending the era of an all male clinic. At this stage Wonthaggi Veterinary Clinic operated out of a shop front/old house on McBride Ave in Wonthaggi, was still very much a large animal practice with some small animal consults in the middle of each day, and speys etc done when there was time! The Newhaven Clinic had been built in 1986, at the present site, constructed with hand made mud bricks and a lot of sweat and toil. Staffing included a nurse, a receptionist, and a book keeper 2 days a week, as well as a young girl answering the phones for Newhaven in the mornings. Dairying was a much bigger part of life then, across Bass Shire and Phillip Island. A significant number of dairy farmers were Italians, who had come to Wonthaggi to work in the coal mines, moving to dairying once the mines were closed in the ‘60s. They added a rich culture to the region, and many of their children and now grandchildren still farm in the area. Changes to dairying in the mid ‘90s, plus close proximity to Melbourne has sadly seen much of that industry contract, to beef and hobby farms, while the companion animal work has continued to grow. On 1st April 1990, the Wonthaggi clinic relocated to the current site at White Rd, which provided the facilities for the small animal work to thrive, and has stood the practice in good stead until its current rebuild (expected to be complete at the end of 2019). Newhaven Clinic underwent a total rebuild in 2005, and allowed significant growth. Inverloch Clinic became more established, providing morning clinics , and adding grooming as a service. In 1994, Mark Mackie sold his share of the partnership to Jenny Hibble. The practice continued to grow, with additional vets joining the practice. David Beischer commenced work in 1996, and became a fourth partner in 1999. In 2004, Barry Zimmerman left the partnership, to be replaced by Michael Dhar, who left in 2013. Tony Gedye remained as a partner until 2015, but continued to work in the practice until the end of 2017, achieving 35 years of continuous work for WVC.
By the time of the merger on 1st July 2017, WVC had grown to 9 vets, 2 admin staff, and 15 nurses. The practice was then owned by two partners (Drs Jenny Hibble and David Beischer) who continue as directors of GVG today. Growth in small animal work and contraction of the number of dairy farms had changed the balance of small animal to large animal work to about 80:20 percent.
Post-Merger – The Gippsland Veterinary Group
After the merger the newly formed GVG has gone from strength to strength. The current board of directors (September 2019) consists of the following business partners:
- Peter DeGaris (Company Secretary)
- Pieter Malherbe
- Jenny Hibble (Chair)
- Mary Smith
- Andrew Bissett (with Carolyn Bissett)
- Tom Gilheany
- David Lemchens
- David Beischer
- Melissa Rogers
The board is was ably assisted by Barbara Dell, working in a semi-retired capacity as Company Secretary and now Michael Knowles Business Manager / CEO who joined the company in May 2019. Staff numbers are now over 100, with around 30 vets across small and large animals, and 7 locations. Gippsland Veterinary Group employs graduate and experienced veterinarians, receptionists, administrative staff and a dedicated team of experienced and highly qualified veterinary nurses. Today, more than 80% of staff are female showing how greatly the gender mix in the veterinary industry has changed over the years and the business is split evenly between farm and small animals and growing services to horses. Given our locations, Summers can be very busy with the influx of tourists into the region. At our 7 locations we now have some of the most modern and well equipped facilities in the veterinary industry including digital Xrays, surgical theatres, ultrasound and dental Xrays and we offer a multitude of on-farm services including dehorning under anaesthetic, hoof trimming trailer, teat sealing, drugs, drying off and instrumentation for the detection of mastitis in dairy cows (MastaPlex). In early 2020 (just before Covid !) our newly renovated and expanded Wonthaggi Clinic was re-opened (after our team spent a full 12 months in a warehouse !). In late 2020, Mary Smith stepped down from the chair position of the Board, while remaining a board member, and Dr Jenny Hibble took over the reins of the board as chair. Like most veterinary clinics, GVG experienced significant growth during the Covid-19 period and our team all swung into action, helping each other and our clients through this tough time. As we continue to grow, our people serving the communities in which they live, remains our strength. Barb retired as Company Secretary at the end of June 2021 bringing to a close a remarkable career with the company.