THE AGE, MY CAREER – CAROLYN RANCE SATURDAY FEB 2, 2008
It’s never too late to move into an area of work you feel passionate about. Just ask Keith Loveridge, who became Maribyrnong Council’s climate change officer in September last year. At an age when many of his contemporaries are considering retirement, he is enthusiastic about turning his longstanding environmental interests into a career.
After years in the aviation support industry, redundancy and working as a home handyman, Mr Loveridge completed a bachelor of social science (environment), won RMIT University’s 2002 Institute Award – the highest tertiary undergraduate prize for student achievement – worked as a teacher and tutor and did voluntary and paid work for organisations including the City of Port Philip, the Environment Defenders Office and the Business Council of Australia.
In 2003, aged almost 60, he became energy and water officer at the city of Whitehorse. “My family were very supportive of what I did”, says the environmental activist, who runs Croydon Conservation Society’s website and has campaigned against the use of chromium copper arsenic-treated timber in areas used by children. Mr Loveridge encourages anyone considering a mid or even late-career change to go for it. “I’d recommend it to anybody,” he says, “If you are scared about doing something else – something more satisfying – don’t be. There is nothing to be afraid of really. People sometimes asks me if I will retire at 65 and I say, ‘Hardly. I’m just starting my new career now.’ I’m fit, I do a lot of running and roller-blading. Sometimes I wake up and think: “Sixty – that’s ridiculous!’
Mr Loveridge believes employers are increasingly receptive to older workers, although he believes careful design of CV’s can be important. “When I finished the course and first put my CV about, I included details of all my previous work and managerial experience and I couldn’t get an interview. A friend advised me to take all that out and just concentrate on the university and environmental stuff. Of the next four jobs I applied for I got three interviews and two job offers”.
In his first full-time council job he helped Whitehorse Council develop policies for sustainable lighting, water conservation and carbon-emission reduction. He conducted community education and provided advice
“While I was working there I saw an article written by Gavin Mountjoy, the manager of sustainability at Maribyrnong, saying that councils really needed to act on global warming because nothing was being done at federal level. It resonated with me and I later met him. “When I saw the climate change officer job advertised, I thought: ‘Here’s a council that wants to do something about climate change and that’s the sort of place I want to work.’ I applied on a Friday, was interviewed the following Tuesday and offered the job on the Wednesday.”
Now working on a plan to make Maribyrnong Council and its community carbon-neutral by 2020, he traces his shift from environmental interest to activism to a day in Sunbury about 15 years ago. “We lived near a couple of vineyards and my wife and I were oversprayed as we walked on a public footpath. I went across to the manager and asked what he had been spraying and he told me to piss off. It was the defining moment in my life. The more I delved into it, the more I knew there was something wrong.”
His environmental work for local government has proved a joy. “There’s so much good work happening that it’s really quite inspiring. There are so many issues you can look at. At Maribyrnong we are looking at ways to save water at the aquatic centre and considering green power for street lights. I never feel it is too little too late. With the amount of work going on in local government and the change of federal government, I can see us really going forward and big things happening. The opportunities are endless.”
Even so, he says, Australians need to do more individually, locally and nationally to counter climate change. “People have to understand that this is not about economics – it’s about survival. We can’t afford no to do it. Without a healthy planet we can’t have a healthy economy.