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Female founders inspire for Festival of Change launch

Published:29 July 2021

Female Champions of Sustainability panellists Sandra Richards (left), Dr Kerry Arabena, and Sally Quinn.

CQUniversity's annual Festival of Change is back on campuses and online, with a big program celebrating and inspiring social innovation.

The launch event, Female Champions of Sustanability, was facilitated by CQUniversity Deputy Chancellor Dr Robyn Michinton, with an engaged online audience.

Townsville-based panellist Sandra Richards founded QPlas Pty Ltd in 2019, and leads the company as chairperson after a lifetime as a sheep, wool and beef cattle producer, and more recently an African Mahogany timber grower.

“When you’re on the land, one of the most important things is caring for your land, and for a long time I’ve been amazed and horrified at the amount of waste plastic being generated through farming,” Sandra explained.

“That’s especially an issue here in North Queensland here, where we are next to the Great Barrier Reef, and if you put waste in the ground, it can wash down into the waterways and into the sea.”

“So we needed a solution, and wanted to make something of use, using waste plastics, and also waste from timber plantations.”

QPlas has recently commissioned a washing and pelletising plant in North Queensland to produce wood-plastic hybrid products like tomato stakes, survey pegs, and construction coatings.

Sandra is also exploring social enterprise through iActivate, CQUniversity’s online social enterprise course, along with other North Queensland business leaders, thanks to a partnership between CQUniversity and Smart Precinct NQ.

Also on the panel, Sally Quinn is CEO and co-founder of Green Collect, an award-winning social enterprise innovating in the waste industry through circular economy approaches.

And Professor Kerry Arabena is a descendant of the Meriam people from the Torres Strait and former social worker, who has led Indigenous health and sustainability initiatives across Australia, and founded consulting social enterprise Karabena Consulting.

CQUniversity Director of Social Innovation Lara Carton said CQUniversity was proud to be supporting and celebrating social enterprise.

"Our consumption-driven society is unsustainable, for our environment and for us - so it was inspiring to hear from big-thinking female founders who are solving those real issues, to ensure people and planet can thrive together," Ms Carton said.

"It's especially exciting to see the impact that the iActivate cohort are making in North Queensland, and I'm delighted that Sandra was able to share her insights as part of our Festival of Change."

Mrs Richards will also join other iActivate participants for a Social Enterprise Showcase at Smart Precinct NQ in Townsville on Wednesday 5 August.

The second week of the Festival of Change features many more free on-campus and online events, registration still open at cqu.edu.au/festivalofchange.