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A life built on community, family and giving back

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Growing up, Jim Whiting never had reason to be lonely or bored – he had seven brothers to play footy and cricket with in the backyard or they could head down to the beach at Somerton Park.

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That sense of family and community, fostered by his parents Carmel and Bill, has been a mainstay throughout his life and guided him throughout an outstanding career in the building and construction industry, which was acknowledged with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in January.

However, Jim’s service goes much further than his work, with his desire to give back to the community and his beloved Sacred Heart College, largely due to the life values instilled in him by the Marist Brothers.

As he told The Southern Cross he has tried to remain true to the teachings of the Order’s founder, St Marcellin Champagnat – ‘love of work, family spirit, presence, simplicity, and in the way of Mary’.

At 62, Jim still likes to celebrate his faith with the Marists and although he might not be able to attend every week, the Wednesday morning Mass at Sacred Heart Chapel is always in his diary.

“I am a big supporter of the Marist Brothers and in particular the brothers of my era. They were fellows who gave their lives to teach children and they were very much a role model for people my age and all the students at Sacred Heart at the time.

“Jordo (Br Jordan Redden who turns 93 next month), Br Walter, Br Denis, Br Columbanus…they were terrific men and probably what Catholicity I have is seen through their eyes.

“They were very practical people – they ran the school but if the cricket pitches had to be done you were just as likely to be sent out to roll a pitch in the middle of class,” he laughed.

After completing his primary education at St Mary’s Memorial School, Jim was excited to move onto Sacred Heart and is especially pleased that all the Whiting boys were together there at one time – thanks to his oldest brother repeating his matriculation and his parents having eight children in the space of nine years!

Jim, who sits at number four in the pecking order, fondly recalled how his siblings would all get on their bikes and ride home from school for lunch every day, drinking a “pint of milk” and tucking into a “six inch slab of cake” that had been freshly baked in readiness for their arrival. More often than not they were accompanied by a boarder or two.

After leaving school in 1974 he studied construction management, graduating in 1980 and going to work for a public company. Three years later six of the employees left and together they started BADGE (an acronym using the first initials of all their names, ironically except Jim’s).

The others left the business in 1987 and Jim took over, building up a company that initially constructed rural buildings such as shearing and implement sheds, but then moved into the commercial and industrial sectors.

Under Jim’s watchful eye, BADGE has flourished and today is the State’s leading commercial builder and one of the nation’s largest privately-owned construction companies. It has an annual turnover of about $400 million and employs 270 staff at offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Maroochydore.

In the early years while he was building up the business Jim was also busy on the home front as he and wife Bron welcomed four children within five years.

“Life got busy, I was flat out,” Jim said in mild understatement. “I could only have done what I have done with the support of my wife who effectively ran the family while I got on with the business.”

Eventually as life settled down he found the time to become reengaged with Sacred Heart through its Old Collegians Association.

“Bill Spurling was running it at the time and said there was a new principal starting and ‘we’ve got an old scholars meeting so do you mind coming along to get a bit of a crowd’.

“We rolled up to the meeting – there was me, Bill and the new headmaster. Bill said I’m going to Brisbane so I guess you’re president!”

Jim was happy to be back in the fold and served the Old Scholars for 10 years before moving across to chair the Sacred Heart College Foundation.

In 2001 his business acumen was harnessed by the Archdiocese when he was appointed to the Diocesan Finance Council. At the same time he was appointed chair of Aquinas College, a position he held until 2015. He is proud that he played a part in reinvigorating Adelaide’s only Catholic residential college for university students and was able to invite the Marist Brothers to provide a religious presence there.

Over the years Jim has also been a member of the Cathedral Restoration Appeal Committee and is currently the chair of the Property Committee. Through BADGE he supports many charities, including the Hutt St Centre where he is a patron.

His long association with the Marist Brothers continues as a board member of the aid and development agency, Australian Marist Solidarity which is based in Brisbane.

Discussing his new-found status as “a guy with the letters” after his name, Jim admitted he was initially reluctant to accept the nomination but came to the conclusion it was recognition for all the people at BADGE and his family. He added there was no way his brothers and friends would let it go to his head.

“Mum and Dad are both coming up for 89 so it’s lovely for them. But do I cop a lot of flak about it? Yes I do!”

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