Changing of the guard

October 04, 2017

Australian Munitions Mulwala General Manager Manufacturing Operations Geoff Mitchell retired last Friday after five years in the top job and happy knowing the big Mulwala facility's future was secured for five years through to June 2020 - and that it has had a smooth leadership transition.

"Longer term it will be about preparing for potential contracts with the Commonwealth and if that bears fruition we will be working to a higher rate of production output," Mr Mitchell told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.

"When I first started here in 2004 the volume of material going out was less but as I leave, the tempo of production has markedly increased across the site.

"It's good to have continuous, increased volumes of powder out of the plant and our high explosives people are working hard to meet contracts."

Australian Munitions is a business of Thales Australia Ltd and is the largest supplier of explosives ordnance to the Australian Defence Force with a successful track record of delivering ammunition, propellant, explosives and related services.

Mulwala focuses on high quality propellants and explosives, and employs some 400 people whilst Benalla's workforce totals about 250.

For the past five years, Mr Mitchell has naturally worked closely with his Benalla counterpart, Trevor Gunn, who takes over the Mulwala reins.

"It's a unique situation. It's the first time we've done a transition like this with the Australian Munitions leadership team working together over the five years," Mr Gunn said.

The retiring general manager has a lengthy career in the explosives business after 13 years with Thales. Previously Geoff worked at Orica - a provider of commercial explosives and blasting systems, starting as a marketing officer with ICI Explosives in 1988.

Mr Mitchell's original time with Orica, prior to 1988, was spent as a research scientist after obtaining a Ph-D in Physical Chemistry.

He said he was proud of his working career. "I've enjoyed it. It's been great having fantastic people to work with and working with good companies," the 63-year-old said.

"It's been a privilege to have the opportunity to be working here. Thales has been good to me and I’ve tried to be good for Thales."

And that's the case as far as his superior for nearly four years, Director Ammunitions, Warwick Spencer was concerned. "Geoff is an absolute gentleman, without a doubt, always very focused and considerate of the people, always putting people first," Mr Spencer told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.

"He was always diligent when it came to safety. He loved the business and was always wanting to learn."

Of his new appointment at Mulwala, Mr Gunn said he takes very seriously, responsibility for all aspects of the business on site, highlighting the importance of really good and competent staff in all areas of the business. He considers safety as "number one, two and three".

"The culture at Benalla and Mulwala is that employees really do drive great safety outcomes," the 54-year-old who's been at the helm at Benalla since October 2011 and has vast experience as a facilities manager and project manager with various companies, said.

Mr Gunn resides in Wangaratta. He and wife Vicki have three daughters. Injury curtailed a younger Trevor Gunn's football career which was predominantly reserves footy. But his interest in the sport resulted in him being president of Avenel Football Club in the late 1980s and early 90s, and Seymour Football Club President early this century.

He describes Mulwala/Yarrawonga as "a great local community, obviously very tight knit". "One of the things we focus on here at work is history," Mr Gunn said. "History is important.

"With changes on around us, we like to acknowledge long time employees who have made such a fine contribution over many years."

Mr Gunn looks forward to working with those fantastic people to which Mr Mitchell referred, who wishes everyone at Mulwala the very best for the future.

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