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Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement), University of Southern Queensland

Professor John Cole OAM is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) at the University of Southern Queensland. His research interests include:

* History of the Australian federation
* Resilience theory
* Regional socio-economic systems
* Sustainable development in regional Australia
* Economic and environmental policy

He was the Executive Director of one of USQ's strategic research institutes - the Institute for Resilient Regions. Previously he headed a specialist sustainability innovation research centre at the University of Southern Queensland, the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development.

He joined USQ in August 2009 and for six months from June 2012 was acting Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation. Before joining USQ he established the Queensland Government’s Office of Clean Energy, responsible for developing Queensland’s Renewable Energy Plan which was launched in June 2009.

Well credentialed in promoting innovation for sustainable development and industry competitiveness and regional resilience, in June 2012 Professor Cole received the Queensland Premier’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability. This prestigious Award recognised accomplishments in government, industry and community development in a range of roles spanning parliamentary adviser, technology commercialisation company manager, CEO of an industry association and its export arm, senior government official and research manager.

Professor Cole is well known nationally and overseas as a thought leader on sustainable development and is much sought after as a conference speaker on the issues of sustainability as they relate to government, business and communities. In December 2007 he facilitated a national forum for the Garnaut Climate Change Review on the technology development implications of global warming. As acting DVCR at USQ in September 2012 he led a successful mission of four USQ research centres to China building collaborative links with seven leading Chinese universities under the auspices of the Australia-China Science Research Fund
During 2008-09 he advised the Queensland Premier’s Council on Climate Change and was the principal author of the Council’s first working paper: “Achieving early and affordable greenhouse gas reductions in Queensland: strategies for voluntary household and lifestyle changes”.

For 10 years between 1998 and 2008 John Cole served as a founding Executive Director of Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency promoting sustainability innovation in business, industry and government. During that time he headed several major initiatives including the non-regulatory innovation-focussed program development and delivery division, Sustainable Industries (1998-2008), EPA Marketing (2006-08) and the future-focussed think tank, Sustainability Innovation (2008).
Through 2007 he was also head of Multicultural Affairs Queensland. During his time at the EPA he administered more than $150 million in innovation and technology partnerships with Queensland industry and communities.

An active industry educator in business sustainability, between 2003 and 2008 Professor Cole co-anchored Australia’s first business school executive intensive course on corporate sustainability. He has also been an Adjunct Professor in industry, organisational and community sustainability at three leading Queensland universities - Bond University’s Mirvac School of Sustainable Development, the University of Queensland’s Business School, and Queensland University of Technology’s School of Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering. He remains an Adjunct Professor at UQ Business School.

For close to 25 years he has served in a variety of senior public and industry positions in areas as diverse as technology commercialisation and community development. Between 1991 and 1998 Professor Cole was the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (now known as Environment Business Australia). Thereafter he undertook an organisational renovation of the Keep Australia Beautiful Council in Queensland before joining Queensland’s EPA. During the late 1980s he was a parliamentary policy adviser in Canberra.

Professor Cole has been a Queensland representative on the Standing Committee of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council of Australia and New Zealand and the standing committee of the National Environment Protection Council. In 2003 he co-chaired the Queensland Government’s Ethanol Industry Development Committee. He served on State Government inter-departmental committees responsible for Sugar Industry Reform, Rural Adjustment, Queensland’s Greenhouse Response Strategy, Clean Coal Technology, Sustainable Housing, SEQ Rural Futures and the Energy Policy. He has been a member of the Professional Advisory Board, School of Environment, at Griffith University, the Advisory Board of the Centre for Environmental Management, Central Queensland University, and the Advisory Board of the Mirvac School of Sustainable Development, Bond University. In Victoria he was for several years a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Sustainability Institute at RMIT. Between 2001 and 2008 he was a member of the sustainability advisory Board of the CRC for Coal in Sustainable Development,

In 1999 Professor Cole was a US Government International Visitor studying sustainable development in a cross section of US communities. During the 1990s he was a member of the Australian Government’s Advisory Council on Environmental Employment, the Australian Government’s Advisory Group on International Environment Issues, and the Queensland Environment Protection Council. Between 1995 and 1998 he served as an independent director on the Board of Management of the CRC for Soil and Land Management based in Adelaide.

Between 2001 and 2006 Professor Cole was a Board member and Deputy Chair of the Keep Australia Beautiful Council in Queensland and was a foundation signatory to the establishment of Green Cross in Australia in 2007.
Current extra-curricular and community service involvements include membership of the Board of Directors of the national environmental organization, the Banksia Foundation based in Melbourne, the financial committee of the Queensland Trust for Nature, the Community Consultative Panel of Queensland Urban Utilities. Professor Cole is also an active member of the Research Committee of the Brisbane Institute.

Professor Cole has a Ph D in Australian demographic history. John is married to Rosemarie White, Director of Nursing at Brisbane’s St Andrews War Memorial Hospital. They have two children: Harry and William.


  • 2009–present
    Director Aust. Ctre for Sustainable Business and Development, University of Southern Queensland
  • 1998–2008
    Executive Director, EPA Queensland


  • 1982 
    The University of Queensland, Ph D History
  • 1977 
    The University of Queensland, BA Hons History


  • 1987
    The Making of Men: Churchie 1912-1987, Booloorong
  • 1984
    Shaping A City: Greater Brisbane 1925-1985, William Brooks


Medal of the Order of Australia OAM