Advocacy at its best – when three very courageous women in agriculture stand up for human rights

My recent post Advocacy at its worst – when agriculture chooses the divide and conquer route to market  created significant discussion.

Problems are challenges to be solved and when we have the right solution we need to advocate at the highest level to ensure those solutions are put in place.

And we have some very wicked problems in Australian agriculture including  human rights and modern slavery issues we should have addressed a long time ago.

The more modern and sophisticated the whole AgriFood sector becomes, the less room there is likely to be for unethical operators, particularly in labour hire, and the mistreatment of transient workers. The Committee is strongly of the view that every possible means should be brought to bear to stamp out these ugly practices. Source 

Photo source The Weekly Times 

What does real advocacy look like – three very courageous women in Session 11 at the recent ABARES conference showed Australian agriculture industry leaders exactly what it looks like.

“This is real issue for industry bodies and it goes to industry leadership we can’t address our workforce labour issues until we deal with the elephant in the room… and stop sweeping our problems under the rug” Professor Joanna Howe

Professor Joanna Howe answers the question “What is the problem”

The problem is, when there’s so many people doing the wrong thing, and when there’s a reliance on undocumented workers and dodgy contractors, which are unregulated, and when the industry hasn’t shown the leadership on these issues, it becomes very, very difficult. The main thing that the industry has fought for, is an ag visa and for more expanded migration pathways without recognizing that they’ve lost their social license. That there are real issues with the industry saying, give us more visas, give us more overseas workers, when investigation, after investigation is showing problems. I think that there is a need for the industry bodies to step up and to own this issue and to face the difficult solutions that will result in structural change.

There are growers that need to go out of business because their business model is based on exploiting workers. There are other growers that can then pick up the slack and expand their operations because they have the economies of scale and the competency, but it’s not just about large business. For example, in the Northern territory, a small mango farmer that we knew, that we interviewed, he brought in six workers on the seasonal worker program. It was more expensive for him to do so, but he was running a very sharp operation and making profits, even though that program is quite expensive, but he knew that it was a better program for him to use than the backpacker program, which is a revolving door for undocumented migrants. It’s not just about the small farms, bad, big farms compliant, that’s not what it is, and there’s not what I’m saying, but the industry needs to recognize that there’s some very hard decisions ahead and just arguing for an agriculture visa without acknowledging the extent of the problem or being open to doing real hard work about it.

For example, industry created the Fair Farms initiative through Growcom in Queensland. Good program, but if I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t involve … I’m just being honest, it doesn’t involve unions. Yes, it’s got involvement from the Fair Work ombudsman, but the amount, they have very few inspectors across an entire country. We know that there’s problems across this workforce and while unions cause a lot of trouble for farmers, they are a necessary evil. If we’re going to put it that way from the growers perspective. In that, they do monitor standards. If we need to clean up the industry, they’re a part of this and they’re going to be involved. We saw the impact that they can have and the piece rates case. The fair farms program should be tripartite. Otherwise, it’s just the good growers who sign up to that accreditation program and who use it. It does nothing to affect the bad growers who are doing the wrong thing and getting away with it” Watch the video here

What does best practice look like

We ALL have a role to play – everyone in the supply chain from farmers to retailers to consumers can ask themselves what role can I play in stepping up to say no to modern slavery in this country


Far too many young Australians have no idea what “normal” looks like

I grew up in a family where domestic violence  was an everyday occurrence

Both my mother and my father shared joint responsibility for the nightmare they invited their children into

My father left us without telling a responsible adult when I think I was 8 years old

I was the eldest. My mother had a chronic depressive disorder and on both sides of the family  everyone just did what they always did – pretend everything is normal

This means that 8 year old’s have to make big decisions when their mothers don’t wake up and daddy decides his family isn’t his responsibility any more.

Its time we all  stood up

Are you curious about how greater investment in innovative and cost-effective programs will empower farmers?

We are all searching for meaning – to live a life that matters to us and the world around us

Twenty years ago when I was struggling to figure out what that meant for me and I discovered that I was never ever going to be any good at milking cows I went on a journey to find out how I could be use my skills to do some good.

