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Profile : Graeme Wood
The man who founded and managed the very successful online accommodation website Wotif.com is in the news for his latest contribution – a $15 million grant to kick start the Global Change Institute. at The new think tank’s focus will be a multidisciplinary approach to interconnected issues such as environment, population shifts, energy innovation, and water and food security. With a keen interest in sustainability, Graeme Wood is also the founder of Wild Mob, a not-for-profit organisation providing volunteers with the opportunity to assist with environmental conservation projects in remote and iconic locations across Australia.
Reported by QBR (11 March 2010):
Queensland businessman Graeme Wood is donating $15 million to a new University of Queensland (UQ) institute which will tackle problems linked to global-scale change.
Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley last night announced the donation by Wood, a founder of Wotif.com, when she launched the Global Change Institute (GCI) in Brisbane last night.
Wood immediately called on other successful Australians to join him in supporting the GCI, which will pit leading researchers against the most complex global problems.
“If we want to make a genuine impact on global issues concerning the environment and the effects of rapid population growth, the investment has to be substantial,” he says.
“Every gift counts but in order to make a difference, substantial support is necessary.”
According to Wood, universities are the logical places to find solutions to the world’s problems and therefore places in which businesses should invest on behalf of future generations.
“I call upon the business community, government and individuals to assist the University in bringing together the best national and international thinkers and practices towards solving these complex and pressing global issues,” he says.
“Our generation can and must make a mark in history by espousing altruism and responsible business practices to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.”
The impressive contribution will seed a $40 million building at UQ’s St Lucia Campus which will employ sustainable design, construction and operating practices, including Australia’s largest solar photo-voltaic grid electricity generator.
This will reduce the St Lucia Campus’s peak electricity consumption by 6 percent and carbon emissions by 1.14 kt CO2e per annum.
The GCI’s focus will not be limited to first-order environmental problems, but include a multidisciplinary approach to interconnected issues such as population shifts, energy innovation, and water and food security.
Rockhampton-born Wood co-founded the online accommodation booking company, Wotif.com in 2000.
With a keen interest in sustainability, he is also the founder of Wild Mob, a not-for-profit organisation providing volunteers with the opportunity to assist with environmental conservation work in projects in remote and iconic locations across Australia.
Wild Mob is a not-for-profit, non-political organisation launched in 2008 and is a registered Deductable Gift Recipient.
Founder and Chief Executive, Graeme Wood, is an Executive Director of the online accommodation website Wotif.com, which he co-founded in 2000. He supports philanthropic projects in the arts, education and the environment, and was announced the Suncorp Queenslander of the Year in June 2008.
The Courier-Mail 11 March 2010
GOVERNOR Penelope Wensley last night delivered the first speech in the University of Queensland’s
Centenary Oration Series. This is an edited extract.
ADVOCACY and awareness-raising may sound straightforward but, in my experience, having been involved with these matters throughout my working life as an Australian diplomat, it is a demanding task.
The aim is to seek to influence public perceptions and opinions, shape the decisions of decision-makers and, ultimately, to affect public debate and policy formulation. I am impressed and greatly pleased by the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute’s high ambitions in this area.
We speak and hear constantly about the complexity of global change, about the urgency of addressing it, about the need to galvanise public opinion. We are committing resources, rightly, to research, building collaborative networks among experts within and between countries but where are the communicators?
Where are the articulate advocates, the persons capable of explaining complexity, the voices of clarity and integrity that can be heard and trusted – capable of cutting through the noise and confusion of debate and competing claims, the distortions, the scaremongering, the misinformation and the disinformation?
It is enormously important that we continue to invest in scientific investigation, that we work to position and secure the place and reputation of Australian institutions, including our own University of Queensland, at the cutting edge of scientific and academic inquiry.
But we must take that further step of moving knowledge into the public domain.
This university’s medical research institutions have led the way by building links between researchers and clinicians, connecting laboratory to patients and doctors, taking information from “benchtop to bedside” and getting not only better results but breakthroughs.
In the same way, we need to focus more deliberately on improving communication capacity and capability and building credibility in this vital domain of information if the practical and attitudinal change that is needed in our communities to address global change is to be achieved.
This would bring about that shift from ideas to action and generation of political will to drive decision-makers.
In this area, I hope this institute will break new ground.
I have referred earlier to the “science wars”. I know that this term has a very particular meaning for some and that there is a very vigorous debate going on within the international scientific community around this issue. Leaving that very specific battlefield aside, my concern is a broader one, highly relevant to our Australian situation, to this new Global Change Institute and its future.
Since becoming Governor, I have championed at every possible opportunity the role and importance of science and scientific research.
I have promoted the excellence of Australian science and, in particular, of what is happening on the Queensland scene.
I have spoken often of how vital an input it is to good policy formulation and our capacity to defend and protect our national interests internationally, to sustain our prosperity and contribute to the resolution of global problems.
I have drawn attention to dropping levels of investment in some areas, notably agricultural research, where R & D spending as a portion of the gross value of agricultural production has dropped substantially in recent years.
I am reminded how critical science is for the development of those innovative, technological solutions we are seeking in so many areas of activity.
For a country that has benefited so greatly from scientific research this might seem unnecessary, but I believe it is a cause that we must continue to champion, not least because there is an observable assault on the credibility of science under way at this time – focused on the science of climate change, but with implications, potentially, for all areas of research.
There are studies available that show this is causing not just confusion and uncertainty in the public mind, but a degree of disengagement from science by some younger people.
There are also studies that suggest that the level of public education on science generally is “shallow”. This is another reason why I welcome so warmly the creation of this Global Change Institute at this time.
With the wealth of expertise available to it, the extraordinary strength and richness of the scientific institutions functioning at such high levels within the University of Queensland to inform its work, even before that work gets under way, it is well positioned, I believe, to address these issues: to change public perception, to add depth to public debate and knowledge, to change those trends of disengagement into involvement, to animate and energise the national debate on critical national and international issues – and, in so doing, enhance Australia’s capacity to meet the challenge of global change.
I wish it well in this complex but vital endeavour and it is now with great pleasure that I launch officially the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute