Former GEGAC CEO Shellee Strickland with Acting CEO Josh Tuiono at GEGAC last week. Photo: Jake Lynch/GEGAC

GEGAC began a critical period of transition last week, with the planned departure of CEO Shellee Strickland. 

Shellee joined GEGAC in a temporary capacity in March of 2022, with the organisation struggling through a period of uncertainty and on the verge of entering administration for the second time in recent history.

Having successfully guided GEGAC through that period, and spearheading a foundational revamp of the organisation over the past 12 months, Shellee extended her initial 1-year contact in March of this year to ensure GEGAC was on solid footing for a leadership transition.

With the recruitment process for a new GEGAC CEO now underway, Executive Director of Culture, Joshua Tuiono, has stepped into the role of Acting CEO.

Josh and his family have a deep connection to GEGAC.

In the late 1960s, his grandfather, Robert ‘Jumbo’ Pearce, and his grandmother, Marion Pearce, played important roles in the creation of a dedicated Aboriginal medical service that was the precursor to GEGAC, and both continued to be key figures in and around GEGAC in the following decades.

Josh’s mother, Michelle Pearce, started working at GEGAC when she was 16, and worked in many roles before becoming an Aboriginal Health Worker in the 2000s.

“I feel proud to be able to play a role for this organisation that has meant so much to so many in our history,” Josh said last week.

In a tearful farewell at a staff gathering last Thursday, Shellee urged everyone that works at GEGAC to rise to the challenge now before them, and to seize the historic opportunity they have been given to secure the legacy of GEGAC’s founders and continue to serve community into a new era.

“Don’t look around for someone else to do the work,” she said. “Put your hand up, take on the responsibility. Whatever your role is here, step up and be a leader in that space. You’ve shown over the past 12 months that you are all capable of incredible things. It’s time now to see what other incredible things you can do.”

In an email to all staff on Friday, Josh echoed Shellee’s departing message, reminding staff of the importance of unity and cooperation at this critical juncture. 

“Not a single one of us can replace Shellee. But together we can,” he said. “The GEGAC we are trying to build does not have one outstanding leader. It has many outstanding leaders, everywhere you look.”

 “So, on my first day as Acting CEO that is my ask of you: Help me do this by rising to your own challenges. Help us do this together.”

“Our community is watching what happens now at GEGAC. I think we’ve got everything we need at GEGAC right here, right now, to make the next chapter of our story a proud and successful one, a time to celebrate.”

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