My Brilliant (Accidental) Career

My Brilliant (Accidental) Career | Laini Bennett

Alison Covington, AM, overcame a life-threatening illness to launch a not-for-profit that is not only helping millions of Australians every year, but also protecting the environment. Here, the Good360 Australia Founder & Managing Director shares her inspiring leadership journey, including how she is an accidental leader.

When Alison Covington AM received her Order of Australia in 2022 for significant service to social welfare and sustainability programs, it would have come as no surprise to those who knew her. For a decade, the inspirational MD of not-for-profit Good360 has been transforming the lives of 15,000 Australians a week thanks to her organisation’s incredible work. Since its formation, Good360 Australia has rescued $400 million RRP of unsold, brand-new goods from landfill, redistributing them to 4000 charities, who pass them on to people in need; and, following on from natural disasters, COVID, and the current cost-of-living crisis, the need is great.

Covington launched Good360 Australia after battling a rare, life-threatening illness. She was the successful Managing Director of an international transport company when a deadly inflammatory disease hit, bringing life as she knew it to a halt. When she made it through the other end several years later, Covington knew she’d been given a second chance for a reason: to use her skills and experience to help others.

The quiet achiever

Covington grew up in the Illawarra, south of Sydney, Australia, in a family that didn’t believe in traditional gender stereotypes. “My parents always said I was capable of anything,” she says. “My brother and I were treated equally.” 

Career Tip:

Covington believes gender equity begins in the home and that it is essential for children to have role models that support this.

“My mum and dad were equal in my eyes and their own eyes,” she says. “So I just don’t understand this whole inequity in society between men and women.”


When Covington joined the transport industry in her early 20s, she never envisaged running the company. She describes herself as an “accidental leader”, saying she wasn’t ambitious enough to play the office politics required to climb the ranks and kept being promoted “by accident”. Really, it was her work ethic that propelled her upward. 

“I kept seeing people not doing their jobs, and I kept doing their jobs for them. So I ended up in one of the most senior roles in the industry as a female,” she says.

Soon, Covington was the softly-spoken Managing Director of Transdev. When male union leaders postured aggressively in negotiations, yelling, and threatening to go on strike, Covington let them have their say, then quietly put her point forward. 

“That sort of terrorising is not my way of management,” she says. “I believe that you can achieve more by being quieter.” 

My Brilliant (Accidental) Career | Laini Bennett
Alison Covington, AM

Struck down 

Covington was in her early 30s, married with two young sons and working on a major tender for Transdev when her vision suddenly blurred. She’d been struck by cerebral vasculitis, causing a lack of blood flow to her brain. 

The impact was devastating and debilitating, her life changing instantly. 

“My brain was shutting down. I went from a very high-level role – to just functioning in society,” she says. She struggled to think and speak. She became sensitive to noise and bright lights, making leaving the house challenging.

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time Covington’s life had been abruptly thrown into chaos. At just 13, her idyllic childhood ended when her father died suddenly from a heart attack, aged 40. She was determined that her sons would not know such grief, that she would be there to help her husband raise them. 

It was six long years before Covington could function in society again, supported by her husband, brother, and close friends. While she recovered, Covington started an online business selling children’s clothing, which she could do from home. But she wanted to do more. 

“I was very lucky to survive this, and I have a set of skills that were accidentally collated,” she says. “I thought: How could I use those for good? That’s when I started to look at the not-for-profit world.”

Career Tip:

Finding work-life balance as a leader isn’t easy, and Covington doesn’t claim to have the answer. Instead, she constantly reassesses what works for everyone she needs to be there for.

“I keep asking myself, have I got this right?” she says.


A concept that ticked all the boxes

In 2012, Covington encountered the US-based organisation, Good360, while reading Pro Bono News, and loved the concept of redistributing unsold goods to people in need. The model would leverage her business skills and her logistics and tech experience.

She set the article aside and continued with her life, but Covington couldn’t stop thinking – and talking – about all the unsold goods in Australia going to landfill instead of helping people in need.

“If you feed somebody, they’re hungry again a few hours later. But if you clothe people, give them toiletries, give them furniture, it changes the outcomes,” Covington says, explaining that it means they are no longer homeless, which opens the door to education and a career. In other words, the concept is life-changing.

Eventually, her husband told her to stop talking and take action. Covington prevaricated, worried that she should get a ‘proper’ job to help support the family after all her years of not working. But after a heart-to-heart, they agreed that they had enough. “We could have lots more, but we’ve got enough, and that’s the difference. There’s a lot of people that don’t have enough,” she says.

With the decision made, Covington approached the Good360 US head office. Before long, she presented them with a business case and received the green light to move forward. 

And so began the next phase in her so-called accidental career.

Career Tip:

Throughout your career, seek people you can turn to for support, either informally, through family, friends and colleagues, or formally through a coach

“Whether you just need to get something off your chest, laugh, or seek advice, you need to have a variety of people who can provide you with that support,” Covington says.


An uphill journey

It’s one thing to want to do something; it’s another entirely to get it off the ground. The next few years were a hard, lonely slog: raising money, building technology, and convincing others to join her on the journey. Many others might have given up, but Covington was determined to use her second chance to help others.

The biggest hurdle Covington initially faced was helping people understand that $2.5 billion of goods a year does not sell and could go to people in need. “Nobody understood that businesses don’t sell everything. They see stuff in stores with 50% off and assume everything got sold,” Covington says. 

Luckily, commercial property company Goodman grasped the idea and became their first corporate partner in 2014, providing pro-bono office and purpose-built warehouse space. By 2017, BIG W joined as a partner, donating 400,000 items for families in need that Christmas alone. Within four years, Good360 had received over $100 million of donated goods and connected over 10 million items to Australians who needed them most. 

Unlike food rescue charities, Good360 does not receive any significant government funding, so Covington relies largely on generous philanthropy and corporate partners. Nonetheless, she is determined to reach their goal of $1 billion of goods distributed to Australians who need them most by 2025.   

Surround yourself with great people

Today, Covington says one of Good360’s greatest successes is her team of 35. “We now have a team of passionate people, creating that ripple effect. We have an enduring concept and purpose now, with so many more people taking it forward,” she says.

My Brilliant (Accidental) Career | Laini Bennett
The Good360 team in action.

She regards her role as a leader to build her team’s self-confidence and self-belief, helping them realise their potential to step up and take on more responsibility. “I think many people don’t believe in themselves as much as they should. That’s really important,” she says. 

For this reason, Covington encourages female leaders to surround themselves with people who support them in their personal and professional lives; she feels fortunate to have her husband as her greatest champion and believes it is essential to have someone enabling and empowering you, whether it’s your life partner, your friends or your family.

“If people are not empowering you to be your best self, why are they in your life?” she says. “They shouldn’t be allowed to have time in your head if they’re not positive in your space.”

With that advice, it’s clear it’s no accident that Alison Covington is a great leader.

Alison Covington’s Leadership Lessons Learned:

  1. Don’t try to do it all; don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on the capable people in your team.
  2. Empower your team to believe in themselves so they can take the business forward. 
  3. Learn to overcome any discomfort you may feel about talking yourself and your business up. Amplify the good your business is doing.


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Image credits: Good360

© Laini Bennett, MBA 

One comment on “My Brilliant (Accidental) Career

  1. Working with Alison on the good 360’board and before that as a media partner , you realise what she has built is nothing short of amazing. Over the next 5 years many of us want to help Alison dream to help charities and disadvantage schools not only get new goods they need for people but to in-fact allow charities to spend the money they spend on these same goods to achieve more. This really is the charity all should support along with your passion charities as it touches so many

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