As a subsidiary of UniLodge Australia Pty Ltd, the leading operator of purpose-built student accommodations in the region, Essence has been in business for 27 years, employing 1,600 staff members and managing 130+ properties with 40,000 operational residential beds.
Our Brisbane-based Corporate Head Office team, consisting of 45 staff members, oversees various aspects of property management, ensuring Essence Communities maintains top-class performance. Essence is among the few companies in Australia currently operating Build to Rent properties successfully. We prioritise client satisfaction, handling their brands professionally and creating large-scale resident community programs that foster shared spaces and enhance rental returns for owners.
Essence Communities is known for its long-term partnerships, with many clients collaborating with us for over 15 years. Our management team is accessible and flexible, ensuring the success of every property we manage by recognising that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective.
With over 100 years of combined experience, we’ve got a well-seasoned team at the helm.
In September 2006, Peter Bates was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the UniLodge Group and twelve years later, in July 2018, was appointed to Executive Chairman. His expertise in project management, project delivery, business analysis and finance has enabled him to grow the UniLodge portfolio from 3,500 beds to over 20,000 beds under his management. His impressive vision for success combined with his diligent efforts and ambition have made him a highly accomplished leader within the industry, which has made significant impact in the growth of the Essence Communities portfolio.
Peter Bates is an insightful and experienced professional whose career spans nearly three decades. After graduating from the University of Queensland with a degree in civil engineering, he joined the construction arm of Lend Lease, Civil & Civic in 1987 and went on to enjoy a 19-year tenure with them. During this time, he relocated to several locations in Australia and Asia, where he held senior management positions in Bangkok, Singapore and Shanghai.
Tomas Johnsson joined UniLodge in September 2018 as the Chief Executive Officer. He has over 25 years’ experience in senior management roles in the tourism industry specialising in accommodation.
Prior to joining UniLodge, Tomas was the Chief Operating Officer of the Mantra Group, and was responsible for Operations, Sales, Marketing, Revenue, Distribution and Digital functions across the Group. Tomas has also held senior management roles with General Property Trust including Sheraton Four Points Darling Harbour, Ayers Rock Resort and Voyages Resorts, as well as Mirvac and Rydges Hotels.
Tomas successfully completed his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2016 and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Prior board positions include Accommodation Association of Australia, Asia Pacific Student Accommodation Association and HOTA, Home of the Arts. Tomas previously served as an expert member, Council for International Education and is currently Deputy Chair of the Student Accommodation Council by The Property Council of Australia in 2022.
Chris Webb joined the UniLodge Group in 2018 as its Chief Financial Officer. As an accomplished financial leader boasting more than two decades of experience in senior roles. He is highly passionate about fostering strong teams and enabling business growth.
With a Bachelor of Commerce and Laws from the University of Queensland, as well as training as a Chartered Accountant in corporate tax training at PwC, Chris has proven himself to be a reliable asset for many major companies.
He has provided consultation services on major mining projects at Rio Tinto, BHP and Newcrest and held senior commercial roles at QIC. With his extensive expertise and admirable commitment to success, Chris has earned the esteemed honor of Fellow of Finsia.
Matt Row is an industry leader with more than two decades of experience in management and operations. He joined the UniLodge Group in March 2017, where he is responsible for managing all of their operations across Australia and New Zealand.
Before that, Matt was the Chief Operating Officer for Retire Australia, the largest private retirement village owner-operator in the country. His career also includes distinguished positions as Business Services Manager for Heritage Pacific and Meridien, and General Manager for a renowned registered training organisation and group training company. In his current role as Vice President of the Student Accommodation Association, Matt leverages his robust background to drive meaningful change within this sector. He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Managers and Leaders, where his exceptional skill set has been duly recognised.
Grant Waldeck is an accomplished marketing professional who brings a wealth of experience, joining the UniLodge Group in 2017. He has spent two decades with distinguished international blue-chip companies, such as Flight Centre, Queensland Rail and Compare the Market Australia. Recently he held the esteemed role of Marketing Director for Domino's Pizza Indonesia.
Grant's sharp observational skills, coupled with his acumen in digital marketing, PR, branding and social media have earned him success and recognition. His abounding creativity has seen him bring countless 'big ideas' to fruition - both impressively and efficiently. His impressive academic achievements include a Bachelor of Psychology degree from the University of Western Australia and an MBA majoring in Marketing from Curtin Graduate School of Business.
Vicki Nagle is a highly experienced professional, having dedicated the past 20 years to developing her expertise in human resources. Her impressive career has seen her travel across Australia, the United Kingdom and even the Maldives. She brings an invaluable set of skills and experience to her current role as Chief People Officer for the UniLodge Group, which she was appointed to in March 2019.
Vicki is deeply passionate about helping people reach their full potential in their careers. She also strives to coach managers and support her team towards achieving greater success through her position. To bolster her knowledge further, Vicki is currently studying for a Masters in Employment Relations, on top of already possessing an MBA and Bachelor of Business (majoring in Human Resources).
Lizzie Wheeler is an experienced and accomplished Executive General Manager, appointed in June 2022 to oversee the leasing and operations of the growing Essence Communities portfolio.
With a background spanning over fifteen years across residential, retail, commercial and hospitality projects, she has developed an impressive breadth of expertise that enables her to offer a unique value-add service to all stakeholders.
Driven by her commitment to excellence in client satisfaction, Lizzie brings enthusiasm and conscientiousness to every sector she engages with. Before joining Essence Communities, she served with Fort Street Real Estate Capital, Comac Retail Property Group, Knight Frank and Wyndham Destinations Asia Pacific.