2001 Winners

2001 New South Wales Winner - Jon-Maree Baker

Skills and training to ensure the cotton industry’s future sustainability

At the time of the Award, Jon-Maree had held the position of Executive Officer of Cotton Consultants Australia since 1997 and was the youngest Director of the Australian Cotton Industry Council. She owns and operates, in partnership with her husband, Baker Ag Services, and runs a farm specialising in Santa Gertrudis beef cattle and Australian stock horses.

Jon-Maree facilitated the first meeting of the Women’s Industry Network Cotton, which resulted in the formation of a working group to progress the establishment of a network for the sharing of information and ideas.

Her vision for the cotton industry was one where all members, both male and female, are qualified and equipped to meet the changing demands of government, community and regulators

She is committed to ensuring women have access to the necessary skills and training to enable them to play a greater role and in turn ensure the cotton industry’s future sustainability. Jon-Maree was committed to establishing a pilot course that offers technical, business and leadership training to women across her industry.

She believed there was a real demand for such a course and believed it would be the catalyst to fostering a strong network among cotton women, to ensuring women’s future involvement and contribution to their industry and to a strategy for women within the industry’s overall strategic plan. She also believed the pilot course once developed would have widespread application across other rural industries for the benefit of women across agriculture.

2001 Victoria Winner - Sharyn Munnerley

The Development of the Australian Calf Rearing Research Centre

Sharyn is recognised as one of the country’s leading consultant’s in calf rearing, having spent close to the past decade researching its best practice.  Her vision was to turn calf rearing into a viable and sustainable industry in its own right. She believes there are huge opportunities for the dairy and beef industries to turn what has traditionally been regarded as a by-product into an economically valuable resource.  It is estimated that calf mortality is as high as 465,000 head per annum, representing a 10% loss in productivity to the Australian cattle industry.

Her proposed activity centred around the establishment of the Australian Calf Rearing Research Centre, to educate and facilitate the correct management of calves to producers and the broader community. The Centre would provide farmers with access to theoretical knowledge and practical skills and the opportunity to form valuable networks. Information would be available through the Centre by way of lectures and courses, field days, publications and videos and a dedicated website.

Despite a number of major setbacks, including a major rezoning resulting in the relocation of the Centre and a failure to secure funding for new infrastructure, much of the information and technology was available to producers.

The Centre’s website was launched in January 2002 – www.acrrc.com – and was positively received by rearers and industry groups throughout Australia.  The publication “The ABC of Calf Rearing” was launched at the Lardner Park Field Days in March 2002.  In addition, numerous courses and seminars were delivered and well received with negotiations currently underway to incorporate structured calf rearing educational packages into TAFE and agricultural colleges and schools.

Eleven specifically designed calf rearing short courses were implemented covering various competencies, including buying and selecting calves, the importance of colostrum, feeding and weaning, digestion and nutrition, general management, disease prevention and management, targeted weight gains and growth rates, body scoring and muscle assessment and standards and legislation.  In addition, Centre staff attended numerous field days, including Lardner Park, Stanhope and Acme, where an average of 700 people a day and at Denison, where 200 people visited the stand and sought out information on calf rearing.

The Centre was involved in the development of new products designed to aid in calf health and welfare and was commissioned to support the development of other major cattle management projects.

The Centre has had a significant impact on calf rearing practices and has already gained much credibility from rural organisations and educational institutions alike. In specific terms it has enhanced employment outcomes and business opportunities for new and existing calf rearers while providing regional economic benefits. A potential $5,000 in life-span production per animal was realised, and mortality and morbidity rates have been reduced.

At a personal level, Sharyn believes the Award and the skills and recognition she has gained from it, to be one of the pivotal and turning points in her life, and has enabled her to achieve her driving ambition and long term vision, for the Australian Calf Rearing Centre.

