Dr John Cole OAM
John Cole OAM
Honorary Professor
  • PhD , History (University of Queensland)
  • BA Hons, History (University of Queensland)
+61 7 334 68100
UQ Business School

Professor John Cole OAM is Executive Director of the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland.  He heads the university's strategic research program in the humanities and social sciences with a focus on research that helps build resilient communities and economies in regional Australia.  Originally, a demographic historian, he has more than 30 years’ experience in senior government, industry and community positions and is known internationally as a leader and expert in sustainable development and resilience.  He is a member of the policy advisory board of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland and a member of the Queensland Plan Ambassadors Council.

Professor John Cole is the Executive Director of USQ’s Institute for Resilient Regions and founding director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development at the University of Southern Queensland. The Institute delivers applied research helping regional communities to adapt successfully to change, prosper through sustainable business and development, maintain good health and well-being and exploit technology and infrastructure for resilience. In 2016, Professor Cole was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the environment, to higher education and to the community. He has been a long-time adviser to industry, government and communities on sustainable development. In 2012 he was awarded the Queensland Premier’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability, for promoting sustainability innovation in Queensland’s regions and industries.

Professor Cole was a founding Executive Director of Queensland’s Environmental Protection Agency from 1998 to 2008. He was also founding head of the Office of Clean Energy and in 2007 was Assistant Director General of Multicultural Affairs Queensland. He was a recent board member of the Banksia Environmental Foundation, and is currently a committee member of the Queensland Trust for Nature, and a current member of the customer and community reference group of Queensland Urban Utilities. John has participated in a number of US-Australia scholar exchange programs as a postgraduate student (1979) Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow (1984) and International Visitor (1999).

Current appointments:

  • Executive Director, Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Southern Queensland (since 2013)
  • Honorary Professor, University of Queensland Business School (since 2014)
  • Member, Policy Advisory Board, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (since 2016)
  • Member of the Financial Management Committee, Queensland Trust for Nature (since 2012)
  • Member of the Customer & Community Reference Group, Queensland Urban Utilities (since 2010)

Previous appointments:

  • A/Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research & Innovation, USQ (June - Nov 2012);
  • Director, Australian Centre for Sustainable Business & Development USQ (August 2009 - June 2012);
  • CEO Office of Clean Energy , Queensland Government (2008-09);
  • Executive Officer for the Queensland Premier’s Council on Climate Change (2008-09);
  • Executive Director, Sustainable Industries Division, Environmental Protection Agency Qld (1998 – 2008);
  • Head of Multicultural Affairs Queensland, Queensland Government (2007)
  • UQ Business School co-anchored Australia’s first business school executive intensive course on corporate sustainability (Between 2003 and 2008);
  • Adjunct Professor 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 (2001-08);
  • Founding Chief Executive Officer of the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (now known as Sustainable Business Australia) (1991-98);
  • CEO Keep Australia Beautiful Council in Queensland (1998); and
  • Parliamentary Policy Adviser in Canberra (1986-89).

Professional Memberships & Engagement:

  • Facilitated Garnaut Climate Change Review forum on technology development implications of global warming December (2007);
  • Co-chaired the Queensland Government’s Ethanol Industry Development Committee (2003);
  • Member Queensland State Government IDCs on Sugar Industry Reform, Rural Adjustment, and Queensland’s Greenhouse Response Strategy, Clean Coal Technology, Sustainable Housing, SEQ Rural Futures and the Energy Policy;
  • Independent Director CRC Soil and Land Management Adelaide (1995-98);
  • Member of the sustainability advisory Board of the CRC for Coal in Sustainable Development (2001-08);
  • Australian Government’s Advisory Council on Environmental Employment and Advisory Group on International Environment Issues (1990s);
  • Board member, Australian Government funded Environment Training Company (1994-1996);
  • Queensland Environment Protection Council (1996-98);
  • Trustee, Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

Awards & Recognition

  • Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) (2016) for service to the environment, to higher education and to the community;
  • Queensland Premier’s Award for Leadership in Sustainability (2012), for promoting sustainability innovation in Queensland’s regions and industries;
  • US Government State Department,  International Visitor Program on sustainable development (1999);
  • Australia-US Fulbright Commission, Fulbright Fellowship (postdoctoral) 1983.


  • PhD (UQ) in Australian demographic history (1981).

Specialist expertise:

  • Organisational leadership and development;
  • Strategic thinking and innovation;
  • Executive training;
  • Regional resilience and community development;
  • Sustainability advice and training;
  • Climate Change and Energy;
  • Innovation diffusion; and
  • Change agency.


  • Sustainable Business Australia
  • Committee for Economic Development of Australia
  • Chamber of Commerce & Industry Qld


Order of Australia Medal (Jan 2016)
Premier of Queensland (June 2012) - Premiers Award for sustainability leadership - “[Professor Cole….has made an outstanding contribution to business sustainability in Queensland”.
United States Government, Department of State (July 1999) - Guest of the US Government, participant in the USIA International Visitor Programme - Sustainable Economics in New Millennium – month long six state study tour of sustainable development projects in the USA.
Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship (Feb 1983)
Newberry Library, Chicago (1979) - Exchange scholarship to attend summer school study in quantitative methods for historians.
Australian Government Postgraduate Scholarship (1978-1981) - The University of Queensland
University of Leicester (1977) - John Nichols Prize for English Local History – an international history competition