John Oates graduated from Sydney University with an Agricultural Science degree and spent the next 37 years as officer in charge of the Sydney University Plant Breeding Institute at Castle Hill and then at Cobbitty, NSW. More recently he has developed his own business, Valley Flora Solutions, and has become a qualified person under the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994. As a consultant, he conducts plant breeder’s rights trials for clients in Australia and overseas, and he conducts plant breeding experiments and research in its own right. He also consults with horticultural and agricultural clients on matters in which he has experience and expertise.
John continues his relationship with Sydney University as an appointed Honorary Research Associate. He has been responsible for a number of personal research programs as well as resource support for the Plant Breeding Institute’s research program which centred on disease resistance for winter cereal crops. In 1989/90, John was instrumental in the design and relocation of the whole facility from Castle Hill to Cobbitty – a total project cost of some $13m.
John was elected chairman of the board of the Presbyterian Ladies College, Sydney in 1985 – a position he held until his retirement in 2005. During this period, enrolments at the college increased from 700 to over 1300 students with 140 full time staff. Other achievements included the establishment of a PLC Foundation in 1987. This initiative provided valuable funds and resources for the development of many new buildings, as well as providing new educational opportunities for students.
In 1996, John was elected chairman of the Board of the Association of Independent Schools; from this role, he gained valuable insight and experience regarding negotiations with the various levels of government.