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Our Team


Darren Gibbins BVSc

Veterinarian Director

Darren is a vet who really loves animals; he has dogs and multiple horses that rely on him as their primary carer.

Darren graduated from the University of Sydney in 1993 with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science. After working in mixed animal practice in Bega and small animal practice in Caringbah. Darren ventured to the shores of mother England, and worked in large animal practice in South Hampton for 5 years. A little over the cold weather and grey skies Darren returned to the fairer weather and beaches of Australia. Darren set up his own practice by the beach in Forster NSW, handling small and large animals. 


Darren now has come to Cooks Hill Vet Clinic and moved the family to the fantastic Hunter Valley and enjoying the life that Newcastle has to offer. Darren enjoys riding his horses as well as time with the family, including the animals.


Darren believes that animals deserve great veterinary care and nothing less. Pets love their owners unconditionally and that should be reciprocated. One of the ways that is done is through really good health care. Darren’s aim with Cooks Hill Vet Clinic is provide the best pet care possible, by communicating with owners so they understand their pet’s conditions and the options they have for treatment. Darren aims to provide the highest quality service that the pets of Newcastle deserve.


Sneha Wheatley BVSc


Sne graduated from Sydney University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science.

Sne has been working in small animal practice around Newcastle since graduating.

Most recently she worked three years at the RSCPA before joining our team in 2017.

We are proud to have Sne on board as a full time Veterinarian at our clinic.

Her caring and bubbly personality fits in perfectly with our team.

Sne enjoys yoga, morning walks and bike rides, and spending time at the beach.

Sne lives lives with her husband, son, rescue cat Mango, rescue dog Marley, and multiple chickens.

Open 6 days  


Ben Ford BVSc


Ben grew up on a cattle farm in the Hunter Valley, where his family still resides.
After school he joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a Pilot and completed flying training, before gaining his ‘wings’ and deploying overseas.

He then went on to complete a Bachelor of Applied Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at Murdoch University.

Ben has an interest in all aspects of veterinary medicine and is developing a special interest in small animal surgery.

In his spare time he enjoys heading back to the farm, going to Newcastle’s awesome beaches, running, riding, skiing and all things aviation.

Ben is the proud owner of Harley who he rescued from the RSPCA.


Amy Bird BVSc

Amy graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2019, before moving to Newcastle with her partner.

Amy worked as a Veterinary Nurse for six years while studying for her degree. Amy has worked in the Newcastle region since graduating, she joined our team in April 2021.  

Amy enjoys all aspects of Veterinary Medicine, however some of her special interests include internal medicine and diagnostic imaging.

Amy enjoys being outdoors and exploring the beautiful beaches around Newcastle.

Amy has two rescue cats named Gary and Ginny, and a beautiful border terrier named Rudy.


Brianne Pepper AVBSC(Hons)DVM

Bri started at Cooks Hill Vet back in 2011 when she was in year 10 of high school, she completed work experience with us and fell in love with the industry.

Bri is a very hard worker, and is very committed to working with animals.

Bri completed a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Sydney in 2023. She also completed a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience in 2018, and even a Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing at TAFE in 2019.

Bri began working with us as a kennel hand in 2011, and has worked with us ever since (as a Kennel hand, a Veterinary Nurse, and now as a Veterinarian).

Bri enjoys all aspects of the Veterinary Industry, but has a special interest in surgery.

Bri loves all animals, but has a soft spot for Labradors. She actually has two of her own chocolate Labs, Xavier and Rosie.

When not at work, Bri enjoys spending time at the beach, camping in the van, going on walks and to the gym, and cooking.


Lynda Shaw BVSc(Hons)BSc

Lynda grew up in Sydney with a variety of pets (and family members!). She graduated from Sydney University in 2006 with Honours, since then worked on the Central Coast for 7 years before settling in to call Newcastle home.

She has strong interest in small animal medicine and ophthalmology.

Lynda enjoys getting out and enjoying the natural beauty of Newcastle, whether it’s at the beach, in the bush or by the Lake. She also enjoys reading, getting creative in the kitchen, cryptic crosswords, and spending time with friends.


Lynda shares her home and couch with her lovely cat Maple, an RSPCA foster-fail.


Kassie Taylor

Assistant Practice Manager

Kassie is our longest standing nurse here at Cooks Hill Vet Clinic. For over 9 years she has always  been the smiley face behind the counter.

Kassie started her nursing career in Bonny Hills with one of Darren's very good friends Dr Stephanie Penn. Kass decided to leave Dr Penn and the quiet country life and head to Newcastle, with her husband and daughter, and settled at Cooks Hill Vet Clinic.


Kassie is Assistant Manager here at Cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic.  

If Kassie doesn't know how something works we are in trouble!

She is the practice expert on the computer system, the digital x-ray, the blood analysing machine, the biochemistry machine, the anaesthetic machine and the pulse oximeter (the heart monitoring machine)!


