From sunflowers to social issues: A different journey


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Twenty years ago, Annie Pfeffer was named the Queensland RIRDC Rural Women’s Award State Winner.  Today her management role has been spiritually transformed into one of Pastoral Care Supervisor.

Annie Pfeffer (Baker) says she can pinpoint the day her life changed.  Attending the Australian Rural Leadership Program, (ARLP) in Sydney in 2007, she recalled listening to former CEO of World Vision Australia and Baptist minister, Tim Costello AO.

“Tim challenged us to consider social issues in rural and regional Australia and that’s when the process really began for me,” said Annie.

“Before I could help others, I realised I had to sort out who I was, and trust myself to claim the person I really am.  And that has taken me a bit longer to work through.”

Seven years before that, Annie was a corporate warrior on a mission to raise the profile of the mono-unsaturated sunflower oil industry and that’s where she became involved with RIRDC.

Her vision then, was to improve the prospects for the Australian sunflower industry and its growers, while improving the health of Australians, by encouraging them to use Australian grown mono-unsaturated sunflower oil.

After winning the Award, she received numerous public speaking invitations.

“The Award gave me a lot of confidence,” said Annie.

“My journey started with RIRDC and the opportunities that have followed have come as a result of being involved with the Award.”

Annie’s corporate work was extensive. Before winning RIRDC, she was on the board of Grain Co.

Later, she was invited to be a director of Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority and Regional Development Program and Condamine Alliance Director, as well as Chair of Pittsworth and District Hospital Friendly Society Ltd.  In 2009 Annie joined the CSIRO Social Science Research Ethics Committee, a position she held for nine years.

At a personal level, she acquired new skills in media, marketing, public speaking, and report writing.  And she used those skills to encourage others to become involved in the industry.

On a deeper level though she was struggling with life and a psychologist advised her to understand herself which led to studies in spirituality.  Sue Monk Kidd writes: ‘For when we stop perceiving, assuming, and theorising from the top, the dominant view, and instead go to the bottom of the social pyramid and identify with those who are oppressed and disenfranchised, a whole new way of relating opens up.  Until we look from the bottom up we have seen nothing.’

This has led to a new beginning in pastoral care work, sitting and listening to people during their time in hospital and in aged care facilities.

“It’s not just palliative care, as it includes anyone who needs someone to walk with them and listen to their joys and struggles,” said Annie.  “The corporate world was all about fixing things, but my new life is about being present and being with people as they unpack and make sense of their story.”

Annie now teaches and supervises others who have the same generosity of spirit.

She has a degree in Ministry from the University of Divinity in Melbourne and ongoing  pastoral care education studies with the Queensland Institute of Clinical Pastoral Education (QICPE).

“It is a holistic view – it’s about listening to and walking with people,” said Annie.

“I have been able to do this because of the significant journey I have been on, understanding who I am, where I belong, why I’m here with the support of family, friends and supervisors.  I most recently celebrated marriage to my best friend Sharon.”

“My life has taken a spiritual transformation.  This has been an ongoing journey which still continues with the desire to see all people valued.”

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