Looking to put the joy back in your life – Try Larapinta it worked for me

Joy is what makes life beautiful. It’s what gets us through challenges and allows light in to illuminate the shadows. Joy heals our wounds, inspires us to greatness, and fills our souls with goodness.

I signed up for the Inner Compass 4 Day Larapinta Trail Trek to help put the joy back in my life.  And you know what my ‘Get out in Nature’ with some inspiring people beyond the agriculture sector may just be the smartest thing I have done in recent times.

Our little group of six got to see the views most tourists don’t even know exist. Trek Larapinta ( what an awesome customer service business they are) has built relationships with the traditional land owners who generously provide non-indigenous Australians ( and overseas visitors) with genuine cultural awareness experiences and access to some very special places.

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Meet Trek Larapinta Guide and Aboriginal  woman Deanella Mack. Dee took us into her world through her storylines and humour that made her people and their culture so real to me. You can find out more about Dee and her business Cultural Connections here 

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Dee sees that a system that has failed Aboriginal people in Central Australia for generations has also failed non-Indigenous people in how they learn about or appreciate Aboriginal cultures, histories and concepts.
She believes cultural misunderstandings, often come with the best intentions and as being “like when you’re driving a car and you feel something’s wrong but you don’t know how to fix it. Others may not even think anything’s wrong.” Those that have had the most positive experiences in her sessions and went on to positively impact communities later were “open-minded and had the willingness to receive new info that may not sit well with their current beliefs and experiences”. Source 

Dee welcomes us to country

Dee shares with us the making of hunting spear

With that new appreciation of the landscape our group became earnest learners listening and looking with new eyes

Amongst many other things we learnt to recognise the male and female cycad and the seed 

Standley Chasm is a very beautiful place

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You can see what the tourists see

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Or you can follow Section 3 of the Larapinta Trail and go where the hikers go

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If you go with Trek Larapinta  you see and do and feel even more

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Its one thing to see the beauty of Standley Chasm from the front but when you get the opportunity to come in the back door its an experience you will treasure for ever

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Lynne was a very happy camper

“These days the knowledge around cross-cultural awareness is at your finger tips, so ignorance is no longer an excuse.” Dee Mack

The Rim Walk – aren’t we faaaabulous!!!

If Priscilla could do it in heels then surely Lynne could do it in her Salomon Hiking Boots. The iconic hike to the top of Kings Canyon is known as the  Rim Walk and its located in Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory. A spellbinding 6 kilometre circuit transcending down into the Garden of Eden and back to the top to wonder at the 360 views.

The start of the walk is definitely daunting with 1000 steps that go straight to the sky and if Priscilla did it in heels so there was no excuse for Lynne not to do it in the recommended footwear .

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However i would be very wary if I had a knee or hip replacement.  After you take in the views from the top of the stairs you continue your journey through Priscilla’s Crack made famous by one of my favourite movies Priscilla Queen of the Desert

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From there you will see the domes known as the Lost City due to it resembling an ancient city.

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The Ghost Gum is a stand-out against the rich red gorges. It has the tenacity to find a toe-hold and endure life in the most inhospitable crevice of a rock face

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Next up is your choice to continue exploring the top or take the stairs down to the picturesque Garden of Eden filled with lush greenery where you can cross a bridge over the sacred watering hole. Special shoutout to all those wonderful people who installed the stairs and bridges to get to this magnificent part of the world.

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Once you have captured this iconic moment take the stairs back up to the south side of the canyon.  I did the walk  just after sunrise as the sun slowly reflects onto the sandstone turning a stunning array of oranges and reds.

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The Kings Canyon Rim Walk can be completed in about three to four hours depending on how often you stop to admire the extraordinary scenery. We stopped plenty of times and managed to do it in 3 hours

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No matter what you think or imagine you’ll find the views magical. I guarantee they will leave you spellbound. (and these are just the photos from my iPhone – wait till you see what I have on my camera)

 

 

You dont have to climb Uluru to love Uluru

In 2016 I decided it was time I experienced more of our magnificent country. At the top of the bucket list was to walk the Larapinta Trail. Getting fit was a must.  A hamstring avulsion in February 2017 meant a May 2017 Larapinta Walk was out the of the question. 12 months of rehab and here I am.

