A North Queensland researcher who has devoted more than 50 years to improving the socio-economics of rural and regional communities in Australia and developing economies has been honoured with The University of Queensland 2016 Gatton Gold Medal.
Dr Wallace Taylor OAM will accept the award at a 2016 Faculty of Science graduation ceremony for School of Agriculture and Food Sciences programs, at 11am on Thursday, December 8 at UQ’s Gatton Campus.
UQ Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Rix said the award was made each year to a UQ graduate who had made an outstanding contribution in their field.
“Wallace exemplifies how a UQ graduate can make a positive difference to industries and societies, by innovating with new technologies and embracing learning as a lifelong mission,” Professor Rix said.
“His career highlights his commitment to innovation, early adoption of technology and changing systems to benefit individuals, agricultural industries and communities.”
Dr Taylor earned a Queensland Diploma in Animal Husbandry from the Queensland Agricultural College (now UQ’s Gatton campus) and worked with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (DPI) for 30 years.
After some years as a traditional beef cattle husbandry extension officer, Dr Taylor recognised that improved industry representation, better leadership and improved communications between the cattle industry and stakeholders were essential for a more independent future.
In the 1970s he started a weekly page in the print media, became a stringer reporter for ABC Rural and co-produced ABC TV programs to help shift industry discussion to a more proactive position.
During the 1970s beef depression, he helped establish the Cattlemen’s Union, which fundamentally reformed producer engagement in the beef industry.
Dr Taylor studied science and management, followed by a PhD in rural community informatics from Central Queensland University where he also worked as an academic and established a rural development unit.
“The fallout from the beef slump on individuals, communities and industry reform processes highlighted the need for improved leadership and multi-stakeholder collaboration,” Dr Taylor said.
He instigated the creation of the Centre for Agricultural Technology – a collaborative venture that became the platform for him to facilitate the development and establishment of the Rural Leadership Program, which went on to become a statewide program developing the leadership capacity of 1200 rural people over 15 years.
Dr Taylor recognised early on that Information Technologies would be key communication tools for rural communities.
He co-developed and delivered the Australian Government Civil Society statement to the UN World Summit on Information Society in Geneva in 2003.
Dr Taylor’s expertise and international standing led to an invitation to establish an academic chair in Community Informatics at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa, and he co-developed South Africa’s National e-Skills Plan of Action. He has also held honorary professorships in the West Indies and Malaysia.
In Australia, he has helped build Beef Australia into a triennial expo of international significance.
Dr Taylor has assisted successive Queensland governments in regional economic development programs as board member, practitioner and policy developer; is a governor of the international Informing Science Institute, and an academic publisher and prolific academic author.
Photo: Inga Stünzner - Queensland Country Life