SuniTAFE Executive Announces Resignation

General Manager – Operations David Harris announced to staff last week that he will be leaving SuniTAFE after seven years in the role.

Moving on from SuniTAFE is bittersweet for Mr Harris. However, after commuting between Mildura and Adelaide for more than a year, he has decided it is time to move to Adelaide permanently to be with his family who are based there.

Mr Harris’ connection to SuniTAFE, known as Sunraysia College of TAFE at the time, started in 1981 when he commenced his electrical apprenticeship while working at Riverside Packers.

He completed the course across four years and was awarded Apprentice of the Year for each of those years.
Then, in 1991, after obtaining a Bachelor of Business at RMIT he came back to Mildura from Melbourne to run his family Real Estate business. At the same time, he also joined SuniTAFE to use his new skills as a tutor in the Business department for several years.

It was not until 2017 that Mr Harris would return for his longest and most impactful role at SuniTAFE: General Manager – Operations.

“I had worked with former CEO Geoff Dea for many years before he got the job here at SuniTAFE,” Mr Harris said.

“It was a rewarding journey to do that, and when he came to SuniTAFE he asked me if I wanted another challenge. I had been in my job for six years at that point and I was ready for that new challenge.

“So, when I started my job here in 2017 it was my role to help the Institute to be more efficient, sustainable, well organised, and on track in terms of where the government wanted us to be.”

During his time on the Executive Leadership Team, Mr Harris has been involved in several key milestones for the Institute.

Mr Harris built the concept of the SMART Farm. He was a key player in pushing the campus to integrate technology into a horticultural environment.

Previously, it was a traditional farm training facility. Today, the SMART Farm campus participates in trial testing of the latest technologies to inform research and innovation in horticulture more broadly, while training students to be future-ready employees.

In 2019, SuniTAFE was named Large Training Provider of the Year at both the Victorian Training Awards and the Australian Training Awards.

Though Mr Harris presented to the judging panel for these awards, he attributes the success to a wide range of people across the Institute.

In the following year, the Covid-19 pandemic uprooted the Institute’s very way of life. Proudly, SuniTAFE was able to adapt and continue to operate and deliver training throughout this period.

Shortly after the Institute was returning to normal, Mr Harris was required to step up to the position of Acting CEO alongside General Manager – Corporate Services Di Schmidt, wherein they oversaw the organisation for a six-month period.  

Finally, in the last 12 months, Mr Harris has been a key player in the process of onboarding current CEO Brett Millington.

“Now that Mr Millington has settled in, I feel like it’s time for me to let SuniTAFE continue without me so that I can transition to what is more important to me: my family,” Mr Harris said.

“I’ve worked with so many amazing people. The passion in this place runs strong and it will continue to run strong when I’m not here.

“I’ve loved so many aspects of working in a TAFE. It has such a broad spectrum of people, personalities, and challenges. It’s like a microcosm of the real world.

“I famously coined the phrase ‘touched by TAFE’ at one stage, because so many people in this community have been impacted by our TAFE in some way.”

As his time at SuniTAFE reaches its conclusion, Mr Harris expresses his optimism for the Institute moving forward.
“SuniTAFE is an extremely valuable community asset,” he said.

“We’re so much more than just a trainer of apprentices.

“No matter what happens in the future, in terms of the way it’s run or changes that are made at a government level, or everything else, TAFE will still have a very important place in the community and the region.”  

Mr Harris’ last day will be 3 July 2024. He wishes SuniTAFE well as the organisation continues to deliver on its Vision and Values.

Image: General Manager - Operations David Harris, General Manager - Corporate Services Di Schmidt, and former CEO Geoff Dea receiving Australian Large Training Provider of the Year Award from The Hon. Shannon Fentiman in 2019.