I found the journey never ends as we learn more and more about the world we live in

In 2009 the programs I was designing moved from being  delivered by “me” to “we”.  (Ever grateful to my mentors, coaches, true believers and the very courageous who stand in the arena with me.)

When we started to identify and train young people in the agriculture sector to be the face of our programs and role models of who you can be in agriculture we soon realised we needed to go beyond training them to be confident communicators and trusted voices and support them with all the other things that help develop “human capital

We began to look at moving beyond skills development, training and education to include more abstract aspects such as self-esteem, empowerment, creativity, increased awareness and mindsets.

When the industry you work in doesn’t have a leadership capacity building framework all we could do was experiment and see what worked and what didn’t.

We also discovered whilst our programs fell into the workforce “Attract-Train-Retain” space, agriculture doesn’t have a workforce strategy either .

Our work has been one big experiment and lots of little ones. We are entering exciting times with increasing interest and invitations to write the story of our journey and publish the learnings from 10 years of collecting unique data sets

We now have a big picture goal to understand how to best support the Australian agriculture sector to develop human capital through a variety of initiatives.

Our farmers increasingly face disruptive changes, including a rise in digital technologies, rigorous food safety requirements, shifting diets, climate change and global pandemics.

Keeping pace with this rapidly changing environment requires farmers to have a stronger capacity to analyse, innovate and respond, while managing their own farm businesses. If we want to transform our agri-food systems to be more productive, sustainable, inclusive and equitable, we need to invest in the people behind them.

Investing in farmers can contribute to autonomy, empowerment and economic development, and is key to successful agriculture and rural development policies.

Yet very little attention has been paid to investing in agriculture human capital over the last decade or so.

In fact less than 3 percent of global agriculture development finance between 2015 and 2018 was invested specifically in strengthening the skills and capacities of agricultural producers.

We look forward to showing how greater investment in innovative and cost-effective programs will result in new technical and business capacities and skills and empowered farmers. This in turn will lead to increased incomes, yields and the inclusion of the previously marginalised groups of indigenous farmers, women and youth .

If this is a space that excites you too – we are always looking for collaborators





Her husband married a farmer



This image resonated with people across the world on International Rural Women’s Day. On my socials alone it had over 1000 interactions

If you have LinkedIn account the comments in this feed are fascinating

Keri Jacobs post stopped me in my tracks. She could have been writing about my family.

Below is a cut and paste of what Keri wrote

Pioneer’s ad hits a nerve.  A deep one.  A bittersweet one.  I hope my experience about who can be a farmer will help someone else. I am a farm kid.  A farmer’s daughter.  One of three.  My grandpa and grandma were farmers, my great-grandparents were farmers.  It’s a history and upbringing I am proud of.  For most of my childhood, I imagined I would one day be a farmer’s wife. I would follow my mom’s, grandmas’, aunts’ footsteps and be the behind-the-scenes support: the meal-maker, the bookkeeper, the late-night-field-runs taker, the do-everything-else-that-must-get-done-when-he-is-farming person.

Hey, wait.  Maybe I could farm?  It took a lot of years for me to figure out that I wanted at least some of my time on this earth to be spent intricately tied to the land–our family’s land–and farming like my dad and grandpa were.  It’s in my blood. 

But the decisions had been made, even before I was born.  There was nothing that anyone could do about it, not really even by the one who COULD have changed it.  I will never forget the time I challenged this.  There was one person with the ability to make or break my desire to be one of our family’s farmers.  I asked if I could one day own some of the family’s land, when it was time to pass it along.  I did not expect equal ownership with my male cousins, just a small piece of the land that I grew up on, played on, rode with Dad in the tractor on, walked bean fields on, and where we buried our family pets.  The same land that raised my Dad and grandpa.  Something to own and farm and carry on.  But it was not possible.

Why?  Because somewhere along the way, maybe even before my grandparent’s had a say, farming became about a family name.  A legacy rooted in our surname, and therefore in gender.  It broke my heart when I was told that if I wanted to farm and own land, I should marry a farmer.  I was handed a plat book so I could see who owned land in the area. I was told I would have to marry into land.

As a woman who might take another man’s name in marriage, I was a threat to the family’s legacy. I was a threat to what my grandparents and their parents built.  Because of my gender.

I hope this is changing.  I think it is. I see examples of how it is.  And I love this ad for pointing out a really big problem…and a really amazing change and opportunity.  Our collective notion and nostalgia about a way of life historically tied more to gender than to things that really matter, like desire, ability, and values is changing. 

We cannot take land with us when we die.  Who can say for sure, but we also probably cannot enjoy it after we die.  If you are a farmer wondering who will continue YOUR legacy of caring for the land, caring for animals, caring for the environment, producing the foods we eat, I hope you will evaluate your successor on the things that made YOU a great farmer.  My grandpa was a great farmer.  That fact had nothing to do with his gender or last name.

Thank you Keri beautifully expressed and this from Peyton Merriam

We move the peg as a society when we embrace diversity and inclusion as an industry, not just individually. Let’s keep challenging the status quo! 

#diversity #inclusion #WomenInAg #farmHer

The climate crisis means farmers have to be prepared for the worst day every day

After being declared the windiest place in NSW in the last 48 hours like all  our farmers across the country our local dairy farmers have to be prepared for the worst day everyday. 

With no power for more that 48 hours I was mega grateful I had purchased these two power pack to walk Larapinta a number of years ago. They kept all the devices I needed to keep me safe and warm with no electricity

What was even more rewarding was despite 130km plus winds, rain and no power the dairy was still operating 24/7  milking the cows

On a dairy farm there is nothing more important than your cows and your team and a generator that will run the dairy using the tractor in a blackout is a MUST have on every dairy farm.

Some great info here on preparing for floods

The stories you tell, struggle to tell and the ones that get locked into a box

When our farm started doing things very differently ( like milking cows three times a day in a rainforest environment ) and winning awards people were very interested in our story.

I still get asked to tell my story often. For the last seven years I have suggested journalists tell the stories of the young people I work with.

Recently I have had a number of requests to tell the story about my commitment to the advancement of women and girls as it just so happens that 8 out 10 young people working with me putting their hands up to tell agriculture’s story are young women.

A recent request (and turning 65) had me thinking deeply about my journey. Looking for pictures and the process reminded me of things that had slipped my mind or things I was determined to put in a box and do my best never to open again.

Its doesn’t work that way does it?

The dark parts of your life you don’t talk about just tend to sit there and fester

As part of my deep dive into my journey I came across below. A Take Two story written by journalist Jodie Duffy for the Illawarra Mercury that morphed into a couple feature stories.

I remember the original interview. It was awkward both Michael and I were not quite sure what to share.

In 2021 it is this comment from Michael that stands out for me

Nick was always the centre of our lives and the day he started boarding school is one of our most harrowing moments.

It was the highlight of our week when he got off the train on Friday afternoons He always made sure he got home in time to help me finish in the dairy

I tell people I came back to my farming roots because Nick decided to join the business in 2001 after he finished school.

But that is not the whole story. In 2000 when Nick was completing the HSC the pharmacy I managed, which was open 14 hours a day was robbed a number of times by two masked men.

Instead of coming home to milk cows after a week at school Nick would come to the pharmacy to protect me. He turned out to be very impressive at data entry as well

I was grateful but also felt guilty that I was potentially putting my son at risk.

As it turned out it was always other people’s children who were ever only going to be at risk

When the robbers were finally caught I discovered there was a good reason they didn’t hold up the pharmacy when I was working. That was because I knew them both and they knew I would recognise their voices.

You often don’t know how much you are being impacted by traumatic events  happening around you until you reach the tipping point

One of the robbers was a long term customer of the pharmacy and he was injured in the police pursuit that eventually caught him. The hospital asked him what medication he was on. He told the hospital to ring me.

That was the day I lost it.

