7 September 2022

Interim CEO acknowledges CIT's contracts 'misstep' as she charts path forward

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
Woman in front of timber frames

Canberra Institute of Technology’s interim CEO Christine Robertson acknowledged the organisation had taken a misstep but it was time to focus on the future. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

The interim CEO of the Canberra Institute of Technology Christine Robertson, who was appointed in the wake of the multi-million-dollar contracts scandal, says it’s time to move on from the “misstep”.

Ms Roberston was appointed to the role in late July after the institute’s CEO Leanne Cover was directed to stand down in June while investigations into $8.5 million worth of jargon-filled contracts between CIT and a “skills and complexity thinker” commenced.

A series of six contracts are now being investigated by the ACT Integrity Commissioner, who told budget estimates hearings last month that the investigation was more complex than previously thought.

A previous hearing was told Ms Cover could be on paid leave until inquiries are completed, although that arrangement is being reviewed on a monthly basis.

It’s unclear how long the investigation will take.

Chris Steel speaks with two carpentry apprentices at CIT Bruce

Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel speaks with two carpentry apprentices at CIT Bruce. He’s called on the institute to reset and refocus on teaching. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Skills Minister Chris Steel warned the board that CIT must reset and refocus on teaching after it could not satisfy his ‘please explain’. He has also since proposed several changes to financial management at the institute.

But he has refused to comment further on the matter since the Commission launched its investigation, despite repeated calls from the Opposition for him to do so.

For Ms Roberston, that reset and refresh means restating the value of CIT to the community and redefining how its leadership team operates.

“Our leadership team – interim now – is working very closely with [Mr Steel’s] office and his staff and Skills Canberra to ensure we are working collegiately together,” she said.

READ ALSO Canberra Weekly company wound up, owing printer $1 million

When asked about possible reputational damage, Ms Roberston said it was about “living the values” the organisation stands for going forward.

“I think we need to articulate more clearly what’s important to us and where we are focusing,” she said.

“We’ve taken a misstep, but we are now putting all the steps in place we can to ensure the messaging [is right].

“It’s word of mouth – we can do marketing campaigns and talk about what we do – but it’s how our students and our community experience their interaction with us … they are the things that will reset our relationship with the community that we are seeking to rebuild.”

READ ALSO Retrofit local streets to encourage walking, cycling for short trips first: public transport association

In the month since Ms Roberston took the reigns, she said she’s already picked up on the “respect” the community has for CIT and that’s something she will continue to work for.

“We don’t take that respect for granted,” she said.

“I’m seeing every day the amazing work our teachers, our administrative support staff and our students are engaged in.”

Ms Roberston was formerly the Executive Director Quality and Performance at the Holmesglen Institute in Melbourne, a vocational education organisation. She held top jobs in vocational education roles at RMIT University and Charles Darwin University.

READ ALSO AMA, Opposition demand ACT hospitals improve child monitoring after deaths of two children

In the context of a national skills shortage, she is acutely aware of the role organisations like CIT must play to help.

“It’s time to make some changes and become more proactive, rather than reactive,” she said.

“Criticism of our sector has been that we are reacting to skills needs that already exist … we need to be in front rather than behind.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Brian Quirke10:28 am 08 Sep 22

Let’s hope the courses offered are relevant to the Australian and not only the ACT economy. My CIT prize-winning son’s full apprenticeship and qualifications are not recognised in NSW without further “re-education” at a considerable cost

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.