Not having been to the Northern Territory before I flew into Alice Springs early. On my first night in town I caught up with local dynamo Donna Digby who introduced me to the world most famous Vanilla Slice which we shared after dinner at Casa Nostra.

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The first thing I learnt about Ulura was its a popular place at this time of year and its a must to book accommodation months in advance.  not doing my research early enough I  found myself unable to find accommodation and got around my naivety by booking an AAT Kings Tour.

Ulura is a cultural experience not to be missed. Everyone I met was inspired by the natural beauty and power of the land. It will open your hearts and minds to the enduring culture of the Anangu people who have inhabited this part of the world for 30,000 plus years

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Sunrise at Uluru – The size of the rock let alone its beauty has to be seen to be believed

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Kata Tjuta means “many heads”  and with mine there were 37 the day I visited. It is a sacred men’s site for the Anangu people under their traditional law 

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I loved the diversity of the native vegetation –  special favourites were the red river gums and the spinifex grass.

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The Kuniya Walk is a short track to the Mutitjula Waterhole, home of the Wanampi, an ancestral watersnake. In the special times of rain, you will expereince magical waterfalls

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Mutitjulu Waterhole-  on my visit is was the awe inspiring colour mix of the rock formation that caught my eye. This truly is a special place

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When travelling alone it helps to master the selfie – this is me and Mt Olga

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My last night at Ulura was spent under the stars feasting on kangaroo and other delicacies at the Cultural Centre. The evening included a tour of the night sky. The weather didnt disappoint, nor did the Southern Cross and Milky Way 

Climbing the Rock

 Please don’t climb  Uluru – its a heartfelt plea many people ignore 

What visitors call ‘the climb’ is of great spiritual significance to the Anangu people. As a guest on their land they ask us to choose to respect their law and culture by not climbing

‘This is a really important sacred thing you are climbing…. You shouldn’t climb. Its not the real thing about this place. The real thing is listening to everything. We hope the tourists will brighten up and say “Oh I see. This is the right way. This is the proper way: no climbing.”

I understand it has been decided for us by the government. NO CLIMBING – will also become Non-indigenous law in 2019.

The Kata Tjuta National Park is one of the great wonders of the world. Next time I will seek out a tour guided by the indigenous people and get a greater understanding of the Anangu people and rejoice that their culture is strong and alive.

A tribute to all the quiet achievers in agriculture

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2018 has been a year where I have been honoured to have been identified as a leader who inspires and a rural influencer. I have had several requests to share my insights and advice and my inspiration

I struggle with the title leader – I am not a model I would want to emulate

Influencer – Yes that one I am more comfortable with

What is a leader?

I am a person who learns from others and the leader I have learnt the most from is Anna Rose. Anna is half my age and I so wish she came into my life earlier.

How to influence?

I can write a template for this. The question is ‘Do others want to do it my way’?

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I am a great advocate for the Anna Rose model.

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Who is my inspiration?

That’s easy – Michael Strong has been my inspiration. A man with an enormous respect for the rainforest environment he farms in and even greater love and respect for the cows he works side by side with.

When I read Marian McDonald’s post today on her interview with Cathy Phelps it reminded about the quiet achievers in my life

Cathy Phelps work in natural resource management in dairy has been a shining light for Australian agriculture across the country yet very few in the media have heard of her.

Lynne Strong has plenty of accolades as the powerhouse behind Clover Hill Dairies, yet it was the quiet achiever in the family Michael Strong who inspired her passion for the family to leave an enduring legacy.

This post is a tribute to all the quiet achievers male and female in agriculture

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Australian Farmers can supply us (and the world) with so much more than food and fibre

With 21st Century thinking and smart government policy there are many new and exciting opportunities for Australian farmers to thrive in a world of big data, a community screaming out for clean energy options and developing countries with a burning thirst to soak up our knowledge as well as our produce.

