Jane Machin-Everill (1977): From Santa Maria Student to Executive Director

A few weeks back, we took a trip down memory lane, flipping through past yearbooks, where we stumbled upon a young Jane articulating her ambition to pursue a Bachelor of Arts. Intrigued, we reached out to her to discover whether she had indeed pursued this path. In this blog, Jane shares her time at Santa Maria College, career milestones, and leadership insights. 

Jane, take us back to your days at Santa Maria College. Are there any cherished memories or staff members who left a lasting impact on you? 

I was at Santa Maria from Years 10 – 12. My family had migrated to Australia from Kenya but I somehow had a posh English accent (some say I still do). I liked school and remember some amazing teachers – and some scary nuns! My mum worked in the front office for about six months while the secretary was on leave – that was fun having mum at school with me. I played hockey and still see the hockey coach Del Lussick regularly at Zumba. She never taught me but I remember she would wear high-heeled boots and a long flowing coat. She was not much older than us girls. As the Class of 1977, we have caught up regularly at the 5 and 10 year anniversaries. 

The 1977 yearbook reveals that you had aspirations to study a Bachelor of Arts at university. Did you manage to realise this goal?

I studied French and English at The University of Western Australia, which did not qualify me for much, but I have no regrets – I love languages. So, I went to WAIT (Curtin) and did a post-grad in library and information studies. My first job was at the Catholic Education Office, cataloguing books in its small library. That was a three-month contract, and I ended up staying three years. During that time, I did a Graduate Diploma in Education part-time over two years, as everyone in the office was a teacher, and I thought it might be a good career path. 

After graduating from the College, what path did you embark on?

I never worked as a teacher because I got into Public Relations. Father Nestor was head of the Catholic Education Office when I got there, but he retired, and in came Peter Tannock and a whole lot of change. Out of that came a position to write a school newspaper, and I got that job. I then moved to UWA as a writer and then to Curtin University as a Public Relations Officer. I got my first management role at the WA Department of Family and Children’s Services, leading a team of communications professionals – some of whom I took with me to other jobs when I left, and I am still in touch with many. 

Reflecting on your time as Director of Executive and Communications Services at the Department of Education, what achievements stand out as the ones you are most proud of?

At the Family and Children’s Services, I worked on some amazing campaigns on parenting that were internationally acclaimed. I was there for seven years during this time, my two youngest children were born. But it was a hard gig – As the child protection agency, you see and hear some pretty traumatic things. I was there when the Bali Bombings happened in 2002. The department played (and still does) a major role in the disaster response and recovery. I remember working 18 hours a day in the first weeks after the bombings – along with so many others who helped families through the terrible circumstances. 

I moved on to the Department of Training after that. Shortly after I arrived, it merged to become the Department of Education and Training and then split some years later to become simply the Department of Education. I was there for 16 years, but it was across three different organisations. Though I did a few different jobs, I always kept close to public relations and marketing – that is my passion. Communication is such as powerful lever for change, reform and improvement. 

I really love working on new things or complex things or seeing how things can improve. I was involved in some of the major reforms in public education such as student-centred funding, independent public schools and school staffing changes. 

Can you please give us a summary of what your current role is and what some examples of your daily duties include?

I joined the Public Sector Commission as an Executive Director five years ago. From working at the Department of  Education with 50,000 staff to the Commission with 150 staff, it was quite a change. But the Commission has a wide-ranging remit for the entire public sector of 170,000 staff, so sometimes it feels the same. The challenges are just as interesting and complex – like how do we lift capability across the sector in areas like financial management, or how can we increase the impact of leadership in agencies, or strengthen integrity?

Jane and her cavoodle Rafa

Being a strong leader is crucial in your role. Are there specific leadership principles that you follow, guiding your decision-making and team management, and that you believe contribute to your success?

I think leadership is about adaptability and flexibility but with a clear vision and a commitment to high standards. I love having young graduates come in to work with me and seeing them grow and develop – and then spreading their wings to other sectors and organisations and even careers. It is also important to have diversity –  of thought and experiences and skills. Getting this diversity into the teams I lead can really help to bring new ideas to the table, especially when the challenges are complex and the problems are hard to solve.

When you have time off, what are your favourite hobbies? How do you unwind and recharge?

Zumba is my exercise of choice – great music, great dance moves, great instructors and great group. It keeps me fit and active, although sometimes it is hard getting up the stairs at work the next morning after a high-impact session! I also water ski and have been perfecting the whip where you ski around the boat. I have had a few hairy falls along the way but am getting there. And I enjoy movies and live theatre  – my youngest son and I did a Tom Hanks marathon over the Christmas break. And travel is always on the agenda – not sure where to next but I feel the itch.

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