Covid-19 Update: We are fully operational. Find out how we can help you now…

FIND OUT WHAT YOU'RE ELIGIBLE FORGet Started

Interview: Peter Harkin

START

Churchill:

I believe that you were Churchill’s first ever client.

Peter:

Yeah. I believe I was, yeah.

Churchill:

Wow.

Peter:

Yeah.

Churchill:

Do you want to just take me back to those days, Peter, and tell me a little bit about how you know Randall, and your connection with Churchill, and how you sort of first had a need to look into recognitional prior learning?

Peter:

Yeah, sure. I guess, yeah, so my connection with Randall was back in our policing days. So, we both joined the Queensland police around the same time in the late ’80s, and worked together in the late ’90s. And then, I left the police in 2004, and co-owned and operated an investigations company in Brisbane. And around the same time, I think Randall exited the police. And we again reconnected, and did some work together in that space.

Peter:

And it wasn’t long after that that Randall established Churchill Education. Which was under a different name initially. Tried to succeed. And yeah, I guess Randall and I started talking about some of the qualifications that were around and could be offered. And fairly quickly, Randall moved into that area around recognition of prior learning.

Peter:

And it was something that really did interest me because from my point of view, I had left school and joined the police at a fairly early age. And back in those days, there was no tertiary qualifications required to get into the police. But also too, we didn’t get a lot of calls going through. After 16 years within the police, and I was a sergeant when I left, I had won I think an advanced diploma or diploma of public safety and some intelligence qualification. But nothing else that was really that had been formalized I guess.

Peter:

And I fair myself in a reasonably senior role within the company I was working with and for the time, and we were tendering for work, and doing a lot of work with government and insurance companies. And obviously, it was important to, from our point of view, to not only be but to look as professional as possible.

Peter:

But yeah, one of those ways was to try and obviously I guess bring together some of the work that I’d been doing over the years, and formalize that into some qualifications, which helps in terms of our credibility and professionalism in the work we were doing at the time.

Peter:

So yeah, that’s kind of the journey, how the journey started for me. So, there was a couple of quals that Randall or I had identified early on that myself and [inaudible 00:03:09] my business partner, Nick [Wright 00:00:03:10], we’re able to look at through the RPL process.

Peter:

But together, first up individually I worked with Randall through the RPL process. And I think it was on a frontline management call, and then looked at some investigations, qualifications, particularly in terms of government misconduct work. And there was work that I’d been doing for years, and years, and years, and took on in the business sense, but haven’t never really formalized it in terms of a qualification. So, Randall wasn’t able to help me with that. That’s how it kind of all started my relationship with Churchill.

Churchill:

Right. Okay. And so, were those qualification so that you could set up your investigations business, or did you already have that set up?

Peter:

Yeah. Look, we’d already established it, but at the time, around mid to late 2000s, the investigations industry and the business industry was going through a lot of changes, particularly around compliance and professionalism. And certainly the business that we bought and were operating, we were looking to do exactly that, to really take it from to building compliance, and to building that professionalism, to building those high reputation, and things like that.

Peter:

So for us, and certainly for me, formalizing my qualifications was not so much a need, but it fit in with everything that we were kind of doing with the business, which was around trying to professionalize the business and ourselves personally, and lift it up to that next stage. Which we did, and it worked very successfully.

Churchill:

Okay, great. So, it was to contribute to your professionalism, to help with [inaudible 00:05:08]. Yeah.

Peter:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And to consolidate I suppose. There’s always an element of individual, yeah, gratification of these things as well. So, it’s a recognition of the hard work that you’ve done over the years, and consolidating that into a piece of paper or a qualification. Which not only feels good and gives you that individual recognition, but it also, too, provides a high level of professionalism when we’re selling our business, and operating that professional environment. Definitely.

Churchill:

So, it was taking mainly your experience that you’d accrued in police?

