Elaine Bensted

Chief Executive of Zoos SA, previous Chief Executive of TAFE SA
Adelaide South Australia
Business and Law
Senior Leadership
Industry Engagement

Elaine Bensted approaches challenges with a mindset of learning. Her unique perspective comes from her extensive experience working in the education system, despite having never worked in a university. Elaine’s qualifications include an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy and Management, as well as qualifications in accounting and finance.

Elaine had a child in her mid-twenties, and rather than pursuing opportunities interstate, chose to support her young daughter and unwell father in Adelaide. A young mother in the male-dominated banking-sector, her competitive nature signalled to her bosses that she would rise to any challenge presented, and she was offered major role as a Project Director. This was an exciting learning curve for Elaine, and allowed her to play a part in the bank’s cultural change.

After 17 years working the private sector for ANZ, Elaine moved to the public sector. She started as a Manager of Corporate Services in local government, and went on to become the Director of Corporate for DFEEST, and then the Deputy Chief Executive with responsibility for TAFE SA. She led TAFE SA for seven years, and was instrumental in its transition to a statutory authority. In this time she learned a great deal about politics, and learned to work reactively within the constantly changing political landscape. In 2012 Elaine moved to ZOOS SA, where she currently holds a position as Chief Executive, a position she took while they were under significant financial strain. In this organisation she appreciates the freedom she has to create the management culture and ethos, and feels her work is achieving core objectives.

Elaine has never seen work-life balance as a challenge - in fact, she doesn't like the term work-life balance, because she loves her work. Elaine believes that we should all put energy into what we think is important: for example, she doesn't iron, because she doesn't think it's important. She is grateful that she's always had the freedom to pursue both career and family, as her husband was a very active father. Her daughter is now grown up,  studied biology and lives abroad.

The importance of mentoring is apparent to Elaine - she had informal mentor at ANZ who supported her in early years, and believes that she has been fortunate to have a successful career and is keen to support others in developing theirs. Elaine offers perspectives and experience from a number of different industry sectors, including public, private, industry, nonprofit, and education. Having worked in a male dominated environment, Elaine can offer insights into different approaches to navigating relevant challenges. Although she hasn't worked in university, she does work closely with universities and is on university advisory boards, and she understands the needs for universities to connect better externally. As an employer and a research partner she knows what external organisations are looking for from new graduates and research partnerships today and into the future. She enjoys meeting and mentoring interesting people from different industry sectors and backgrounds; it offers her new perspectives and helps her step back from her day-to-day and see a bigger picture. Elaine is a strong believer in giving back the community, and as such, the payment she receives as a mentor will go back to the ZOO conservation program.