2001 Queensland Winner - Dianne Gresham

Web Ahead

Di Gresham is a dairy farmer, who in partnership with her husband and family operates a 400 cow dairy farm, outside Gympie, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. At the time of the Award she was also very active within the industry off farm, and was Queensland Dairy Farmers Wide Bay Burnett branch Vice-Chair and the Subtropical Dairy Group Regional Vice-Chair and a member of the Queensland Rural Women’s Network BridgIT Project Management Committee and Australian Women in Agriculture National Conference Organising Committee.

Di’s vision was for a producer targeted dairy specific website that catered to the needs of dairy farmers, providing a complete source of extension and research content, coupled with a regularly changing user interface.

The Internet, Di believed, would markedly enhance the operation of rural businesses, through access to information and products that otherwise may have been non-existent or difficult to obtain and while the number of websites catering to agriculture and to the dairy industry had increased markedly, she believed farmers were left somewhat daunted at the volume of information, with many sites often lacking in regular content updates, consistency of content, ease of usability and poor maintenance. The major objectives of her proposed activity included:

  • To complete web program technical skills training.
  • To partner the development of a targeted Internet gateway for the dairy industry.
  • To develop relationships and networks with industry groups to impart IT skills and knowledge, to help producers conduct their businesses and to help rural organisations’ and communities conduct their affairs.

Di’s technical skills training was done through Spherion Corporate Education and involved 20 days training, attended at the company’s Brisbane office.

The training undertaken involved:

  • Dreamweaver, Project Management and Photoshop to complement the Internet and design modules.
  • Internet, Web Page Authoring and Networking Fundamentals for networking concepts and practices.
  • Site Design Methodology and Technology focused on the website development process and included creation tools and design technologies, plug-ins and multimedia.
  • E-commerce Strategies and Practices taught the basics of conducting business online and overcoming the technological issues of constructing a electronic commerce site.

At the conclusion of 2001 Di, with the support of the northern dairy region’s research organisation, Subtropical Dairy, began conceptual work on a website called dairyinfo.biz. The site was designed as a user friendly interface that incorporated a number of features including news and industry issues, downloadable decision making tools to use within a farming business, an industry events calendar and database and an extensive digital technical information library that was partnered with a powerful search engine capable of drilling for specific information within the entire database.

Di has also become heavily involved in providing technical and content support to a number of rural community groups. She was Chair of the Queensland Rural Women’s Network Technical Working Party, where she rebuilt the Network’s website. She also sat on the Network’s BridgIT project, an email and Internet training project and is also redeveloping the BridgIT website. She has also provided Internet advice to Australian Women in Agriculture.

At a personal level, the Award provided Di with the opportunity to develop her technical skills, which along side her expertise in content management, has made her a valuable asset in providing a farmer’s perspective and hands on support in the development and maintenance of numerous rural websites nationally.

2001 South Australia Winner - Jeanette Gellard

Harvest Your Potential-Careers in Agriculture

Jeanette is from Kangaroo Island and has been involved in promotion and development of agriculture and natural resource management.  Previous positions held by Jeanette include Board Member of Agriculture Kangaroo Island and Chair of the 2000 SA Women on Farms Gathering Organising Committee.

Jeanette’s vision was to raise awareness amongst young people of the employment and business opportunities available in the agricultural sector and to raise the profile of agriculture in the wider community.  She believes there is little promotion of the sophistication and technical innovation of agricultural industries, and little appreciation of the variety and depth of career choices available within the agricultural sector.

Her proposed activity involved three stages. The first was a desktop study of the information currently available relating to careers in agriculture, through extensive research and networking with relevant organisations and groups.

The second stage was the design and development of a web page and resource kit that provided comprehensive information relating to job opportunities, including potential employers and education and training pathways.

The final stage involved the distribution and promotion of the resource kit and web page to the target audience.  The result has been the development of a webpage ‘portal’ -www.careersinagriculture.info – which predominantly contains links to external sites that contain an immense diversity and depth of information.