Peter:

Yeah, a bit of both. At that stage, obviously going into the business sector, there’s lots of new skills that I was picking up and developing along the way. Including running things with people and things. I had done that before as well, but really in the business sector. It was a bit of a new experience for me. So, there’s lots of new skills, and experience to add to the portfolio I suppose in that.

Churchill:

Yeah. And I suppose it’s a bit like an investment to the future, isn’t it? Because once your experience is more than five years old, it then can’t be looked at for a recognition of prior learning. So in a way, if you hadn’t have gone through that process then, it would have been so many years of all this great experience that you had amassed that would in some ways count for nothing.

Peter:

Yep. Yep.

Churchill:

Yeah.

Peter:

Yeah, you’re exactly right. And I was very cognizant of that. And continue to be so. And look, I guess one of the key comments I’d make is that nothing’s ever forever, and you just never know where you’re going to be. So, if you can consolidate that experience, and take advantage of that relevancy, to consolidate that into an RPO qualification, then my view has always been that you should while you can because you never know what’s around the corner. And in my case, certainly that’s been so true.

Peter:

Because ultimately, after nearly 11 years in business, I moved on into a new career again. And those qualifications I gained during that period had been really helpful for me.

Churchill:

Okay. So, you had 11 years running your investigations consultancy.

Peter:

Yep.

Churchill:

And then, you went into your current role?

Peter:

So basically, went back into a government role. Yeah. So initially, it was with Department of Transport in Montrose.

Churchill:

Okay.

Peter:

Working in, yeah, incident management and event management. Pardon me. And really looking in a disaster and incident management role. Really that’s kind of where I ended up with Department of Transport in Montrose. And then, I worked there for a couple of years, and then came across to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. And I’ve been here for nearly two years now. And my current role is I’m an emergency management coordinator with [Key First 00:08:26]. So, work very much in the disaster management, disaster operations area of the business. Yeah.

Churchill:

Okay. Wow. And you’ve been back to Churchill over the years to take a fresh look at your experience, and gain further qualifications, haven’t you?

Peter:

Yeah. I have definitely. And I was surprised to, when I was speaking to Randall the other day, it’s been nearly 15 years, or it has been about 15 years that I’ve been working with Churchill. And yeah, that time’s just flown through. But yeah, certainly in the last few years I have. And I’ve worked with Randall to obtain a advanced diploma of public safety, and bracket to emergency management, which fits really nicely for what I’m doing right now.

Peter:

And most recently, and I’ve only just been advised this morning that I’ve been successful in obtaining a graduate diploma of strategic leadership. So, it’s a really-

Churchill:

Congratulations.

Peter:

Thank you. Yeah. That’s been-

Churchill:

That’s a really high level qualification.

Peter:

Yeah, yeah. So, really excited about that. And it’s very relevant within our organization, that qualification. Most of the senior leadership guys are working through that at the moment, or are required to get it. So, I was really pleased to be able to work with Churchill to achieve that qualification. Yeah, it was great.

Churchill:

That’s great. So, are many of the other people who are at your level in QFCS, would they be able to achieve that through RPL, or is it something that they need to study for?

Peter:

Yeah, I’m not too sure. I think they could possibly achieve it through RPL. Certainly those with some years of experience could probably do that. I know there are some that are working through that at the moment. So yeah, I think so. I think they could if they are at a certain level. And with appropriate years of experience, I think that’s probably something they could definitely look at. Yes.

Churchill:

Okay. Well, and yeah, so your role, emergency management coordinator, in the current times is a pretty full-on position to be in, isn’t it?

Peter:

Yeah. Look, we’ve seen in the two years I’ve been in this role it’s been flat out. I saw it from, yeah, we’ve seen all matter of disasters over recent years. And from storms and [inaudible 00:11:11] to the bush fires of last year, which are really full-on. [inaudible 00:11:15] our region here at the Sunshine Coast. And now with the pandemic, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peter:

So, my role is to first and foremost is to really work with councils at the local space. So, I work very much around the councils, and ensuring the communities are kept up to speed with what’s happening. And also, too, I work a lot with other emergency services such as KPS police, and the other emergency services in that disaster management. And response operations when it’s on.

