A passionate advocate for Australia’s regions and their peoples, John Cole is Professor Emeritus in the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland. He was founding Executive Director of the Institute between 2013 and 2019.
An engagement specialist with a three decade long track record of accomplishment in building collaborative partnerships between industry, government and universities, John is expert in sustainable development, resilience building, and sustainability innovation (including adaptive strategies for dealing with climate change). Between 2005 and 2014 he was an Adjunct Professor in the UQ Business School at The University of Queensland and from 2014 an Honorary Professor.
Most recently, until his retirement from full time employment in October 2021, Professor Cole was Pro Vice-Chancellor for Engagement at the University of Southern Queensland
In 2009 he established the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development at USQ.
Cole has held senior positions in all levels of government, industry and academia. In the Queensland Government between 1998 and 2009 he served as founding head of the Office of Clean Energy and as an Executive Director in the Environmental Protection Agency where he established and led the non-regulatory Sustainable Industries Division. For a short time, he also headed the Queensland Office of Multicultural Affairs.
In the 1990s he was a founding director and inaugural CEO of the precursor to the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia (BCSDA) the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (EMIAA) and its export arm, AUSTEMEX. During the 1980s, he was a professional historian before moving to Canberra in 1986 where he worked as a senior parliamentary policy adviser in the Office of the Leader of the National Party, the Rt Hon Ian Sinclair.
Cole has a Ph D in Australian demographic history from The University of Queensland (1982) and has written a number of history books. He was also recipient of a number of United States exchange scholarships and opportunities including a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship (1983) and participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program (1999).
In 2012 he received the Queensland Premier’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability and 2016 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for meritorious service to the community, the environment and higher education.
He is an honorary life member of the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia and a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.