Poultry industry leader Tamsyn Crowley to take part in coveted rural leadership program


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A career in the poultry industry wasn’t what Tamsyn Crowley had in mind when she embarked on a science degree. In fact, despite her exposure to the industry during her formative years—her father invented and built some of the early automation equipment for the industry—as a teenager Tamsyn was adamant she would never work with poultry.

Today, Tamsyn’s passion for the poultry industry is contagious; she is the Director of Poultry Hub Australia based at the University of New England in Armidale, runs a poultry research laboratory at Deakin University in Geelong and has set up a program to help young people facing employment barriers enter the poultry industry.

She has also been selected to participate in Course 28 of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP), sponsored by AgriFutures Australia’s Chicken Meat Program. Tamsyn joins 28 other like-minded leaders across different agricultural sectors for the 15-month program, which aims to build leadership capability in people in rural regional and remote Australia.

Tamsyn grew up in the Yarra Valley as the eldest of four kids and has always had an insatiable inclination to figure things out, which ultimately led her to pursue a career in science.

“I love solving problems and that’s what science is all about,” she says.

A thirst to learn

It was Tamsyn’s desire for feedback, wanting to know how she can improve and striving to become a better leader that led her to apply for the ARLP.

“As a scientist, I love feedback. If I do something, I want to know how I can do it better next time. Over the years, I have had opportunities to do leadership courses, but haven’t felt they really pushed me; I’m hoping the ARLP is really going to test me. I want to be a better leader; I want to find out where my weaknesses are and how resilient I am. I think this program is going to do that.”

Tamsyn hopes participation in the ARLP will give her the skills to try and address some of the issues her industry, and rural Australia more generally, are facing.

While undertaking a PhD in Plants and Forestry, Tamsyn was asked to apply for a job with CSIRO, funded by the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).

“The CRC program brought together industry and research and the exposure took me from being a very academic scientist to someone who was more applied. I had many opportunities to meet people within the poultry industry and learnt so much during my 14 years there.”

“I was then encouraged to apply for my role at Poultry Hub, but couldn’t give up my interest in research, so I still run a research lab down at Deakin in Geelong.”

Tamsyn says she loves working with the poultry industry and coming up with solutions to the major challenges and hurdles it faces.

“People within the industry are just so giving of their time, they are happy to chat, happy to help, it is a wonderful environment to be part of.”

“One of our biggest pain points is attracting people to work in the industry. I want to see a change in dialogue from people saying, ‘oh I work on a chicken farm’, to recognising they are contributing to sustainable food production.”

“People don’t realise poultry is extremely sustainable, and as we get closer to 2050 when we are predicted to experience major global food shortages, we need to get people to be more excited about working in the industry.”

Engaging youth

Tamsyn and Poultry Hub Australia have developed a program to support young people gain employment in the poultry industry. The program was awarded funding through the Youth Employment Innovation Challenge, a NSW State Government initiative, and more recently received Federal Government funding which will enable its growth, with plans to roll out across Australia.

“We’ve done a number of things recently with youth experiencing significant barriers to employment, particularly in the New England region where there is close to 16% youth unemployment. A lot of these kids need confidence, someone to believe in them and give them an opportunity. There are companies employing 30 plus people a month, so hopefully we can start to bridge that gap. It is a really big project, but we’re confident it will make a big difference.”

Applying leadership skills to change the narrative

Tamsyn says one of the greatest challenges for the industry is the public perception of animal welfare, and how well-equipped farmers are to deal with the constant scrutiny. She says social media has its positives, but it can also have some big negatives.

“There is a lot of myths and misinformation about the industry. When I visit a farm, I see how much farm managers love their chickens, I mean it, they really love their chickens –  this isn’t a message that is adequately promoted.”

In reality, the poultry industry is a key player in sustainable food production and growers and industry players are passionate about their animals, as well as delivering a premium product at a low price point for consumers. It is an exciting and advancing industry that genuinely cares about the welfare of its animals and plays a significant role in supporting regional and rural communities.

“We really need to change the narrative around the poultry industry and this isn’t something I can solve myself. If I can learn the skills to be a better leader to help lead change and bring people along that feel passionate to make a difference, I think the impact can extend right across rural Australia, and particularly in poultry.”

Strong leaders ensure future of Australia’s rural industries

AgriFutures Australia’s Angela Wakeman, Manager Capacity Building says AgriFutures Australia were excited to sponsor Tamsyn.

“We recognise the value of capacity building and what it means for our rural industries. Strong leaders who are passionate about making a meaningful contribution are essential to the future prosperity of agriculture in Australia.”

“Tamsyn has already achieved so much in the poultry industry, her strong partnerships and ability to provide innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the sector are commendable. The opportunities and learnings she will gain from participating in the ARLP will ensure her continued success as a leader in the poultry industry, her community and regional Australia.”

Applications for ARLP Course 29 are now open and AgriFutures Australia encourages participants from its 13 levied industries to apply. For more information, visit https://rural-leaders.org.au/.

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