Peter:

But also, too, I deliver a lot of training. We have a training command within Queensland Fire and Emergency Services based at Brisbane, and they provide us with an array of disaster training modules that we deliver to our disaster management groups within the region. So, I do a lot of work in the training space as well. So, it’s something else that’s [inaudible 00:12:22] I don’t get up to. But yeah, we’re really busy. Yep.

Churchill:

Wow. It must be quite stressful for you at the moment. How do you handle stress and anxiety in your job?

Peter:

Look, I think it’s something as … yeah, I’ve been in this space for most of my career really. Within the police, and in business to a lesser extent. And certainly the last most recent years, it’s what we’re trying for. It’s what we do. It’s a lot of what I talk about and train people [inaudible 00:13:03].

Peter:

But I think we’re just try and take stock, and be realistic about what’s going on. And one of the guys said the other day, or like he’s saying, “We apply what’s in front of us.” And I think that’s really important. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but you just got to kind of break it down, and look at what’s important, and apply what’s important now, and what’s in front of us, and you can kind of get through.

Peter:

I think [inaudible 00:13:34] level of maturity I guess these days, too, that helps me with that in terms of experience. So yeah, there’s some days that are going to be stressful obviously. There’s particularly for those of us that do take it seriously, which I do. I work very much around trying to make sure that the things we do positively impact on the communities in which we work, and that’s what we’re here for. Yeah.

Churchill:

I guess the nature of your role, emergency management, is to deal with crisis, and stress, and anxiety, and that’s just comes with the territory, doesn’t it?

Peter:

Yeah. It’s a lot easier than dealing with twin 16 year old girls, I’ll tell you that much.

Churchill:

Oh, okay.

Peter:

That can really test [crosstalk 00:14:21]-

Churchill:

What I really should have asked you is how does a father of 16 year old twin girls keep getting up each morning?

Peter:

Yeah. I don’t know. I’ve always just been pretty driven. I like what I do. It’s good. And it does contribute positively. It does. The work we do, a lot of it is a lot of non-tangibles in there if you like, or intangibles. And it’s difficult to measure a lot of the time because a lot of it’s around relationships, and training, and things like that. But I’m fairly certain that the work we do does provide that capacity to councils and communities, and our fellow disaster management workers, and the system to work in that space as well. And then, of course during operations where it was you’re along for the ride providing that advice and support as needed.

Peter:

But yeah, I like my job. I like what we do, and I believe in what we do. So, I guess that helps.

Churchill:

Yeah. Given the timing of when we’re talking with the pandemic in the world being a very different place, I think a couple of things that you’ve said are so relevant for right now. So, you just said, “We play what’s in front of us.” I think that that’s really good for everyone, for all of us right now. The future is even more uncertain than it normally is. We’re always under the illusion that we can control the future, which we can’t. But we certainly can’t control it at the moment. So, I think putting one foot in front of your other, and just dealing with what’s in front of you is good advice.

Churchill:

And earlier, you said nothing is ever forever, and you don’t know where you’ll be, and what’ll be around the corner. And I also think that that’s really relevant always. So, to always remember that, isn’t it? And that I know that things are different for some people, and extremely stressful for others right now, depending on what hand’s been dealt. And I think that your words are really relevant for right now. Nothing ever is forever. And so, all you can really do is be prepared for change when it comes.

Churchill:

And I guess that’s why, that’s part of the reason why you’ve come back over the years, and taken a fresh look at what you’re eligible for, and [inaudible 00:16:58] those qualifications, and yeah. For a future that you can’t see yet.

Peter:

And so, and it’s proven, in my case, to be a good investment. And it’s helped me in terms of moving ahead with my employment and my prospects. And that’s, yeah, very relevant for me [crosstalk 00:17:18]-

Churchill:

So, what would you say to colleagues, for example, right now who might say, “Well, the future’s uncertain. I don’t know how much longer I might have a guaranteed wage for. I don’t think now’s the right time for me to be spending any money on qualifications.” What are your thoughts on that?

