From cooking pastry to workplace health and safety

Geoff Swan was the second employee of what would later become the AITC. His first role at the College involved driving the bus between Coolangatta and Beenleigh, transporting students between their own schools and facilities that offered construction and hospitality training. Fast forward some thirteen years later, and Geoff is the Work Health and Safety Officer at the AITC. While working in various workplace health and safety roles, Geoff completed his Postgraduate Diploma in Work Health and Safety, where he made the Dean’s list by ranking in the top 1% of a 25 000-student cohort. Geoff left high school at year ten, so he had to complete a bridging course before he completed his degree, and he was the first in his family to complete tertiary studies. Geoff says “it was such a privilege to have the opportunity to attend university, and I did not take it for granted. I may not have been naturally gifted, but I put in a lot of hard work.” He stands by the mantra ‘where there is ownership, there is commitment, and where there is commitment, there is ownership’.

Prior to his starting at the AITC, Geoff had a very different life as a pastry chef. After he left school in year ten, Geoff was on the lookout for an apprenticeship. Living in a small town, he had few opportunities, and his initial desire to become a carpenter wasn’t fruitful. He has a friend who owned a pastry shop, and offered him an apprenticeship, which he accepted and took to quite quickly. “There is a methodical process to cheffing,” said Geoff, “but there is opportunity to be creative as well. I loved the process of taking flour and eggs and making something out of them.” Geoff later moved to the Gold Coast, where he began working in the restaurant of a five star hotel, where he worked with 160 other chefs, serving 9 000 meals per day. “Working in a restaurant isn’t like a cooking show,” said Geoff “it was very professional. We had a great sense of camaraderie in what could have been a very stressful job. We beat it, it didn’t beat us.”

While Geoff loved his job in the restaurant, and it suited him while he was single, because he could surf in the mornings and work at night, it was not the best job for family life. So Geoff and his wife packed up and moved to Perth, where they worked in a missionary training organisation. The job included training up missionaries as well as doing community development work, which took them travelling all around the world. It was a risk for Geoff and his wife to leave his stable job and home, but he says they didn’t want to miss out on life, and wished to do something significant. Geoff and his family later moved back to Queensland, where he began working at the AITC. He still combines two of his passions by cooking at a summer youth camp every January.