• Print this page

Plan to help

Peter Balmer PhotographPeter Balmer has joined the social programme and policy development team in the territorial social programme department.

For incoming social programme and policy consultant Peter Balmer, life’s swings and roundabouts have resulted in a happy homecoming – a Melburnian, Peter has spent a portion of his working life helping others, in varying roles, in Queensland and Canberra.

Peter began his working life in IT, then in retail food businesses when the need to talk to people took over. A change of pace ensued when Peter returned to study, at Deakin University (a postgraduate degree in social science) and the University of Queensland, where he delved deeper and deeper still into the theory of social exclusion. He structured his studies (a masters degree in social planning and development) around six years’ employment at UQ as a lecturer, administrator/editor and student mentor.

‘I was working predominantly with non-English students,’ Peter says, while I studied demographics in relation to communities and facilities – available housing, social  infrastructure and responses to and by government.

Peter, at one stage located at UQ’s Ipswich campus [can I confirm this, Peter?] become heavily involved in research projects in regional Australia, such as ‘Brisbane’s salad bowl –Gatton and Laidley, at the base of the Darling Downs. There was a particular project on access and equity which was fascinating,’ says Peter, ‘and we were in direct consultation with communities that persevered in harsh economic times, somewhat sustained by the prodigious Darling Downs water table. The people were doing it tough with outlying areas working through severe drought and facing severe economic stressors.

‘The project encompassed agriculture and horticulture, and we worked with growers, truckies, packers, market gardeners – the distributors and marketers, etc. – identifying what could be done to improve the industry and make it more sustainable.’

After his masters, Peter moved to the Sunshine Coast, where he worked for the Noosa Council for six years in community development and social planning. Peter came to grips with issues such as affordable housing and homelessness, AOD, DFV, and, unexpectedly, ‘permanent communities of “invisible migrants”; northern European groups such as German and Dutch communities that were isolated from the whole’.

‘There was diversity in the work, and it paid dividends for all communities. There was also considerable social upheaval, with real estate price hikes and the inundation of “Southerners” – Victorians fleeing their “homeland” and arriving en masse as economic migrants.

Peter travelled south to work in Canberra, making a submission during the Howard government to the productivity commission on aged care reforms on ‘the aged care reform process, representing a Queensland-based peak group National Seniors’.

Submission concluded, Peter took on an 18-month research project for the federal department of immigration on ‘Migrant settlement in regional Australia – factors that facilitate’ before joining FECCA, the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia. This, he explains, was a follow on after the legislative processes in aged care delivery – he was keen to see and aid the implementation of changes to the sector.

‘My role was one of capacity building in migrant communities, to increase awareness of entitlement, services, etc., that ethnic seniors were entitled to but were not aware of,’ he explains. I was able to help facilitate conversations, raise awareness and “open doors”.’ 

At the end of January 2014 Peter commenced as a social programme and policy consultant.

Peter loves music. A tenor and choral singer of long standing and a self-described ‘dreadful cellist’ (I am not great, but it’s fun’), Peter’s preferred repertoire includes the baroque and classical, and he highlights Karl Jenkins ‘The Armed Man’ (‘A Mass for Peace’, composed in 2000) as a personal favourite.

And Peter’s two beloved black standard Schnauzers, Ziggy (Siegfried, aged eight) and Reo (she’s aged seven), keep him supplied with good reasons for walks and outings.