Bushfires, earthquakes and now a pandemic — Michelle Edge has seen them all

Michelle Edge, Chief Executive, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia

Michelle Edge, Chief Executive, Primary Industries and Regions South Australia.

Michelle Edge, the Chief Executive for Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), was interviewed recently by the South Australian Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, Erma Ranieri, as part of the Virtual on the Couch Series.

Michelle began as Chief Executive during the peak of COVID-19 in South Australia a few months ago, and reflected on her early experiences in the role. She had just come out of two emergencies in New Zealand, one around bovine tuberculosis and mycoplasma bovis, and the other being the earthquakes.

Michelle has found the public service environment very welcoming:

‘It’s quite unique to have the engagement at all levels across government that I’ve observed here in South Australia, which I think’s really terrific …

I think that COVID has probably brought out people’s natural abilities to be more understanding and more tolerant of each other, which is a good thing in the workplace, and certainly something that assists in building a good culture.’

She described how the agency had responded to the challenges of COVID-19:

‘PIRSA’s got a huge operational element to our work. And so understanding those activities and then the impact that some of the best practices would put on those activities, so far as protecting people’s health and wellbeing during the pandemic, was one thing we needed to get understanding of.

And so very early on we formed an incident management structure …

It meant that we had a governance structure set up internally which involved ICT, Human Resources, Finance, all of the business units and operational people, to get a hold of what needed to put in place to safeguard people’s wellbeing, and how we needed to respond across the directives issued to the public service.’

Michelle went on to describe the sorts of activities the agency continued to undertake in its support of industry and the community:

‘These were things like how we conduct food safety audits, how we go and deal with inspection, how we facilitate our certification programs, how we deal with disease management — ordinarily we’re at the animal end, this is a human matter, but regardless we’ve got similar activities in epidemiology that are ongoing.’

During the interview Michelle spoke about the importance of interpersonal communication and her leadership approach in supporting staff during the pandemic. She also answered questions sourced from IPAA members and the wider South Australian public sector.

A link to a video of the interview is available below.

On the Couch
with Michelle Edge