Vale Richard Pratt

Richard Pratt has succumbed to a battle with prostate cancer and there’s no doubt that many words will be written on paper destined to end up as recycle materials at his VISY Industries plants. There’s a harmony in that thought – all those words of type and paper discussing Richard Pratt will be recycling through the world, ‘living on’ as it were in perpetuity due to Pratt’s recycling empire. Much of the type will discuss his business empire, his foibles and interests, his wonderful family and his philanthropy – perhaps as the most well known benefactor (if not the largest) of a whole range of issues throughout Australia. What will be less known and what I recognise implicitly, is that I owe my career in no small part due to Richard Pratt

The Australian Foresight Institute emerged from a direct funding injection from the Pratt Foundation who were very keen to support the idea of social foresight as a way forward for Australia. The tenured position enabled Professor Richard Slaughter to design and pursue the teaching of Strategic Foresight as an independent Master of Science program at Swinburne University, a course subject that at the time it would be reasonable to say, was not without its detractors inside the University.

I was lucky enough to be one of less than about 30 people to have acquired a Master’s of Science, Strategic Foresight post graduate qualification. There’s many more that have a Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma in Strategic Foresight. And none of us would be in a position to hold that qualification if not for the Pratt Foundation’s funding of the program which paid for the ‘chair’ (Richard Slaughter’s expertise) and allowed the students to pay for the course.

Following the departure of the previous Vice Chancellor the Master’s program has since been folded into the standard Business streams (could that be due to a lack of foresight?) thought the essence of the course is holding on to existence. Despite an apparent preference by some that the course would just ‘go away’, people keep turning up to ‘major’ in Strategic Foresight. The reasons for this desire are even clearer now that it is so obvious that the business skills taught in standard business courses just aren’t up to dealing with the increasing complexity of the world – something more effective is needed in addition to the useful (though standard) business skills found inside most tertiary business programs

Richard Pratt and his wife Jeanne had foresight. Their use of their considerable wealth to support a raft of charitable, not for profit and forward looking entities suggest that this foresight was also highly strategic. The Pratt Foundation exists to help make Australia and therein the world, a better place. As past students influence their workplaces and clients, encouraging, cajoling and teaching them about how to go about enhancing their approaches to their roles, by applying the wide variety of Strategic Foresight methods, Richard Pratt’s legacy in the area of a better thinking Australia will continue to evolve and improve. You might not read as much about that in the mainstream media but the impact will be no less significant.

As a benefactor of the Pratt Foundation’s foresight I am eternally grateful. My thoughts are with his family. Vale Richard Pratt

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