The new Chief Executive Officer of the Australia-Pacific Technical College, Ms Denise O’Brien, has taken up the reins of her new job.
Ms O’Brien had her first day in her new post at the APTC headquarters in Namaka, Fiji, on Monday 22 October. She succeeds Barry Peddle, CEO since July 2011, who is staying on for a month to ensure a smooth leadership transition.
Ms O’Brien will have oversight of APTC training activities in 14 Pacific countries, a responsibility for which her career as an experienced executive leader in the public sector in Australia has equipped her. Ms O’Brien has held a number of senior positions in the fields of vocational education and training and adult community education in metropolitan and regional multi-campus institutions. Her most recent post was as Senior Executive Director-Adult Learning Strategic Research at Box Hill Institute in Victoria.
Ms O’Brien’s professional experience has given her the background to relate to the challenges and opportunities facing the APTC staff at all levels and by students. She began in her career vocational education as a casual teacher at Wodonga TAFE in Victoria and rose to be a departmental head and manager of Wodonga’s international program. She was subsequently Associate Director at East Gippsland TAFE and then General Manager Education at Adult Multicultural Education Services before returning to Wodonga TAFE in 2005 as Chief Executive Officer. Under her leadership Wodonga won the Large Training Provider of the Year category of both the Victorian Training Awards and National Training Awards in 2008.
From late 2008 Ms O’Brien was CEO of Victoria’s Centre for Adult Education, in which role she led the CAE into a merger with Box Hill Institute, while keeping the CAE name, place and purpose intact. This was an imaginative partnership that paved the way in 2011 for a unique means of offering post-secondary education and lifelong learning in Australia.
As someone who considers herself fortunate to be able to work with and for people of different ages, abilities, language, heritage and culture and who has worked with Koorie groups and individuals, youth at risk, vulnerable adults, prisoners and adult learners in multicultural and general settings, Ms O’Brien is enthusiastic about facing the challenges of her new post in a culturally diverse setting. She is also a “passionate” believer in the “transformative nature of vocational education and training” as it benefits individuals, communities and employers – a passion that perfectly matches the APTC’s dedication to offering the highest-quality vocational education and Australian-level qualifications to Pacific Islands people.
Barry Peddle was appointed CEO of the Australia-Pacific Technical College when the college entered Phase II of its existence on 1 July 2011, having previously played a major role in the planning this new stage in the life of the APTC. In the words of John Maddock, Chairman of the APTC Board, Mr Peddle’ contribution to the APTC has been “tireless” and his leadership “outstanding”.
Mr Peddle has overseen the expansion of courses in both the APTC’s schools, Trades and Technology and Hospitality and Community Services. This has taken place partly in response to research studies commissioned by the APTC under his leadership, which revealed a demand by governments and employers for more vocational education programs to meet the Pacific region’s specific skills requirements. The refurbishment of the APTC health and community services training centre in Suva, Fiji, to offer a range of courses, is a concrete example of the APTC’s development in Phase II during Mr Peddle’s term as CEO.