She has one very shy cat named Lacey, and a very happy labrador named Hugo.


Amelia Stoolman
Head Veterinary Nurse

Amelia is our most senior Veterinary Nurse. She has been part of our team since completing her Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing in 2015.

Amelia also does some casual work at Greencross Vets in Maitland, as well at the Animal Referral and Emergency Centre in Broadmeadow.


Amelia has two dogs; a Koolie named Rocky,  and a Maltese cross named Winston (who she adopted after he was surrendered with a broken leg). She also has two Conures, Zita and Tiki.

Amelia goes above and beyond for her clients. Her enthusiastic and caring approach has earned her a loyal and happy client base.

You’ll catch Amelia running our puppy pre-school course, teaching both the puppies and their owners some general training and life skills.


Brenna Crozier

Veterinary Nurse

Brenna began her studies of Veterinary Nursing within Cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic back in 2016 completing her Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing, she has proven to be exceptional in all fields of the industry.

You’ll always find Brenna having a nice chat with all the animals, making sure they're the happiest and most comfortable they can be.


Brenna lives with her partner and their two shared cats, Petey and Lilly. Bren rescued Petey as a stray kitten in 2016 and they’ve been inseparable ever since. They also recently welcomed a toy poodle, Clover, who only has three feet.

When not at work, Brenna enjoys all things craft, such as sewing and crocheting, as well as dog walks with friends.
Brenna has also recently started volunteering with Dog Rescue Newcastle.


Shelbie Whitton
Veterinary Nurse

Shelbie completed her Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing in 2018, after starting in the animal industry as a dog groomer and dog sitter.

She joined the team at Cooks Hill Vet in 2022.

Shelbie enjoys all aspects of nursing, however has special interest in medical nursing and surgery.


Shelbie lives with her husband and their cheeky whippet Remy, and black-headed python Kaiba.


When not at work, Shelbie likes to be rock climbing, tending to her plants, cooking, and being outdoors.


Sara Ahlen

Veterinary Nurse

Sara began her work placement for Veterinary Nursing within Cooks Hill Vet Clinic in 2018, and completed her Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing in June 2019.

Sara is one of the most passionate nurses Cooks Hill has ever seen. She traveled all the way from Sweden, and gained an Australian Citizenship, just so she could study and become a certified Vet Nurse.


Sara loves everything nursing, she is therefore the perfect addition to the Cooks Hill Vet team.
Sara also does some work with the RSPCA, including fostering kittens.

Sara lives with her partner, daughter, a handsome cat named Sven (who she rescued as a stray from the clinic during her student days), and a beautiful dog named Scottie (who she adopted from the RSPCA).


Jess Smith

Veterinary Nurse

Jess joined us at Cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic in 2020.

She graduated with a Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing in 2015, after starting in the Veterinary industry in 2013.


Jess originally worked in the Maitland area before making the move to Newcastle, where she loves the atmosphere of our city Clinics.


Jess enjoys all aspects of nursing, however she has a special interest in medical nursing and enrichment.  

Jess has two mischievous Chihuahua’s, named Gonzo and Kanye, plus a rescue Ferret, named Skittles.

When not at Cooks Hill, Jess stays busy with her own business, Active Pups Co.


Vanessa Penfold
Veterinary Nurse

Vanessa completed her studies and achieved her certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing back in 2016, and went on to work at Noahs Ark for five years before joining our team at Cooks Hill Veterinary Clinic in 2021.

Vanessa appreciates all aspects of the veterinary industry, but has a particular interest in surgery and pathology.


Vanessa recently adopted Ollie, a stray kitten who was hand raised by our nurses from three weeks of age.

When not at work, Vanessa enjoys going to the gym, long walks with friends, and traveling.


Sophie Marsden
Veterinary Nurse

Sophie completed her Certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing in 2022, and has been working with us ever since. She also started working at Sugarloaf Vet in addition to Cooks Hill Vet in 2023.

Sophie has enjoyed all aspects of nursing so far, but has a particular in exotics. 

Sophie has a bearded dragon named Ezran (that she rescued from the RSPCA), a beautiful cat named Motchi (who was surrendered to us at Cooks Hill Vet over a year prior), a sweet Rottweiler names Delilah (RSPCA rescue), and a special Rainbow Lorikeet named Fruitloop (also a rescue..).

When not at work, Sophie enjoys all things craft and plants.


Bindi Rudland
Veterinary Nurse

Bindi is currently completing her Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing, and is due to complete her course in 2024.

Bindi worked as an junior Veterinary Nurse for over two years in Cairns before heading to the Newcastle region.
When not at the Clinic, Bindi also works as a disability support worker.

Bindi loving mother of a kitten named Bean, who was hand raised by the Nurses of Cooks Hill Vet from one day old.


Bindi has a particular interest in fostering. She loves that she is able to incorporate animal care into her life with fostering, and enjoys helping animals in need find their forever home.

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