Over 70 different occupations from eight career streams were identified and researched for inclusion on the web page and linked to external sites that provide comprehensive information covering the job. The career streams ranged from finance and economics, to education and training, to management and marketing, to legal and political, and media and information technology.  The resource kits which included fact sheets, business cards and stickers, were distributed to a variety of target groups including rural and urban schools, tertiary institutions and training organisations, industry groups and associations and government agencies.

Jeanette’s ambition was to bring attention to not only jobs available in agriculture, but also the ways in which many ‘non traditional’ career paths are intrinsically linked to agriculture and successful rural enterprises.  The project raised awareness amongst the target audience of the diversity of careers agriculture offers, and generated significant support from a range of sources, including educational and training organisations, government agencies and industry groups.

At a personal and professional level, Jeanette developed new found web page design and internet research skills and developed and extended her industry networks.

2001 Western Australian Winner - Rhonda Tonkin

Developing Value Added Wildflower Products Nationally & Internationally

Rhonda is one of the leading wildflower growers and exporters nationally, with close to three decades experience in the industry.  She is the only person in the Western Australian industry to have vertically integrated her business on a large commercial scale, from production to wholesaling, retailing, value -adding and exporting. Her business produces and markets some 400 species of flora, which she wholesales to every state in Australia and overseas. Her value-added products are exported to Holland, Germany, Italy and USA along with Japan, China and Israel.

Rhonda’s vision was to enhance the wildflower industry’s sustainable production through better value-adding and growing exports, while at the same time dramatically increasing opportunities for rural women and for regional tourism.  The main objective of her proposed activity was to strengthen the dried flower section of the industry through improved value-adding of the product range. While exports of fresh flowers continue to increase, the dried flower market, which represents 20% of the total industry internationally, has remained static.

Rhonda’s proposed activity involved a major promotional and networking tour of the major value-adding markets, including Italy, Germany, Holland and USA and to report back her findings to industry. Prior to the tour she forwarded samples of value-added products from nine existing companies and a further 30 of her own designs. Products included wildflowers under resin, framed flower pictures, wildflower stationary, cards and perfume, gum nut and flower jewellery and handcrafts and wildflowers books and publications.

Rhonda met with seven leading importers who had expressed an interest in ‘value-added’ Australian product, including Florient in Italy, which owns and operates a number of small outlets through the country, Schleef in Germany, where meetings with principal Claus Weiman with 30 years experience in flowers and giftware, proved extremely valuable and the American company Universal Sunray, which catalogues and sells throughout the world.

The most obvious result of her trip was a commitment from Universal Sunray to feature in their catalogue and to sell larger numbers of Australian value-added wildflower products, volumes which will first be reached through Australian sales and then on to America. However the knowledge gained and networks forged from the tour have also been extremely valuable in understanding the demands and constraints of the market.

Tourist numbers increased through Rhonda’s own farm and the region’s other flower tourist venues, more staff are being trained to extend the range of floral designs and a five year plan to build and market the product has now been drawn up. The other four exporters are following a similar path and value-added product is now recognised as an integral part of the wildflower industry.

Rhonda firmly believes that while the Australian industry is disadvantaged by its distance from markets, it has a unique product in its wildflowers that can be promoted through tourism worldwide.

2001 Tasmanian Winner - Frances Bender

Study of Market Conditions, Buyer Behaviour and Demand Factors in the Japanese Market for Fresh and Processed Atlantic Salmon

Frances and her husband Peter own and operate Huon Aquaculture Company Pty Ltd. At the time of the Awardy HAC was the second largest producer of Atlantic salmon in Australia, employing 76 people and generating gross annual sales of $22 million.

Frances played an integral role in the development of Huon Aquaculture and was Director of Administration, Occupational Health and Safety and Human Resources Manager. Her vision was to see aquaculture, particularly in Tasmania, continue to prosper and expand as a source of sustainable future employment for rural communities.

Frances’ proposed activity was to study first-hand the markets for salmon product into Japan and to articulate their customer needs, including product, packaging and presentation specifications. An early maturing of the domestic market, combined with HAC’s reliance on the wholesale sector of the market and limited marketing experience, led Frances to investigate exporting.

