Bendigo TAFE executive named amongst Victoria’s top 50 public sector women leaders


Bendigo TAFE executive Michelle Johnston has been named one of Victoria’s Top 50 Public Sector Women for her leadership, commitment, strength and contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presented this evening, the 2021 Top 50 Public Sector Women – COVID-19 Heroes ceremony celebrated award recipients and their outstanding responses to unprecedented demands on the public sector to guide and manage Victoria through the pandemic. 

 As Bendigo TAFE’s Chief People, Culture and Strategy Officer, Ms Johnston led the organisation’s COVID-19 response of more than 1,200 staff across 10 campuses in regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne.

 This included ensuring Bendigo TAFE was able to continue training more than 7,500 students remotely by implementing a loan laptop program for vulnerable students and ongoing student check-ins.

 It also involved planning Bendigo TAFE’s post-pandemic workplace and learning environment by identifying what was needed for staff and learners to thrive.

 Ms Johnston said, “It is an absolute privilege to accept this award, however it represents and recognises the many people at Bendigo TAFE who have contributed to our ongoing service delivery during the pandemic, and our ability to provide a safe environment that enabled us to continue to provide education and training.”

 Supporting staff to respond with agility to COVID-19 disruptions was a key consideration for Ms Johnston. She introduced daily stand-ups with Bendigo TAFE’s education delivery leaders to problem solve, plan and coach them through the new challenges.

 She also introduced a leadership development program focusing on building leaders who are authentic, empathetic, constructive and accountable, with capabilities to solve technical and adaptive challenges and lead Bendigo TAFE to be a modern workplace and a modern learning environment for students and industry partners.

 It was also vital for the TAFE’s community to work together to maintain a COVID safe environment. Under Ms Johnston’s leadership, Bendigo TAFE partnered with Bendigo Community Health Services and commenced a campaign to increase vaccination rates across our communities, with information sessions featuring health professionals organised for staff and students to provide facts and debunk myths.

 Despite COVID-19 and remote working and delivery, Ms Johnston successfully led a series of innovative organisational improvement initiatives in 2021 focusing on people, process and technology, with the student at the centre of all decision making. This included the commencement of a culture change program, service and resource modelling, teacher capability enhancement, process improvements and the ongoing preparation for reregistration in 2022.

 Bendigo TAFE’s Chief Executive Officer Sally Curtain congratulated Ms Johnston on her achievements.

 “Michelle joined Bendigo TAFE in January 2021 and within a short time she has significantly transformed our organisation, turning the challenges of COVID-19 into areas of opportunity and improvement,” said Ms Curtain.

 “On behalf of Bendigo TAFE, I congratulate Michelle on being named one of Victoria’s top 50 public sector women. This recognition is well-deserved, and we are incredibly lucky to have her as part of our TAFE and the Victorian public sector.”

 Having served in the Victorian public sector for over 27 years, Ms Johnston plays an ongoing role in supporting and mentoring others in the sector to achieve professional and personal success. She is also leading the development and implementation of Bendigo TAFE’s gender equality action plan.

 “As a mother to two daughters, I see it as my responsibility to lead by example and positively demonstrate that women have a critical role to play in leading organisations and the community more broadly; nothing rewards me more than knowing I have been able to make a difference to the success of others,” said Ms Johnston.

 Organised by the Institute of Public Administration Australia, the Top 50 Public Sector Women (Victoria) – COVID-19 Heroes presentation ceremony was held at Melbourne Town Hall and honoured a total of 80 women leaders for demonstrating exceptional leadership during COVID-19.

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