Those robberies fueled by the long term drug habits of two young men  impacted so many lives. The beautiful young people I worked with, everyone who worked in the pharmacy and their families and my family

My family tried so hard but we never really moved on. No matter how hard you try you cant put the bad in a box and pretend it never happened.

I am a very different person today. The confident persona is a façade.

You don’t get a second chance to rob me of my soul.

When I feel undervalued I tell you and I don’t do forgiveness.

TAKE TWO – by Jodie Duffy


I met Michael when I was 18 He came to Jamberoo with his brother to play football. The local paper did a profile on him and when I saw his picture I said “wow I’ve got to meet this guy”

A mutual acquaintance lined up a blind date for the Jamberoo Footballers Ball – the social event of the year in those days. Michael had injured his ankle @ training and spent the entire night with his foot in an esky of ice. This was probably a good thing as we didn’t realise until well into our relationship that Fred & Ginger we where not. Real life lived up to the photo and it was infatuation at first sight.  I went off to Uni and we spent every weekend together for the next 3 years. My girlfriends called Michael – HT. He is still my heartthrob 30 years later.

We got engaged when I was 21 and married as soon as I finished Uni

When we first got married Michael had a 7am -3pm job. When he was approached to manage the farm @ Clover Hill we both drifted into doing 14 hours shifts

When our son Nick was born 5 years later; he spent the greater part of his younger years with Michael on the farm. We had four sisters living next to us and they became his pseudo grandmothers. I still worked 14 hour shifts and was pretty much an absentee mum. When Nick went to boarding school we grew much closer

Whilst Nick was a boarding school Michael and I ensured we had as many weekends off as possible. Nick played a lot of sport and it was great to watch & support him @ weekends.

Nick skied competitively and we went to Canada every Christmas holidays so Nick could train. This was a wonderful time in our lives. In 2000 the deregulation of the dairy industry had a huge impact on our dairying business. This was the defining moment that bought us all back to the farm. It works really well, we complement each others skills. Nick has been managing the business for the last 4 years and became a partner in June. Nick is a 7th generation dairy farmer. My family has been dairying in Australia since 1831 and Michael’s since the 1860’s

My father was a reluctant dairy farmer and always said- Lynne whatever you do never learn to milk a cow. I have followed his instructions implicitly. There is so much more to do on a dairy farm than milk cows. The role that gives me the most satisfaction is looking after the calves. You are working every day with between 30 to 40 living breathing little things that rely on you totally. I recently had to get the vet to euthanize one of my calves. It was almost as heartbreaking for him as it was for me

Michael is the family’s quiet achiever. He is crazy about his cows. His great passion is watching them compete in the show ring. He lives from show to show. At the moment an accident he had in December has kept him out of the ring and this part of his life has been put on hold. You can tell he misses it desperately

I see my role in the industry differently to Michael. I feel it is critical that agriculture has high profile. It is important to constantly remind people we produce the food of life.


I really cherish the moments Lynne & I had together when we first met. As I get older I am constantly reminded how much she means to me.  When Nick was little I was able to fit my work schedule around the important moments in his life. I took him to school every-morning He would spend his afternoons with our next door neighbours who lived adjacent to the dairy and he would sneak across to the dairy whenever he could

When he started to play football I started the afternoon milking earlier so I could coach his team

Nick was always the centre of our lives and the day he started boarding school is one of our most harrowing moments.

It was the highlight of our week when he got off the train on Friday afternoons He always made sure he got home in time to help me finish in the dairy

Lynne always organised her days off so she could help me show our stud cattle As a girl she had shown horses and was a deft hand at putting the finishing touches on the cows as they went into ring. Nick shares our passion for showing. It is truly rewarding to watch your child follow in your footsteps

As a family we have shared all the highlights and watched our show team grow to a point where they are nationally competitive

Life on the land is a roller coaster. We reinvent our business (and sometimes our selves) every year – whatever it takes to make it successful The business plan is definitely a dynamic document

Deregulation was the turning point in our lives. The big positive is we get to work together as a family every day doing something we all think makes a difference

Now that Barnaby is back in charge of the pork barrel what does that say about us

I believe Catherine Marriott

I believe all the women whose names are not in a public space

Extraordinary isn’t it we have two unresolved sexual harassment allegations against two sitting federal politicians and both the women have the same first name C/Katherine?