Peter:

Well, I think it’s even more the case really. Because yeah, things are a little uncertain. And therefore, that’s even more reason to try and leverage off your current skills to get that call. So then, put that in the to be able to bolster your resume, and make you more attractive, too. If and when that comes around, that you do need to go and find another job, say for example.

Peter:

But yeah, I know it’s hard. It’s never, often particularly at the moment, is finding those spare dollars to spend on quals, but that just it’s an investment, and it’s tax deduction at the end of the day. Yeah, I think if ever there was a time, now is probably the most important thing.

Peter:

But it’s a different market I think really. And the best thing you can do is invest in your own self. And I treat myself, and this is something, again, I’m pinching off someone else, but I heard it heard it said, everyone should treat themselves as their own business. And even if you’re working for somebody, you’re just trading your skills and your business wherever you’re trading. For me for example, at the moment, and hopefully I can until retirement trade with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, but that’s I see myself as my own business. So if you treat yourself as your own business, then you’ve got to invest in your own business, and upskill and develop that business.

Peter:

So, I just see training, and the RPL, and the work that Churchill do, in that space it’s just been able to enhance my business and my skills in my toolbox. For then, if I need to, go and try it somewhere else that [inaudible 00:19:29]. Then, that is an extra that’s there that I can fall back on. I think it’s hugely important. That’s the way I’ve always looked at it anyway. And-

Churchill:

That’s a really good way to think about it, too. To look at yourself like a business. And I guess when you look at it from that perspective and metaphor, if businesses want to future proof themselves, it’s not the time to stop spending on advertising or marketing, it’s the time to really solidify those things, isn’t it? And strengthen your position in the market so that you can either retain your market share or maybe even grow it as other people don’t make it in the market.

Peter:

Yeah, I agree. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s just it’s just my philosophy, but I think it’s really important, and it’s certainly worked for me anyway. I’ve been able to adapt, and move into a couple of different areas over the years without too much problem, which worked well. Yeah.

Churchill:

Yup. That’s great. And so, how is the recognition of prior learning process been for you? Has it been tricky to get all the evidence that you needed, or tell me a little bit about the actual process for you from your perspective.

Peter:

Yeah. There’s work in everything that you do. Interestingly, I enjoy it. But there is work. It is sometimes a task to put this stuff together, but I get a little bit better at it now because I start keeping things aside that I think might help me out. So, I kind of categorize stuff and put it away. But yeah, it’s important to just keep those examples. But yeah, sometimes you just have to go and do that research, or get a reference, or a report, or something. So yeah, there’s some work in it. I agree. But it’s worth it. Yeah.

Peter:

And at the end of the day, when you actually look back and look at all the examples, and yeah, of course you have to in my case update your resume when you’re doing these things as well. It just it kind of consolidates a lot of the things that you do.

Peter:

So yeah, look, like anything there’s a bit of work in doing anything, but it’s well worth it. And I enjoy doing that. You just got to allocate the time to it really. It’s not terribly difficult. But again, if you’re good at keeping records, and I wasn’t always that way, but I am getting a lot better at those things, so that way then I can put my hands on things that I think, “Oh, well that might be good work example I can use down the track for whatever.” And it’s proven pretty good. For the most recent one, yeah definitely.

Churchill:

Well done. Well Peter, thank you so much for your time. It was really good to talk to you, and feels really perfect that I’m speaking to Churchill’s first ever client. There’s really a feeling of neatness in that.

Peter:

Yes. Yeah, that’s pretty amazing.

Churchill:

Yeah, absolutely.

Peter:

And I know that the business that Churchill itself has been on an interesting and strong journey over the years, too, and built in a real successful and well-accomplished business, it’s helped many people. So, to credit to Randall and [Trish 00:22:56] what they’ve put together, so that’s great.

Churchill:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Completely agree.

END

Got More Questions For Us?

Reach Us Today