Edition 52

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Profile: VRQA Board Chair Ms Pam White PSM

Ms Pam White PSM joined the VRQA Board as Chair in March 2016.

Pam comes to the VRQA having held many executive positions in the Victorian Public Service including chief executive officer of the Victorian Bushfire and Reconstruction and Recovery Authority and acting chief executive officer of the Victorian State Services Authority.

A full biography of Pam is available on the VRQA website.

Pam spoke to Louise Mitchell, senior communications officer VRQA, about joining the VRQA.

What excites you most about joining the VRQA as Board Chair?

I have a passion for public policy, and the whole agenda of the VRQA is critical to public policy. It doesn't get much more important than the education of children and students. 

I'm excited to be joining for the review of the regulations because this is the time to influence the agenda. It's the time when you get to reflect on what's worked and what hasn't and what changes you can recommend to government.

Is there anything you would like to say to the VRQA's stakeholders? What would you most like the VRQA and its stakeholders to know about you and your approach?

I bring a deep knowledge of government to the VRQA Board, including policy making and regulation.

I've always been really passionate about the need for government to be transparent and fair. Working in government as a regulator, or any capacity, is an incredibly important position. You get to know things about people and organisations, you've got power to do things and you have to use that power fairly, transparently and carefully to achieve good outcomes.

I'm equally passionate about public servants acting fairly and transparently and I will bring that passion to the VRQA. From what I can see, that's what the VRQA does. It has prided itself on that, and it is an objective that I'm really committed to.

These are the values and behaviours that underpin a society that people like living in, feel comfortable with, feel safe in, and feel they are going to be fairly treated in. It's something we need to hold onto at all costs.

Is there a professional accomplishment that you are most proud of?

A couple of things. Child protection notifications were going through the roof when I took over as Deputy Secretary for Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Human Services. We decided to have a root and branch look at why this was occurring and what the solutions might be.

We developed a really good understanding of where all the notifications were coming from and looked at some quite different, non-prescriptive, ways of dealing with that. We funded groups of providers to come together to deal with local issues – schools, maternal and child health nurses and welfare organisations. From there, the child protection legislation was ultimately rewritten and a whole lot of new money came in to support those local initiatives. I was really proud of the public policy breakthrough and attracting a lot of money into the area.

The other one was introducing consumer-focussed funding into disability services. The program was called Making a Difference and it was for young children with a disability living with their families. We gave families a certain amount of money to spend on whatever made a difference in keeping the child at home.

Now I look at the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Making a Difference was the start of tying money to individuals. I'm sure consumer-focussed funding was looked at elsewhere as well but I look at the impact of Making a Difference as a public policy piece and I feel incredibly proud of that.        

There is a strong focus on education and training in the Victorian government at the moment with the Education State and other initiatives. What do you see as some of the opportunities for the VRQA in the coming years?

The VRQA is charged with making sure that schools and other organisations meet minimum standards to ensure that children and young people get a good education. We can continue in that role. However, with all the experience that the VRQA has, and drawing on information from the broader sector, we can also make a real contribution to a discussion about what makes education better.

To have the basic requirements for education in place is a prerequisite, we can't fall below that. Even from my brief experience of the VRQA, its wealth of knowledge gives additional insight into what are the other things that generate quality education. They might not be factors that the VRQA regulates or has got control of, but the knowledge comes from being involved with various schools that are doing a fantastic job and those that are struggling and trying to work out the elements that make that difference.

I'm looking forward to working with the VRQA and its stakeholders to continue this work.