The fact that Tasmanian exports commanded a premium of up to 30% in the Japanese market, made Japan the obvious first choice in export markets for HAC to pursue a more direct relationship.  The major objective of the study tour was to facilitate Huon Aquaculture Company’s transition into exports, through a better understanding of the Japanese market, and as a result improve the viability of the HAC and employment and training opportunities for its staff.

The study tour included attending the Foodex Trade Show and visitations to a number of potential customers and importers of seafood including Global Eight, Daitio Gyorui and AIC, along with a tour of the Tsukiji fish markets, a Ginzi salmon deli and numerous department stores including the Takashimaya store.

Frances received such a good reception for her first visit to Japan that HAC has proceeded in developing their own brand-Huon Tasmanian Salmon-specifically for the Japanese market and began exporting product into Japan, with Tassal Japan as a distribution channel.

At a more personal level, Frances understanding of the Japanese market and its requirements has dramatically increased, knowledge that she has been able to translate to HAC management and staff. That understanding has enabled HAC to devise market entry strategies for their brand, in particular in the export market and into Japan.  Frances saw the study tour as a strategic first step in developing direct relationships with a customer base in Japan and a strategic first step to HAC’s expansion into export, that in turn, would expand the training and employment opportunities HAC can offer within their community.

2001 Northern Territory Winner - Carmel Wagstaff

he Northern Australian Pastoral Industry- A Great Career Opportunity

Carmel, prior to her transfer to Brisbane in 2001, lived and worked on cattle stations in the Barkley Tablelands of Northern Territory for some 27 years.  She is founder and co-ordinator of the nationally accredited Australian Agricultural Company Training Program, one of the country’s largest and most successful competency based, on-station training programs.  The program provides on-station training and assessment to over 60 young men and women each year and has been accredited for significantly improving the staff retention rate at AACo, while dramatically improving the image of the pastoral industry and its employment opportunities.

Carmel’s vision for agriculture was to lift the image of the rural worker and to promote the professionalism of Australia’s agricultural industries, particularly the Northern Territory beef cattle industry.  She is deeply concerned about the negative image given to Australian agriculture, which she believes has contributed, to what has become, a flood of young people away from a career in rural Australia.  Her proposed activity involved three succinct stages.

Stage One involved Carmel further developing her own leadership, human resource and organisational skills. She successfully completed a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management through the Northern Territory University.

Stage Two involved investigation into the issue of rural employment and retention rates in the Northern Australian pastoral industry, before brainstorming the issue with a group of relevant and informed persons. 19 people representing employers, trainers and recruiters of young people in Northern Australia, convened for a two day workshop in Darwin in July 2000.

Brainstorming focused on issues extending from current methods the industry uses to attract the services of new staff and reasons people leave their employment, to the personal and professional development of staff, and the issues of lifestyle and geographical isolation.

The workshop culminated in the formation of NARC, the Northern Australian Rural Careers Network, with its aim of providing a network to promote the implementation of professional business strategies, that address the issues of attracting, developing and retaining staff in the extensive pastoral industry.  The workshop also developed media material called ‘The Message’, a document highlighting the positives, including the financial benefits of working in the Northern Australian beef cattle industry.

Other initiatives included the organization of a study tour for industry middle management. The first tour took place in March 2001 and proved so successful that a second tour was planned.  A second forum was held in September 2001, which focused on reviewing NARC’s progress to date and setting the direction and targets for the 12 months ahead.

Stage Three involved the development of materials to promote the industry as a preferred and professional career choice.

Carmel’s vision saw the beginnings of what a group of committed and like-minded people can achieve. It was intended that NARC continued to evolve into a credible lobby group, that developed sound strategies to address the serious skill shortage currently facing the Northern Australian beef cattle industry.

At a personal level, the Award gave Carmel a platform on which to build her knowledge and skills and in turn further develop her capacity to drive the direction of NARC and to continue to passionately promote the professionalism and unique career opportunities within the pastoral industry.