A number of our Young Farming Champions work with, share their knowledge and learn from farmers in developing countries. A number of them have taken advantage of the Crawford Fund scholarship support to engage in international research, development and education for the benefit of developing countries and Australia.

Young Farming Champion Sam Coggins has just landed a job with ACIAR and this article by Professor Andrew Campbell CEO of ACIAR is a great opportunity to share the work they do and the exciting opportunities for Sam in his chosen career in the Australian agriculture sector .

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Sam Coggins taking his knowledge and passion for the Australian agriculture sector to the world 

Agricultural aid is in Australian farmers’ interests

Andrew Campbell, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research considers the pragmatic reasons why well-targeted aid, especially in agriculture, is in the long-term best interests of Australian farmers and rural communities.

Why should Australian farmers support overseas aid?

Especially agricultural aid – doesn’t that just give a leg-up to our competitors?

Well, no.

Leaving aside moral arguments that overseas development aid is ‘the right thing to do’ for wealthy nations like Australia, there are also pragmatic reasons why well-targeted aid, especially in agriculture, is in the long-term best interests of Australian farmers and rural communities.

Specific examples of benefits from aid flowing back to Australia described below all stem from the direct experience of ACIAR – the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

ACIAR was established by the Fraser government in 1982, out of a recognition that Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry science has much to offer developing countries in our region as they seek to feed their people and develop their economies.

ACIAR is an independent statutory authority in the foreign affairs portfolio, reporting directly to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.  I am just the sixth CEO of ACIAR in 36 years.  We have enjoyed remarkable stability over that time, enabling us to build very solid long-term partnerships from east Africa to the Pacific, developing many projects that have delivered benefits back to Australian rural industries and communities.

Last week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched our new 10-year strategy.

In many ways ACIAR is similar to Rural R&D Corporations, in that we organise and fund research, but our focus is overseas, taking Australian science to developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and we work across livestock, crops, horticulture, fisheries, forestry, land, water and climate.

Australian farmers and rural communities benefit from the work of ACIAR in several ways:

  • At the most basic level, as an exporting country, we do better when the countries in our region can afford to buy our products.  As economies develop and people get richer, they consume more meat, dairy, fruit, processed cereals, sugar, wine and wool, and they demand higher quality food.
  • Australian scientists working on pests and diseases in developing countries can help to manage risks and limit the spread of major problems before they reach Australia.  In doing so, they also get opportunities to work on problems that thankfully don’t (yet) exist in Australia, enabling them to build skills in detection, diagnosis and control of exotic diseases.  This has proven of crucial value for Australia, for example with Panama Disease in bananas, and Newcastle Disease in poultry.
  • ACIAR investment in collaborative breeding programs gives Australian industries access to new varieties.  For example, seven new citrus rootstocks were recently released into the Australian market, developed from disease-resistant and salt-tolerant Chinese cultivars through a collaboration with NSW DPI funded by ACIAR.  Germplasm used by Australian wheat breeders to release high performance varieties to Australian growers draws heavily on material from CIMMYT – the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico – funded by ACIAR and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
  • ACIAR-funded fruit fly research directly helped mango farms in North Queensland, when exports to Japan were withdrawn in 1995 due to fruit fly incursions. The Queensland DPI was able to develop postharvest treatment protocols for Australian mangoes much faster because of their work for ACIAR in Malaysia, resulting in approval to restart exports at least six months sooner than would have been possible otherwise.
  • ACIAR often supports Australian researchers to work with partners in neighbouring countries to tackle a shared challenge.  The strength of our innovation system leads to new technologies being trialled and adopted first here. Research on growing tropical tree crops, such as mango, jackfruit and cocoa, on trellises for greater productivity and cyclone resistance, led by Queensland DAF with support from Horticulture Innovation Australia and ACIAR, is now offering trellising as a potentially transformative technology to Queensland growers. Research to tackle productivity problems associated with plant viruses in sweetpotato crops in PNG, has led to virus therapy techniques and virus-free planting material being adopted as the foundation for a more productive sweetpotato industry in Australia.  Techniques developed by Prof Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University to restore degraded fringing coral reefs in the Philippines (by stocking hatchery-reared coral larvae at the time of larval settlement into enclosures over the reef) are now being trialled on the Great Barrier Reef.
  • ACIAR is an important source of applied research funding for regional universities and state departments of primary industries, with major flow-on benefits for regional centres like Wagga, Armidale, Orange, Lismore, Toowoomba, Gatton, Roseworthy, Mildura, Yanco, Townsville, Hobart, Darwin and Maroochydore.

