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  • Nadine Brayley

Too good to waste: business expertise exported north

19 November 2012

A proposed "tropical froggery" in Innisfail which would house up to 26 unique frog species in a geodesic dome is benefitting from the expertise of a volunteer retired business person with extensive corporate sponsorship experience who will help get the exciting project leaping ahead.

The placement is a trial of an ARC and Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services-funded research program called SPARC-Volunteering (Skilled Professionals Assisting Rural Communities through volunteering).

Conducted by QUT PhD candidate Nadine Brayley, from the School of Psychology and Counselling, the program matches retirees with regional agencies which have business development needs.

Ms Brayley's research has found that talented business retirees (many based in metropolitan areas) are keen to work with not-for-profit organisations in regional areas for many reasons. The next stage of her research is to trial four placements in Far North Queensland.

Ms Brayley, who is working closely with the Cassowary Coast Regional Council to implement the volunteering trials, is a recipient of a Queensland Government Smart Futures PhD Scholarship.

She said two volunteers were taking up posts in Innisfail this month under the SPARC-Volunteering program and another two positions were still open.

"I found huge interest in the SPARC-Volunteering program in the first part of my study, with participants citing the opportunity to help rural communities grow economically and to experience rural life as key reasons," Ms Brayley said.

"For many retirees, the opportunity to continue to use their skills in a meaningful way is also a very important motivator for involvement.

"The froggery, for example, could become a major a tourist attraction and bring much needed income to the area. It's this sort of challenge and stimulation I have found that retirees with a wealth of business experience are looking for."

"The second volunteer taking up a position this month has experience in strategic planning within sports associations and will use his expertise to help the Innisfail Combined Sporting Association grow to increase the district's sporting opportunities and to hold regional sporting carnivals."

She said two volunteering positions are still open.

"We are looking for a person with Intellectual Property knowledge to help the Cairns-based Take Pride Program which runs a range of successful programs in schools that achieve positive outcomes for young people, protect and license its program," Ms Brayley said.

"The second position is for a strategic planner with the Cassowary Coast Industry Taskforce based in Innisfail."

SPARC volunteers may spend from several days up to six months working with their agency on a particular project with clearly stated business goals, start and finish dates.

"Volunteers can work out what suits them best. They can live in the community the entire time or they can spend part of their time there and advise by email or phone - the program offers a high degree of choice," Ms Brayley said.

"We now want to test the arrangement and if there are any challenges for the volunteers or agencies, find ways to iron them out. We assist with travel costs and accommodation and the communities offer home stays for those who are interested in this option.

"The program offers retired people a chance to continue using their skills in a flexible, short-term, environment."

To inquire about SPARC-Volunteering, contact Ms Brayley on 0419 388 673 or email nadine.brayley@qut.edu.au.

Further information may also be found at www.sparcvolunteering.com.au.

Related articles:

Skilled and ready to go: can retirees ease skill shortages in rural areas?

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, 3138 2999 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au