Extraordinary isn’t it both these men seem bullet proof?

One of them is now sitting on the special cabinet taskforce for the status of women.

“When good men and women do nothing” comes to mind

Why don’t good men and women speak up

Life is a balance.

Everyday we make choices

We think about our high-profile government appointments

The impact on the organisations we advocate for

The impact on our businesses

The impact on our mental health

The impact on our families and friends

The list goes on

We all learn to live with our choices in different ways

For me it’s the impact on the young – what message are we sending the young people who make up 20% of the population but are 100% of the future.

These are the values of the young people I work with. This is why I cant sleep at night when their future is threatened by the choices others are making

What the journalists are saying

None of this caper – the behaviour, the leadership spills, the dodgy standards – serves rural people. Source

Five reasons why Barnaby Joyce is a terrible, horrible, no good choice for the Nationals Source

So what has Mr Joyce’s re-appointment taught us? That any transient focus on women is now over. Shade’s been called on our time in the sun. Source

As always Annabel Crabb tells it in a way that makes me smile despite my heavy heart

Helluva Week To Give Up Sniffing Glue

If the Second Coming of Barnaby Joyce (now reinstated as Deputy Prime Minister after a National Party coup against serial Elvis-impersonator Michael McCormack ) seemed like a weird development to you on Monday, have some pity for the quarantined Prime Minister, who effectively viewed the event helplessly through plate glass like Dustin Hoffman in the concluding scenes of The Graduate, unable to intervene as Barnaby made off with his Coalition bride.

“It’s not about me,” said Mr Joyce in his inaugural press conference after his restoration to the leadership, struggling at times, one imagines, to make himself heard over the hysterical laughter of anyone who’s ever met him.

So it’s goodbye McCormack. Less than a week after encouraging regional mice to relocate to the apartments of inner-city activists and scratch their children, he’s now National Party history and will record no more raps like this one.

His colleagues, having just rissoled Mr McCormack, observed the lovely tradition of listing all the things they respected and loved about him as he dragged his carcass from the chamber. Politics, eh? Full of adorable people.

Building A New Cabinet: Weatherboard And Iron Required

Mr Joyce, in his not-about-Barnaby way, is widely expected to use his new position to boot non-signatories to the Barnaby Fan Club out of his way, most notably Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester who has long proved immune to Mr Joyce’s musky charms. There is some consternation within the ranks of veterans’ families at the thought of a SIXTH minister in the portfolio at this highly sensitive time. No doubt this will prove central to the decision.

Mr Joyce’s swearing-in, which featured two men and a flat-screen TV (a nightmare family-values scenario I’m sure I dimly recall from an Eric Abetz speech) also provided what is believed to be the first TV footage of his son Sebastian not to cost the Seven Network $150,000.

Why Do We Care?

For a PM attempting to undertake a certain degree of fancy footwork around his government’s position on climate and its yellowing fortunes with women, the return of Mr Joyce is like Rodney Dangerfield turning up in a leaded-petrol monster truck.

Brett Worthington summarises the new challenges facing the locked-down PM here, while Insiders host David Speers says we need to read the National Party tea leaves.

Not everyone restrained themselves to tea while celebrating the Joyce victory, it seems, but equally there were women in the party profoundly unhappy. Indeed, the party’s WA leader has had it up to pussy’s bow with the Joyce shenanigans.

The Joyce Redux emboldened various chaps in the Coalition party room to complain about the budget’s spending on child care (outsourcing the care of children, which should be done for free by our wives as nature intended) while Senate leader “Adventures With” Bridget McKenzie judged this an opportune moment to blow up the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Elsewhere, a forensic investigation commenced into how many of Barnaby’s backbench fulminations would survive into the Not-About-Barnaby new age; would he continue to support residency for the Biloela family, for instance? There have been no signs of that yet but the family has received a three-month bridging visa to work and study in Perth.