While I have great admiration for agricultural economists, benefit:cost ratios tell only a fraction of the story of why investing in agricultural aid in our region makes good business sense for Australia.

 Andrew Campbell, CEO, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

All over the world, evidence over the decades since World War 1 has shown that investment in agricultural research delivers great returns, within and between nations.  ACIAR has a fine tradition of measuring and tracking the impact of our investments.  Some projects deliver exceptional benefit to cost ratios.  For example, clonal improvement of eucalypt and acacia plantation genotypes in Vietnam delivered returns of around 80:1, and vaccination of village chickens in east Africa delivered returns of around 60:1.

Perceptions that our aid helps competitors to out-compete our own exporters don’t hold up under closer examination.  Smallholder producers in developing countries rarely compete in the same high-value markets as Australian exporters.  The gap in most instances remains very large, and reducing it somewhat usually creates opportunities for Australian industries.

For example, Indonesia wants to become self-sufficient in beef, and ACIAR is funding the University of New England, CSIRO and the University of Queensland to help lift beef productivity and production in eastern Indonesia in particular.  But beef self-sufficiency for Indonesia remains a very long way down the track.  In the meantime, they will need many breeding cattle from Australia and multiple linkages with the northern beef industry in particular.  Building these links will help Australian exporters and producers.

Mangos are another example.  Market studies around the Asia-Pacific, led by Griffith University in collaboration with the Australian Mango Industry Association, with input from state and territory DPIs and support from ACIAR, have shown how mango markets are differentiated by seasonal time slots and price points, local market preferences and varietal characteristics.  Innovations in pest and disease management, flower induction and post-harvest handling can bring benefits to the mango industry in Australia and in partner countries.

Overall, over the last 36 years, using very conservative assumptions and only counting the benefits that can be quantified and costed, the ACIAR portfolio has delivered benefits at least five times greater than our total expenditure.  Many benefits from more recent projects are yet to be fully realised.

While I have great admiration for agricultural economists, benefit:cost ratios tell only a fraction of the story of why investing in agricultural aid in our region makes good business sense for Australia.

Being a trusted science partner across our region, helping neighbouring countries to tackle some of their most pressing problems using Australian know-how, is a very tangible, practical demonstration of our commitment to regional security, prosperity and sustainability.  In doing so, we learn a lot and we develop new capabilities that help our own industries, and in the long term we create more and better market opportunities for Australian farmers.

In short, the 2.5% of the Australian overseas aid budget managed by ACIAR delivers terrific value for Australian farmers, rural industries and rural communities.

Andrew Campbell is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research

Red tape is destroying farming communities – methinks we might protest too much

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Here is an extract of an article from a very passionate person.

Red tape is destroying farming communities, yet the best the Turnbull government can do is launch another review.

At end of March, the government announced it would undertake a review into the red tape imposed on farmers by federal environmental regulation. 

But this review, like most others, will end up providing a massive pay day for the bureaucrats who run it, only to sit on the shelf and gather dust for decades to come.

What is so troubling is that the government is not taking this issue seriously. 

In announcing the review, the government said they would be “weeding out unnecessary red tape for farmers.” 

Red tape is more than just a few weeds that need to be pulled out. 

Only root and branch reform, involving the total extermination of red tape, and the bureaucratic pests which impose it, will help restore prosperity and opportunity to the agricultural sector.

