Monday 19th Nov, 2018

THE GRILL: Rachel Johnson


What does your role entail?
I lead the new team called the Victorian Ports Corporation (Melbourne). We are a statutory authority created by the Victorian Government following the successful completion of the lease of most of the commercial operations of the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

We commenced operations on November 1, 2016 assuming responsibility for Vessel Traffic Services for safe navigation, waterside emergency management, towage regulation and management of the Station Pier terminal and West Finger Pier. Station Pier is Victoria’s primary cruise vessel and Tasmanian ferry terminal.

What are some career highlights?
In late 2006, I worked with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War. After flying in from Cyprus in a ‘fit for purpose’ Mi-8 helicopter, I was part of the movement control team coordinating the reinforcement of the UN military force. This involved troops and heavy equipment coming in by air and sea and then planning and executing the convoys to their final locations on the border with Israel. I met fantastic people in both the UN and the contributing troops but more importantly from meeting the Lebanese who had been impacted by the war I have gained a first-hand appreciation of the plight of people in conflict zones around the world.

A happier and more recent highlight was last month when I was invited to be the birthing Mother for the Svitzer Eureka, the newest tug to join the port here in Melbourne. Apart from the waste of that wonderful champagne ending up in the river, I like that I have been part of the welcome of a new vessel to the port.

Where did you work previously?
My logistics career started in Gladstone with Boyne Smelters, where I was the superintendent of metals and material handling. From there, I joined Grainco as their terminal manager in Gladstone.

I left Central Queensland to join Patrick General Stevedoring as the Queensland manager. When Patrick and Toll formed Pacific National, I was the general manager of the Grain Division for the transition from government ownership to the new business.

After Pacific National, I joined Linfox as vice president of Strategy and Marketing and from there I moved to WestLink M7 as the general manager. Just prior to Victorian Ports, I was a deputy director general in TfNSW responsible for Freight and Regional Development.   

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A pilot, I was inspired by the Battle of Britain as a young girl and the aviation industry and people that were “The Few”.

What was your first job?
After completing a BSC, my first job was as an aerodynamicist with British Aerospace PLC, UK. I worked on the development of the Tornado, a two-seat, all-weather, day/night attack and reconnaissance aircraft. We must have done good work as it has been in continual service with the RAF for over 30 years.

Do you have a family?
I come from a large family. I had five siblings, four girls and a boy. Five of us are engineers and three are running their own businesses, one in the IT sector in Finland. One sister was always keen on art and she became the first Middle Eastern representative for Christies Auction House. I think it is quite an interesting family and we have strong family bonds. There have always been plenty of nephews and nieces to be an auntie to.

What are your hobbies?
When I have time, I love sailing, skiing and cycling. A few years ago I gained some sailing qualifications and I am looking forward to spending time on Port Phillip Bay next season.   

What’s your favourite television program or movie?
A memorable movie was Avatar watched at IMAX in Sydney in 3D.  Fantastic and sorry to see IMAX cinemas closing around the world.  They were ahead of their time and couldn’t keep up with making movies. More recently, I enjoyed Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

What’s your favourite cuisine/meal?
I love Italian and here in Melbourne I am spoilt for choice. Riccardo’s at Albert Park is my current favourite.

What Australian do you admire?
Professor Fred Hollows was a straight-shooter. A specialist in treating the eye disease trachoma, he stomped through the Outback helping Aborigines keep their sight. Between 1974 and 1976, his teams screened 100,000 people. After giving sight to indigenous Australia, he did the same in Africa. The wild colonial boy of Australian medicine with the gruff voice and tender touch was probably the first doctor to give life to the “aid abroad” crusades that have become a calling for medicos with a conscience. Hollows died in 1993 of cancer, but the sight he gave to others lives on forever.

What social issue do you feel strongly about?
I feel strongly about protecting the vulnerable members of society, particularly children and animals as well as protecting our irreplaceable environment.

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From the print edition April 6, 2017

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