The City Leaders Forum is a joint initiative between Griffith University and YP Gold Coast showcasing the people in our city, who are driving innovation and change within the business community.

Finding a way forward after COVID

It has been a year of firsts for many. For YP Gold Coast, 2020 marked the organisation’s first decade of industry impact, and a first all-female panel for the City Leaders Forum.

The atmosphere was abuzz as four inspiring industry leaders covered an array of topics in the ‘Learning to Unlearn’ panel discussion.

Acclaimed Creative Producer, Thea Jeanes-Cochrane, said people across the world had to unlearn, reevaluating what was important during the pandemic.

CEO of Home of the Arts, Criena Gehrke echoed this sentiment and shared how she changed her reaction to the shut down from tears to innovation.

“We had to ask ourselves ‘what is it that we do? So, what is most needed right now?’. We knew there would be a gap from when artists would be eligible for JobKeeper so we wanted to keep them alive… We focused on humanity,” she said.

“We as a business also learnt that our immediate response took time. You develop this idea, then present a business case, then you tease it out and then you overthink it, and six months has passed. But you can be quick in your response and deliver what you believe in.”

As an academic, Dr Sarah Gardiner, Deputy Director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism, studies trends and projections but says COVID-19 has thrown all of that out of the window.

After a question from the audience, Dr Gardiner confirmed the unpredictable nature of the current environment means all we can do now is look towards experience and knowledge to read the market and meet the need.

“To be a market leader you really going to have to be on the edge of the shifts and know the consumers mindset to ask well if that’s the way they’re thinking, what can I offer?” she said.

Local resident Danelle Harth expressed her concern about the lack of visitors visibly evident in areas such as Surfers Paradise, and asked what other industries are growing to help balance the impact of the decline in tourism activity.

MP Angie Bell responded, conceding the Gold Coast is the “hardest hit region in Australia” but said other industries were thriving, including manufacturing and health.  

Ms Bell said the federal government is investing in manufacturing, namely; future manufacturing; vaccine manufacturing; glass manufacturing; and defence manufacturing.

“We need to be pushing the non-traditional key pillars so when tourism does bounce back the other key pillars help the city to grow,” she said.

Griffith University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, Professor Mario Pinto, believes that it is a combination of creative arts and science that will produce innovative ideas with a competitive edge.

“Wayne Gretzky, a famous Canadian hockey player used to say ‘you have to know how to skate to where the puck is going to be’ and that is what we have to do and where the education sector can play a role, but not by itself. We have to embrace our partners and work in a collaborative fashion,” he said.  

Also at the event, YP Gold Coast President, Mary Grant, announced a refresh of Great Ideas for the Gold Coast, a YP initiative that produces five ideas for the growth and prosperity of the city.

The initiative has already proven successful with previously proposed ideas coming to fruition – opening the door to a refresh which will be delivered in partnership with Griffith University and Civity.

Written by Samantha Gray, Student - Griffith University.

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