Women in Agriculture

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (11:46): I rise to support the motion brought to this place by the Attorney-General:

That this house—

(a) raises awareness of the important role women play in agribusiness and in regional South Australia, especially in leadership roles;

(b) notes that women are occupying an increasing number of diverse roles in agribusiness; and

(c) recognises that South Australia continues to encourage more women to pursue careers in agriculture and horticulture as the world’s growing demand for our food continues to rise.

I congratulate the Attorney on bringing this very important motion to the house and would like to make a brief contribution on it today. Historically, agriculture has had quite distinct roles for both men and women. The Attorney-General talked particularly about the early days of this state when women really were providing support to their farming husbands. Reading between the lines, it is quite easy to see that it was more than support; in many ways, they held the show together. In fact, I would put my mother in that category. She spent years milking cows, feeding pigs, keeping chooks and keeping the whole show on the road while my father did the paddock work.

The Attorney also mentioned Women in Agriculture and Business and the CWA, both of which, I think, she is a member. Well done to her for that. The CWA, of course, is well known throughout Australia for its membership, its branch structure and the support it provides to women living in country areas of Australia. Women in Agriculture and Business is less well known, but I can say that there is an active branch in Port Lincoln. I think there are about 300 members across the state, here in South Australia. Again, it provides a really important network and support role for those women who are actively involved in agricultural business.

Of course, agricultural business means something different from what it used to. Once upon a time, life on the farm was relatively simple and enjoyable. It was a way of life and a lifestyle went with it. It was never easy, but it was all those things. It has become much more technologically advanced. Farming is far more diverse in the way it applies both technology and business structures, and women are finding more and more that there is a role for them at a senior level, not just in farm businesses but in farm organisations.

Farm business and agribusiness have become much more professional in the way they are run, and I think that has given women an opportunity to really step into leadership roles and management roles, often being more highly skilled and more educated than some of the men who operate in that environment. I am taking nothing away from the men there; I am actually congratulating the women on taking the initiative.

We are continuing to see a growth in productivity worldwide and in farms across Australia. That continued growth will require an increase in expertise, a workforce with increased educational qualifications and also business initiatives. The opportunities for professionals within agribusiness are endless. We have touched on a few of them today, but they are too numerous to name. Essentially, it is an opportunity for girls to leave school and take up an education and career path that will see them well set in the agribusiness world.

Two or three women in senior leadership roles have been mentioned today. I know that as soon as we start naming names we run the risk of forgetting some people, but Fiona Simson has been recognised as the leader of the National Farmers’ Federation. Caroline Rhodes has also been mentioned; she is of course the CEO of Grain Producers SA. I first met Caroline when she was CE of the grains council—the South Australian farmers federation back in the day—so her career is progressing well.

I would also quickly like to mention Megan Low, who is based in Port Lincoln. Megan is the CE of Lower Eyre Agricultural Development Association (LEADA) and she does a terrific job. Primary production, including seafood, is paramount to the regional economy, particularly in my electorate. Farming and seafood are both primary production. Many women are already working within the seafood industry and taking their places at board level, which is encouraging to see.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to be awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship. Once upon a time, it was a male-only domain. It is a worldwide scholarship scheme which, in this country, provides Australian farmers with the opportunity to travel overseas. The scheme operates throughout the commonwealth and, to a certain extent, in some other countries. A couple of South American countries have come onboard, as have a couple of European countries. It is a very successful scholarship scheme and has seen worldwide growth.

As I said, once upon a time, it was a bit of a boys’ club. These days, we are seeing more women being awarded these scholarships. Often, they are practising farmers or are at least practising within the agribusiness sector. This scholarship gives them the opportunity to travel the world, undertake a study of their choosing, then return to their original place of production or employment and bring to that the expertise they have gained through their studies. This enhances their farms, their businesses and their professional activities.

Congratulations to the Attorney-General on bringing this motion to the house. It is a very simple but very important motion. It is important for me, as somebody who is involved in agriculture, to recognise the increasingly important role that women are playing in our sector.


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