Peter Emery is the Director of PASE Enterprises, and a former QCOSS board member. During the 2018 QCOSS Annual General Meeting he was made an honorary lifetime member in recognition of his contribution to the organisation during his nine-year term on the board.
We sat down to talk to Peter in the wake of the nomination to ask him about QCOSS, the social services sector, and the social challenges still in front of us as we celebrate our 60th year.
What does it mean to you to have become an honorary lifetime member?
It's a great honour, I think probably a little bit undeserved to some extent. I was just ordinary board member albeit I had supposedly special skills, so I was on the board as a special member appointed by the board - supposedly for my governance skills. But it was a it was an honour, I didn't really expect it so I'm very humbled by it.
I think I'd probably brought to some extent, because I wasn't in the sector - in other words not full-time employed in the sector, but sitting on other not-for-profit boards, I probably bought a commercial edge to the conversation. And maybe that was appreciated, but I remain humbled by the honour of being a life member.
What does QCOSS mean to you?
QCOSS is the peak body for the disadvantaged - and I think always has been, in it has had that reputation for a very long time. I think it's very highly regarded, and I think in particular in the world of policy, in the areas of policy and an advocacy - I think that's too strong suits if you like.
How has QCOSS changed in the time you have been involved?
I think it has changed. I think it's evolved - I think over time, over those 10 years or nine years that I was a board member, it's evolved to be probably leaner. Probably more professional, probably more focused - which are, all of which I think is a good thing.
With QCOSS in it’s 60th year, which moments of social change have been most memorable?
60 years is a long time isn't it? I've been alive for all those 60 years, rightly or wrongly, so it is a long time. Social change - where do we start? Some of those things have evolved over that 60 years, e.g. how we treat our Indigenous brothers and sisters. You know that's - I think there is a greater recognition of them, greater cultural awareness, that's taken a long time and we've got a long way to go in terms of that.
The world of women and how their contribution to society - that's changed a lot over those 60 years, and again more recently you've seen, you know we're moving towards equality. Still got a long way to go in terms of pay equity, in terms of how we just - how we continue to treat women in society. Still a ways to go, but it's a pleasing evolution I think in terms of that.
What are some challenges?
The challenge for QCOSS is probably going to be remaining relevant in this more complex and competitive world. So remaining relevant to all of the stakeholders - but particularly, obviously, the members of QCOSS who have been very loyal and will remain loyal. And I'm hoping but that will be the kind of the challenge I think in the future. The world is getting more complex and as I say, more competitive.
What are some challenging social issues in 2019?
I'm concerned about some things. So I think we've become a more polarized society, and that probably concerns me a little bit. The poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer - so that's always going to be a challenge and definitely a challenge for QCOSS in the elimination of poverty. Well that makes their road even harder.
We've lost a little bit of that sense of community leading to isolation, and social isolation. Technology's had a part to play in it and maybe has a part to play in fixing that. And social media, maybe that the answer – but it's also the cause at the moment.
Then I think there's a role for QCOSS to play and QCOSS is doing well in terms of its projects - in terms of its place-based projects, they're important.
How we get the community back - how we as a society actually get back to being a community, and caring about our fellow Australians. And I think we've lost a bit of that.
We have to individually do these things, and we have to get local and be local I think. And that will then breed and build that community, you know. And let's just start local - you won't build it global, you know, so that's how we've got to kind of, build out in our community.
But let's be positive, you know, that it's still a wonderful country and it's still a wonderful world. So let's not lose sight of, you know, the good, and worry too much about the bad.