Case Study

“The people that I have met here are open, they are smart, they are top of their field, and they are really welcoming to new people.”

- Joel McGuinness

When the opportunity arose to interview for the role of Geelong Arts Centre CEO, Joel McGuinness did not know a thing about Geelong. So, he started looking into the city and region, and saw the kind of city he wanted to live. Joel travelled across the country from Western Australia five and a half years ago and has not looked back.

“It felt like a really exciting time to be in Geelong. There was this real critical mass of people and ideas shaping the city and region; an optimism and sense that if you have a good idea here you can make it work. I really liked that,” Joel said.

“Geelong may feel like an industrial city at first glance but if you scratch the surface, there is this a sub-culture here that is really tenacious and innovative; it is creative and it is exciting.”

The Geelong Arts Centre was established in 1981 and is the major provider of arts experiences in Geelong and the G21 region. Each year, the Arts centre welcomes, close to 180,000 visitors and 15,000 artists across multiple theatres studios and creative spaces (average attendance pre-COVID). It is also home to the Creative Engine which fosters artist development and career pathways.

Joel says the experience he is having in overseeing a ‘once in a generation’ redevelopment totalling over $180 million redevelopment supported by the Victorian government, and due for completion this year, is a proof point that there are major leadership opportunities in Geelong region and across a diversity of sectors.

“There are examples of leadership opportunities like this everywhere you turn. You only need to look at the capital investment happening, not just in the arts but private sector and government investment across many sectors. And, in addition to our well-known players like WorkSafe and the Transport Accident Commission, there are increasingly high-profile corporates setting up offices or expanding their presence in the region,” Joel said.

Joel’s advice to anyone considering pursuing a career in Geelong is that they can be confident in achieving work-life balance whilst also advancing their career.

“The people that I have met here are open, they are smart, they are top of their field, and they are really welcoming to new people,” he said.

“Whether you want to work for a big business or want to run your own business, the opportunity here is just awesome. You are connected to Melbourne, connected to the rest of the business community and if you are willing to be involved and contribute, the networking that might take up to five years in a major capital city can take six months here.”

And on work life balance?

“I just think it’s a great lifestyle here. We bought a house in Belmont because whilst my partner Dave was happy to move to Geelong and commute to Melbourne, he still wanted to be able to walk to shops, cafes and restaurants. We can still do all of that and it’s an hour to Melbourne door-to-door. Everyone we know in Melbourne has a minimum 40-minute commute time so why wouldn’t you live somewhere that you can have a great lifestyle, actually achieve a house with a backyard or garden. For me it’s five minutes to work so whilst I work very long hours, there’s still work-life balance because we are surrounded by lots of cool stuff and it’s all close by. We have the best of both worlds. I can be at Torquay beach in 20 minutes after working – I know because I have timed it!”