Here’s how to do it. Read the full story here 

Whilst I laud me Mr Wild for his support of farmers I struggle with the concept that farmers have imposts the rest of the world escapes

Not so – in reality farmers have a social licence the rest of the world envies. Look at the humble dog owner and the code of practice.

Have a dog, the red tape says

  • get it chipped
  • keep it on a lead in public places
  • pick up its poop and dispose of it responsibly
  • dont dock its tail to name but a few

Social licence is earned. Our role as farmers is to show we deserve the freedoms we have and that means working with government and the community in an open and transparent way. Yes its hard work and we have to jump through lots of hoops but that’s farming in the 21st century. We are no different from any other business and we have to be prepared to show the faith the community has in us is warranted

Rudderless Dairy – makes my heart bleed

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Marian McDonald was a gusty woman when she took on the family farm in 2008. She bought a refreshing feistiness to dairy conversations. She is a champion of the grass roots, is not afraid to tackle the tough issues in her blog MilkMaid Marian, she asks the questions that need to be asked of people who should have the answers and she has the courage of her convictions

Today she gives her thoughts on John Mulvaney’s opinion piece in The Weekly Times in her post Disillusioned Dairy  

Mike Logan the former CEO of Dairy Connect also reflected on the state of the Australian Dairy Industry in Nov last year in his opinion piece Australian Dairy has Lost its Rudder.

Mike says

The leadership challenge of the Australian dairy industry has increased to a level that I believe is insurmountable without significant government intervention. I am not a supporter of government intervention.

Unfortunately, the time has come.

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The hubris of the board and senior executives of MG ( Murray Goulburn) has left the Victorian dairy industry – and by association, the Australian dairy industry – without a guiding rudder. The Victorians are at sea and going nowhere and are hoping for tides or winds to take them.

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Put simply, the end of the era of co-operatives has allowed the processors to control the industry. Presently, there is no unity between the farmers and the processors. Many will blame the supermarkets but the numbers don’t support that view. It is not Colesworth.

The leadership challenge is within the industry itself. Specifically, the leadership challenge is with the farm sector of the dairy industry.

…….

The ship is at sea, rudderless.

It is tawdry to note that the current Chairman of the ADF is also an ex-chairman and I believe a current Director of WCB. Another Director is from Fonterra. Most of the ADF’s budget is channelled through the processors. Clearly, the processors control the farmer’s representative body.

Mike comes from an industry with a highly successful farmer leadership lobby model in Cotton Australia. As a former Chairman of the Board of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation he bought a breath of fresh air, a wealth of experience and drive and like Marian feistiness to the dairy industry.

In his opinion piece Mike proffers the following solutions

What should the ADF do?

The ADF is the focal point of the leadership challenge. The ADF needs to reform itself into a functional & efficient dairy farmer representative body.

What should the Government do?

The government is rightly reluctant to interfere in industry policy and strategy. Governments all hope to be guided by an industry with a unified approach to the challenges of the future. When governments are forced into these positions they usually deliver blunt and inelegant solutions. Often, there are deleterious impacts from the unintended consequences of government interference in industry policy.

The Government is now at a point where it has to assume that role. The government has to free up the relationship between the farmers and the processors by addressing the focal point of the relationship – the contracts.

You can read the full piece here  It makes one hell of a lot of sense

My thoughts on farmer leadership in dairy?

As some-one who did put their hand up for roles on farmer lobby groups I agree with Marian. We wear out our champions. The majority of us are under-prepared from a governance, negotiation skills and general whole of supply chain knowledge capacity to make the changes required.  I was one of those under-prepared. ADF has some fresh blood and now has funding to build leadership capacity for our farmers. I look forward to them using it wisely. I look forward to our farmers seeking out the successful models, asking the right questions, being prepared to listen and feeling confident they have the skills and the support of their fellow farmers to take the Australian Dairy Industry to the heights it deserves

Added note. Another hugely successful farmer lobby group model is Farmers for Climate Action I know why this model works so well. It would be a very exciting day if  Australian dairy farmers embraced this model. Look out world