Australia, and Queensland in particular, has shown the world how to deal with a pandemic when it comes to protecting people and preserving lives. Economically we have also performed above expectations, although that response
has been patchy, with some sectors like tourism, hospitality and international education carrying a disproportionate load when it comes to the negative economic impact.

The real question is, what next? How do we use this platform, once vaccination rates reach appropriate levels, to come out of the pandemic using what we have learned to build a better Australia in the 21st century.

Some realisations have been hard-earned. For the past 15 years, Australian universities have invested in research, using the revenue from international education. The pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of that model.

We will need our national research and development funding to maintain our own capability and to increase and improve our translation into real world outcomes as researchers and entrepreneurs work together to build the new century’s manufacturing base through smaller, targeted operations utilising Australia’s natural advantages.

Clean energy, abundant rare earth mineral deposits, some of the world’s best universities and research centres, and an innovation culture gives Australia an amazing opportunity to continue to provide energy to the world in a cleaner, greener way while moving those, particularly in regional Australia and States like Queensland, who rely on fossil fuel industries to transition to new jobs in new energy sectors.

QUT has focused on bringing out the best from our partnerships, whether it is new processes to generate battery components with innovative companies like Lava Blue creating jobs in regional Queensland, the amazing agri-tech solutions providing future food options for regional Australia and the world, or our green energy and hydrogen work which we expect to grow far more in the years ahead. Increasingly creative solutions to recycle and manage waste will also be vital to the future.

There is work to be done. International students and tourists must return, and quickly. Not just for our universities and regional economies that rely on tourism, but for our CBD traders, farmers and cafes which rely on the itinerant workforce and inner-city residents for their livelihoods.

However, the forced shift in our economic base, the optimism and investment that comes with the winning of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics, not to mention the resilience we have built into our society, and particularly some of our youngest new students and workers, bodes well for the future.

Time to lean in and look past the challenges and the current international instability to the Queensland we want to be – to build on the optimism, innovation and courage of our people while making the best use of our natural advantages and lifestyle to lead rather than follow into the future.