Rockhampton’s 50 Most Influential People: Number 5
Like ‘em, love ‘em or “never heard of ‘em”, these are your locals who strive to make Rockhampton a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Some of them were born here and some of them moved here to make the most of the family-friendly facilities, opportunities for employment or to spend more time with their extended families.
Whether they’re a community leader or someone working hard behind the scenes, we think you’ll be surprised how humble and grateful our Fifty Most Influential are.
MORE COUNTDOWN HERE: Number 10, Number 9, Number 8, Number 7, Number 6...
Number 5: NICK KLOMP
The measure of a leader is not just how good he or she can be in the good times, according to CQUniversity’s Vice-Chancellor, Nick Klomp.
Professor Klomp said his appointment to CQUniversity last year was “relatively straight forward” to begin with, introducing himself to staff and students, and working on a new strategic plan.
“I think CQUniversity is one of the most important universities in Australia and I use that word advisedly,” he said.
“If one of the universities in Sydney, for example, disappeared tomorrow, the students would just catch another bus to another campus on the other side of town.”
“CQUniversity on the other hand is a big part of life in Rockhampton and the other regional towns we operate in.
“We’re the major tertiary educator, a major employer, and in many ways we’re a unifying force for the community.”
He was delighted to learn CQUniversity recently ranked among the top 100 Young Universities of the World.
“I don’t know if even the Rockhampton locals know how much we’re punching above our weight,” he said.
“There are about 25,000 Universities in the world and we’re in the top two per cent.”
But like every other industry, the University sector took a beating after Covid-19 restrictions shut down campuses and prohibited international travel.
The downturn of international student enrolments alone, which will be felt for years to come, represents a 30 per cent loss in income, which amounts to tens of millions of dollars.
Professor Klomp oversaw the much publicised decision to reducing staffing at the University, including just over 200 voluntary redundancies.
“During tough times like these, I remind myself of the mission to look after the 36,000 students around Australia, and the 2,500 staff,” he said.
“It is important that CQUniversity emerges from this challenge stronger and more agile than ever before.”
As it stands, the University offers more places to domestic students than it gets paid for by the government.
“I wish they were more generous, but I don’t control the Commonwealth funding cap,” Professor Klomp said.
“These are hundreds of students we might have turned away but, as Vice-Chancellor, that’s one decision I do have discretion over, so we welcome them into our regions to study.”
Part of CQUniversity’s recovery plan involves further strengthening ties with other community stakeholders around Central Queensland and further afield.
A quick phone call to Queensland’s health services at the beginning of the lockdowns – “to see what needed to be done” - saw CQUniversity hosting the fever clinic where locals could go to get tested for coronavirus.
And CQUniversity is now in conversation with CQ Health and the Council to see how the Canning St campus might better serve the community.
“Maybe it can be used to expand the hospital, outcomes for the region, training for medical students or to provide aged care accommodation,” Professor Klomp said.
“It’s more efficient for us to transfer all our teaching and training activities to the North Rockhampton campus, and to avoid duplicating our services.”
Professor Klomp describes as “aspirational” the partnerships which CQUniversity continues to develop with primary and high schools around the region.
“There are young people in our community who don’t have someone in their family who went to university, to plant that seed in their mind about undertaking tertiary study,” he said.
“It’s about breaking down those cultural barriers and ensuring that people get a fair shot at going to university or TAFE regardless of who they are or what their families’ educational background looks like.”
Meanwhile, he cites partnerships with Indonesia, our nearest neighbour, as a step forward for CQUniversity.
Professor Klomp is disappointed at the lack of understanding of some people such as the One Nation party which recently took out a newspaper ad decrying international students.
“International students are absolutely critical to the cultural diversity and economic survival of regions like Rockhampton; they give back so much more than we realise,” he said.
“We offer a global product which attracts students from 36 different countries, and they bring the funds which help us keep open our teaching operations in regional areas such as Gladstone, Bundaberg and Rockhampton.”
In a role which generally last for ten years, Professor Klomp said he had the responsibility to “do the right thing by regional Australia”.
When he was lecturing in environmental management, Professor Klomp had students from other countries and cultures in his class.
“I was talking about whether or not to cull kangaroos one day, and one Canadian student said, “Our wildlife eats the tourists”, and he was talking about bears,” he said.
“Then an Indonesian student started talking about pythons and tourists.
“That’s what university is all about, it’s an opportunity to share ideas with people from all over the world, to form lifelong friends and professional contacts.
“That’s what I love about CQUniversity.”
Number 4 will be revealed at 9am Saturday 04 July.