Speech - The Sharpe Centre For Social Impact
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Introducing the Sharpe Centre

Michael Sharpe

These are extraordinary times for our community. Australia is a great country and we have an extraordinary place in the nation with a unique environment to call home. Our region is significant. Transport, education, health and welfare are important issues along with the need for a sense of community. Growing up here, raising a family here and building a business here provides a lifetime of experience to get things done. Its about leadership, determination and accountability. Always has been.


Our aim at the Sharpe Centre For Social Impact is to facilitate community driven conversation, participation and a forum for a brighter Central Coast. We believe that because the Central Coast is facing unprecedented economic, environmental, social and cultural challenges that new innovation is a key to turning these challenges into opportunities to create a better Central Coast for all of us. Our vision is “a thriving Central Coast for all of us.”


My advisory team includes people you may well know, Rotarian Ray Southeren OAM, Gaye Crispin is from the Retail Traders Association, Peter Hurley is a former District Governor of Apex, Tony Jones is a Director of the Swansea RSL and is involved with the community of Catherine Hill Bay, Helen Mortimer has formed the Artist Co-operative at Gosford and CindyLu Fitzpatric OAM is a former Commonwealth Games Medalist and a member of the NSW Sporting Hall of Fame. We are pulling together a team of people from a diverse background and from all across the Central Coast.


The Central Coast is one of the most beautiful areas of New South Wales with vast untapped potential. Located just north of Sydney and not far from Newcastle with stunning beaches, waterways and parks it’s just waiting to boom. But it has not received the attention it deserves for far too long. We locals know the Central Coast is a fantastic place to live and raise families. When I was young my Mum and Dad would take my brothers and I on family drives where we would end up throwing a frisby in the park or kicking a ball and even flying a kite. We would go to The Entrance and eat fish and chips from Clifford’s. Down to Wisemans Ferry for a BBQ, across to the Terrigal Lagoon for the paddle boats, play cricket at Patonga and putt putt golf at Forresters Beach. The reptile park in those days was at Wyoming and we had a waterslide at Ettalong. I attended Umina Primary School. Our school motto was Soar High and our school song included the line to soar high in everything we do.


I am the eldest son of Carol and Ron Sharpe. A few of you know my brothers Richard and Hayden. My father is an inspiration to all of us having lived his life quietly helping others in service to the community. Dad was recognised for his service as Gosford City’s Citizen of the Year in 2005 and on Australia Day 2006 received the Order of Australia Medal for community service and social welfare organisation support. Dad is the current Chairman of the Order of Australia Association for NSW.


Moving directly from school into the family business Sharpe Bros, I have built a career in the Australian infrastructure industry. Sharpe Bros is a multi award winning leader in the roads industry, providing innovative services for road surfacing and maintenance operations throughout Australia. The company can trace its roots back over three generations and more than 60 years.


My brothers and I were awarded Business of the Year in the 2009 Gosford City Australia Day Awards and we have won the National Safe Work Award and the NSW WorkCover Award for best workplace health and safety practices in small business. I have worked with the Federal Safety Commissioner to produce a best practice Case study about Sharpe Bros for distribution to Australian workplaces and developed Patents and Trademarks for road machinery technologies designed and manufactured for the repair and maintenance of roads.


For our community work and success in the business world my brothers and I were awarded the New South Wales Family Business of the Year by the peak body for families in business, Family Business Australia.


We have always been involved with community work and have provided our trucks and equipment during times of natural disaster, community clean up days and even street parades. We are strong supporters of the arts community on the Central Coast and recently donated $25,000 to support Australian Artists through the Sharpe Bros Art Prizes.


Other than the family business, I am the incoming Chairman on the Board of Directors of HunterNet Co-Operative, which involves over 200 companies, active in national and international markets in defence, power generation, mineral processing, transportation and major resource projects.


My times at Harvard have been life changing pivotal experiences where I have been able to mix with business leaders from all around the world. We often debate and explore new ideas particularly between our different industry experiences. On one visit to Harvard I was able to stop off in New York and catch up with a good friend who works in the financial district and was able to gain special access to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was special to be meeting with market-makers at Wall Street, and it was terrific to be at the engine room of one of the worlds’ largest centres of business financial activity.


At the Sharpe Centre we are talking about attracting investment to the Central Coast, investment to create jobs, sustainable jobs that can allow our children to live and work here if they choose to do so, family is important and if we can cut down the commuting time and get people home earlier that’s gotta be good for all our community. If you can work on the Central Coast and get home at a reasonable hour and still have time to get to the beach then that is real quality time.


I feel one major improvement to all our lives would be the encouragement of volunteering. The rapid growth of the Men’s Shed movement across Australia tells me that there is a need for members of our community to get out and talk with one another. Work with one another. Care for one another. I grew up in a family that was involved with Apex. At its peak there were 11 Apex Clubs on the Central Coast. Now there are none. Apex had the cash a can trailers, and members painted the house for the little old lady, they organised fun runs like the Wharf to Waves and built cabins for youth centres and the boy scouts. Every town has an Apex Park or Rotary or Lions Club Park which was planned and built by volunteer members. Then it all went wrong and now there are no Apex Clubs, less volunteers, it all got too hard. It is my belief that government red tape is responsible. All clubs had to become incorporated bodies in the early 1990’s and more strict rules were applied for insurance needs. Your house was now on the line in the unlikely event that something went wrong on a community project.


Perhaps we should cut the need for reporting requirements and bring back the fun of seeing a need and gathering a group to fulfill that need with the satisfaction of helping your neighbour. Right now you can go home and grab a sharp knife to prepare the evening meal and feed your family, job done, no certification, the parliament hasn’t gone that far yet. But if you want to go and help in the soup kitchen at your local homeless shelter you need to provide identification, do the paperwork for a police check, do the paperwork for a safety induction course into the kitchen and do a short course on knife handling. It can be all too hard and it feels like work. I want to make it fun again. Volunteers can learn new skills too. Apex was made of members who were bankers, solicitors, painters, real estate agents, plumbers, bricklayers, electricians and more. By working together a real estate agent got a glimpse of what it was like to be a plumber, a bricklayer would learn to paint and they all got in and built parks and bmx tracks where there kids could play.


I speak from experience. I am a recipient of the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow and was a committee member of the Australian Olympic Team Fund which raised funds for the Australian Olympic Team to travel to Beijing. I am a past President of the Umina Apex Club and was awarded the Young Apexian of the Year for the Central Coast District. I am a member of the Board of the Freemasons on the Central Coast, a volunteer Life Saver at Avoca Beach Surf Club and a board member at the Gosford North Rotary Club.


The team at the Sharpe Centre want to explore all these issues and more.


Our aim is to facilitate community driven conversation, participation and a forum for a brighter Central Coast. We are talking with members of the University to study and measure our initiatives.


Our vision is “a thriving Central Coast for all of us.”


We have a team of volunteers now conducting a survey across the Central Coast that will give us feedback and help to formulate our Charter.


Introductory Speech by Michael Sharpe – April 2015