Cr Punarji Hewa Gunaratne

Cr Punarji Hewa Gunaratne


 Councillor Gunaratne represents Council on the following Committees:

  • CEO Performance Review Advisory Committee
  • Benalla Festival Advisory Committee
  • Benalla Art Gallery Committee
  • Former Migrant Camp Conservation Management Plan Implementation Steering Committee

Why did you nominate for election to the Council?

I want to actively contribute to the community and represent everyone within Benalla Rural City. I want to deliver a clear message to people who look or feel different from the mainstream population that anyone can be a leader in our community. I am bringing up two young daughters in this beautiful town and I want to be an example for them. Local government plays a crucial role in enhancing the health and wellbeing of all residents, and I want to advocate for services and facilities that will benefit the whole Benalla region.

What is your vision for Benalla?

I want to see Benalla become more accessible for everyone, attract and retain good quality businesses, and for the Benalla region to develop in a way that enhances our well-being and enjoyment of the town. Most of all, I want the Benalla region to be a place where people are well-connected, engaged, and happy to be here.

What local issues are you especially interested in?

As an accountant, Benalla’s finances are at the top of my mind. I would like to find ways to improve the council’s balance sheet without having to pass the cost on to residents through rates and charges. I also want to see us develop the region with affordability in mind for the future.

I am interested in what the council can achieve to improve access to everything that is needed to live and long and healthy life. I believe a well-connected footpath network, walking tracks, cycling tracks, better managed parks for all age groups and pets, recreation facilities and aquatic facilities are key to improving the health and well-being of residents.

I believe an inclusive Benalla is a strong Benalla and I want everyone in our region - whatever their income or social status, race, gender, sexuality, disability, age, religion or any other factor - to have a voice and a place in Benalla.

I would like to drive Benalla Council to take a proactive approach to the climate change, because Covid-19 will pass one day but the challenges of climate change will never pass. I want Benalla to be ready for the future.

What you would like Council to achieve in the next 4 years?

I want to see Benalla’s growth underpinned by sustainability.  Council has a significant role to play in making energy efficient and low waste living affordable for residents.  Benalla is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, so it’s really important that our town becomes a leading example for other areas of government to bring down CO2 emissions.

I want Benalla to be a place where it is easy to make healthy choices and access the facilities and services needed to live long, healthy lives.  In the next 4 years, I want to work towards better access to footpaths for walking, an improved cycle path network, improved sports facilities, and opportunities for social groups across the council. I would like to see all residents being able to afford to live a healthy lifestyle without having to compromise other life choices.

Your background - work experience, career, family, children, hobbies?

I have worked in finance, banking, and business in various roles for the last 20 years, and am a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA). I started my career in banking, and have worked in large companies in Sri Lanka. I arrived in Benalla in 2016 after working in large and small businesses in Melbourne and rural Victoria, and I am now working in finance in the public health care sector. On a personal note, I am Thaththa (Dad) to two young daughters and my partner and I moved to Benalla just before our first baby arrived. We have lovely neighbours who made us feel welcome and helped ease us in to the town. We love the parks and gardens, especially the roses around town. I am a migrant, and I am originally from Colombo in Sri Lanka. I am also a triplet, so I had to learn how to settle quarrels and work constructively with other people with a different agenda to mine very early!

Best method for residents and the community to contact you?

I am available to the community via mobile (0438 762 572), email (, to arrange meeting, or feel welcome to have a chat if you see me around.

Best time for residents to contact you?

I am available after 6pm on Thursday and Friday.  I am fully available on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday for community and council affairs.