The AEN Fellowship Award is the highest recognition that can be bestowed on an individual by the Association. Specifically recognising their contribution to VET, and the advancement of Group Training in Victoria, Fellowships have only been awarded 9 times in the associations 37-year history – the last back in 2015.
Gary has held the position of Executive Director of the Group Training Association of Victoria, (the AEN) and in more recent years GAN Australia, for over 13 years. In that period, Gary has led the sector through significant periods of uncertainty, and political change. He has played a pivotal part in the growth of the network, enhancing its credibility, financial performance, and capacity to deliver on major Government initiatives, both at State and Federal levels. During this time, Gary’s commitment and hard work have been on constant display for all to see, but tonight, we formally recognise the amazing contribution he has made to Vocational Education and Training, and the advancement of Group Training in Victoria.
Gary is well known for his forward thinking and steadiness under pressure. Some will recall joint policy funding arrangements for GTOs between the Federal and State Governments. When the Federal Government withdrew funding for the sector across Australia in 2014, many of the States also withdrew their support. Gary was at the forefront in raising awareness of the network’s importance to the new Victorian State Government.
He was able to secure ongoing State based funding, that at the time allowed some GTOs in this State to survive. This was a stressful time for members, many coming off some tough years, so although it was only one of many, securing the States support was arguably one of Gary’s most critical wins on behalf of the members – all this at a time when the Associations resources were limited.
At the time, we all saw was Gary’s ability to deliver when it matters. What was less visible to most, were the hours and hours of work behind the scenes, which enabled that level of influence and critical outcome.
Through Gary’s leadership, the performance of Group Training in Victoria has never been stronger. He has positioned the network to deliver innovative solutions for Government and now enjoy a reputation for achieving quality outcomes for business and communities, and create opportunities for collaboration with state and federal governments.
With his many years of experience in the Vocational Education and Training sector, Gary has been instrumental in the creation of the OH&S systems used across Victoria and in other States. Gary has always made himself available to interstate associations when they seek assistance, and has been major contributor to the National Standards for Group Training Organisations, adopted by the federal government to provide consistency for providers and to maintain quality provision across the country.
Gary has also been a driver of innovation and program development for the benefit of the GTO and VET sector more broadly. For example, in 2015 Gary designed and implemented the Multi Industry Pilot Project. The project successfully provided opportunities for young people to make informed decisions about their career pathways through an industry taster model of engagement, creating more stability in placements and securing better outcomes for businesses. In this case, Gary was able to secure Federal funding, and project managed the program over 4 States.
Never has Gary’s leadership been more important to the Group Training sector in Victoria, or indeed tested, than the period since March 2020, when COVID-19 and the ensuing restrictions ravaged communities across the state. He has been a continuous support for the sector at both management and operational levels, providing critical assistance for a sector facing considerable obstacles that, in many circumstances, were unique to the location, both in metropolitan Melbourne and regional areas.
Importantly, Gary has also maintained a focus on the opportunities that have evolved from these difficult times. Funding opportunities have been sourced and shared with the network to assist the continuation and growth of GTO business, and to maintain the AEN’s reputation as an innovative partner to government and key stakeholders across the State.
This award is befitting Gary and all he has achieved over the last 13 years. I am not aware of any person that has had such a significant positive impact on the Victorian Group Training Industry within such a short space of time.