2019 Future rural leaders urged to challenge the status quo as they embark on their director’s journey


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Twenty-five passionate rural leaders are prepared to make an impact and shape the future of agriculture now that they have completed the Australian Institute of Company Director’s Foundations of Directorship program. An agtech incubator, a precision weed control scientist, an insect farmer and a former logistics from the Air Force who now tracks soil health were some of the participants of the three-day program.

The importance of imparting a company’s culture to a new board, when to establish a board and the roles and responsibilities of a board member. These were just some of the topics covered during the three day Australian Institute of Company Director’s (AICD) Foundations of Directorship program.

This career-heightening program was delivered to 25 AgriFutures™ Ignite Network members. The Network is a program to connect passionate rural leaders. Participants have a strong interest in shaping the future of Australian rural industries and are responsible for igniting the passion, revitalising the industry and introducing and encouraging the changes to make it happen.

AgriFutures Australia Managing Director, John Harvey said this golden-nugget opportunity is just one of the ways the organisation is working to develop the leadership skills of young people in our rural industries.

“Ignite Network members influence, they make change and they ignite new ideas into our agriculture sector. We want these people to be on boards, panels and in executive positions but we need to give them the key skills to help them on this journey. The AICD program builds the foundations of these important skills,” said Mr Harvey.

The AICD Foundations of Directorship program provides a comprehensive overview of the main components of directorship including governance, finance, strategy and risk. Participants learnt how to interpret financial statements, they identified key causes of strategic risk and how those risks can best be treated and they built their knowledge on effective decisions that will minimise personal risk and maximise contribution.

Bulls Eye AG Managing Director, Mitch Highett said the program gave him a different lens for running his business.

“It was a shift of thinking. Rather than just working ‘in’ the business, I need to work ‘on’ the business and keep coming up with ways to improve it. That’s a director’s way of thinking. I need to look at how I do things from a strategic lens, whilst also ensuring my governance is up to scratch,” said Mr Highett.

Westpac Future Leader Scholar, Leesa Chen said being able to share ideas and network with the other program participants was a real highlight.

“To be able to learn through other people’s experiences and gain insights into different rural industries has been extremely valuable. I feel so inspired after meeting 24 other rural leaders who are all driven to bring a positive impact into our rural and regional communities,” said Ms Chen.

Grubs Up Australia Director, Amanda Abou Rjeily said the program was extremely beneficial for the participants from a start-up background.

“I walked away with strategies on how can we put the different hats on at different times and to get it right from the beginning with strategies and processes.

“Coming from a start-up, it’s easy to be critical of yourself. Networking and talking to others in the start-up space made me feel like we are on track and we just need to build on what we are doing,” said Ms Abou Rjeily.

AgriFutures Australia Manager, Communications & Capacity Building, Georgie Davies said another highlight of the program was the honest and frank question and answer session with AgriFutures Australia Board Director Kate Andrews.

“She pieced it all together. She brought information from the discussions in the training room into real life scenarios and gave participants tips for dealing with various situations which may arise on a board.

“It was also great to bring together our inspiring future young leaders from the AgriFutures™ Ignite Network. They are an extraordinarily bunch and really contributed to the discussions over the three days, challenging one another and sharing life learnings.

They will certainly be our movers and shakers in agriculture and I’m confident this program will progress their future opportunities to sit on boards, advisory panels and committees,” said Ms Davies.

The three-day program ran in Sydney from 21-23 May 2019. To hear about future capacity-building opportunities, join our AgriFutures™ Ignite Facebook group.


 AICD Foundations of Directorship program applicants:

Darren Hughes, Canning Vale, WA, CEO and Managing Director, Laconik

William Taing, Brunswick, VIC, Director, Beanstalk AgTech

Leesa Chen, Carlton, VIC, Westpac Future Leader Scholar

Rachel Nicoll, Hampton, NSW, Managing Partner, A.D & R.L Nicoll

Cate Yates, Griffith, NSW, Business Manager, Flow Smart Pty Ltd

Oliver Le Lievre, Barwon Heads, VIC, Business Development Manager, Aglive Pty Ltd

Nicole McDonald, Preston, VIC, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

Nell Sullivan, Molong, NSW, Business Support Specialist, Suncorp Bank

Guy Coleman, Narrabri, NSW, Precision Weed Control Scientist, University of Sydney

Richard Kohne, Wembley Downs, WA, M&A Manager, Mareterran

Hayley Purbrick, Wandook, NSW, Business Improvement, Digital and Environment Manager, Tahbilk

Amanda Abou Rjeily, Noranda, WA, Director, Grubs Up Australia Pty Ltd

Michael Christie, Surry Hills, NSW, Patent Attorney, K&L Gates

Stephanie Wurst, Cassini, SA, Owner/Manager, Kukakunga Farming

Karina Dambergs, Deloraine, TAS, Co-Founder, Edward & Edward Tasmanian Distillers

Grace Calder, Creswick North, VIC, Lamb Industry Development Officer, Agriculture Victoria

Airlie Landale, Deniliquin, NSW, Founder and Managing Director, Farm Table Australia

Melissa Neal, Barton, ACT, Industry Leadership Manager, Sheep Producers Australia

Kari Moffat, Berry Springs, NT, Compliance and Animal Welfare Manager, Wellard Rural Exports

Sam Duncan, Armidale, NSW, CEO, FarmLab

Chloe Kempe, Ferny Hills, QLD, Operations Manager/R&D Project Officer, Agrimix Pastures Pty Ltd

Shane Francis, Biarra, QLD, Chief Operating Officer, Brisbane Valley Protein

Jade Miles, Stanley, VIC, Farmer, Black Barn Farm

Mitch Highett, Canobolas, NSW, Managing Director, Bulls Eye AG

Tony Larkman, Laidley, QLD, CEO, ATTIA Ltd

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