What is the call to action do you think here?

Are we supporting the whistleblowers enough?

What does that support look like?

Whatever we are doing its not enough YET.

Building trust requires building relationships not slick marketing campaigns

In a world where your message can go global agriculture is spending a lot of money wishing and hoping we can build trust and belief through slick marketing campaigns

Things we know:

  1. People trust people in preference to things – Marketing campaigns may contain people but they are still things
  2. Building trust requires building relationships and that takes time
  3. The people you chose to be your trusted voices also pivotal to success. They should be:


A prime example of a buzz word is “Sustainability” 

Sustainability is a major concern among consumers. Food producers are aware of that, but often unsure how to address it.

The notion of sustainable food production is almost shrugged off as common sense among many in agriculture. Ask a grower if they’re sustainable and you’ll likely get an answer like, “Well, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be farming very long.”

In reality what is sustainable for one grower maybe very different for another. It is certainly a word that means different things to different segments of the market place agriculture is trying to build trust with

As an example

You ask a large group of young people between the ages of 12 and 18 from diverse socio economic backgrounds what sustainability means to them  – the top three answers are


You ask a group of tertiary educated adults between the ages of 24 and 60 the same question – the top 3 answers are

As an aside I must admit I smiled when I saw Woolworths tag line. They leave nothing to chance

Building trust starts with being curious about your target market and an intimate understanding of their wants, needs, pain points and motivations.

Its requires providing opportunities for building relationships. People want to meet and talk to the people who are asking to be trusted. Slick marketing campaigns might attract a passing interest but their chance of being memorable are very slim.

PEOPLE TRUST PEOPLE – it takes time. We have to be prepared to invest the time

Seeking Incredible Aussie Women – When you work with the best opportunity comes knocking

According to Wikipedia Woman’s Day is Australia’s highest selling weekly magazine with up to 400,000 weekly readers.

This week there is a 4 page spread titled “Real Life – Incredible Aussie Women – Ladies of the Land”  featuring four Young Farming Champions  Emma Ayliffe, Anika Molesworth, Jasmine Green and Bronwyn Roberts ( and what a pleasure it was to read about Kate Andison)

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Yesterday I attended a workshop on Elite Teams and I was stoked to have our organisation listed as an example of having a high performance culture.

Being impact driven and focused on measuring the ripple effect of what we do, I have been giving a lot of thought to the impact these young women’s stories will have on the readers of the Woman’s Day.

How do we measure that?

I look forward to my readers sharing their thoughts

Its an important question because this media cost agriculture zero $

It involved:

  •  my time ( the journalist identified me as the go to person)
  • the time of the interviewees
  • Interviewees capacity to share with the journalist high quality photos

In comparison say to agriculture paying for TV time or Billboard space 

Are there other important questions to ask?

  • Why was I identified as the go to person?
  • Why were these young women confident they would do agriculture proud?
  • Why did they have high quality photos they could send to the journalist?

These are questions I am very happy to give my perspective on if asked

What I would like to do is give a big shout out to our journalist Mandy McKeesick. It is because she writes high quality content for us that these young women are highly visible and easy to find when journalists from the Woman’s Day and any other main stream media are looking for talent

Lets all choose to challenge – Raise your hand high to show you’re in and that you commit to call out inequality.

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Today I am celebrating a group of young women that epitomise

MOXIE {noun} North American informal
force of character, determination, or nerve.

Anyone who is stepping up and being a force for change knows its hard … and it’s exhilarating, and it’s important.

These young women have walked this path and collected scars and trophies along the way.

Future generations will look back at this period in our history and see marketing and spin, and a complete absence of political leadership and  coherent policy

These young women are taking a leading role in being the force that changes this for future generations.

They are role models advocating for agency and voice for young people

They are shining examples of what success looks like when we invest in our young people

They are choosing to challenge

They are making things better for everyone .

I very proud to walk along side them

#ChooseToChallenge #WomeninStem #YouthinAg #SDG5 #GenderEquality