How do you fix a problem not enough people seem to realise we have?

My post yesterday came from a place of deep hurt. In fact my entire world is driven by my emotions.

When I came back to agriculture 20 years ago I knew there was a very good reason why I left in the first place. I didn’t want to milk cows but I did want to use my talents ( whatever they were ) to get the best outcomes for the industry my family loved so much.

It turned out I did have a talent I didn’t know I had and that was designing and delivering action learning programs for young people 

To hone my talent I sought our John Hutchison and Deanne Kennedy at JayDee events who have been delivering Cows Create Careers for the dairy industry.

John and Deanne are magnificent humans and together with Cathy Phelps ( who at the time headed up the Natural Resources Management department at Dairy Australia) we created a farmer focused first iteration of Picasso Cows where young people in primary schools explored healthy landscapes, clean waterways and energy efficient dairies. I got it funded and piloted it for two years and then Dairy Australia wanted it.

The first Picasso Cows were traffic stoppers

I was aware the budget would be in Marketing and Communications (M&C) . The people who run schools’ engagement at Dairy Australia are nutritional experts. The Dairy Australia version of Picasso Cows would not be farmer focused and instead have a health and nutrition focus

All well and good, that is their area of expertise,  but not my passion so I walked away. Handed over all the IP everything for no remuneration and knew that it was in good hands been looked after by John and Deanne.

Is Picasso Cows still being looked after by John and Deanne? No it isn’t. When will people in Marketing and Communications realise grass roots programs are successful because they are grass roots programs and the best people to deliver them are the grass roots ?

A couple of years ago Dairy Australia made the decision to no longer fund Cows Create Careers . It was so rewarding to see the farmers go into battle to have Dairy Australia reverse their decision. As I said John and Deanne are magnificent humans, they have a rapport with the demographic of farmers I don’t- the over 45’s

I also created a highly successful series called “Jhet and Emma – A Day in the Life of Two Young Girls working on a Dairy Farm ” series for the NSW DPI LandLearn program. The DPI insisted it be housed on their website. When they shut down LandLearn did they let me know the Jhet and Emma series would disappear into the ether? No they did not. Hours and hours and hours of pro bono time and a highly successful education series gone forever .

And this was just the beginning of the extractive world of agriculture I found myself in. After 20 years I feel like an abused housewife who knows deep down no matter how much people say they are going to change, the problem is too endemic, yet she keeps going back for more.

So I ask myself, why is the culture in agriculture like this and there is a good reason

Everyday WE ( Australians) wake up expecting food at rock bottom prices to be a birth rite. We are asking farmers to do what they do and we aren’t prepared to value it. The system proliferates this mindset. The supermarkets wake up everyday on a race to the bottom competing on price alone.

Food is 10% of income in this country. 70 years ago it was 50%. Our farmers getting up everyday to produce food at rock bottom prices gives us a disposable income to spend on other things.

Our farmers feel undervalued. The sector feels undervalued. Undervalued people tend to focus on problems and don’t have the energy to seek out solutions. They tend not to value people who do.

Change starts with us

How do we start the regenerative process?



Best practice workforce development – what does success look like?

I am very excited that the charity I founded has received National Careers Institute funding to prototype and pilot a model for best practice workforce development.

I am putting a lot of pressure on me and the people I am surrounding myself with to ensure we deliver a successful model that is replicable and scalable by any industry.

Working in agriculture for the last 20 years I have seen so much money wasted.

I have also seen people and organisations delivering pockets of brilliance . How impressive is this People in Agriculture  which is a partnership between a number of agricultural sectors leveraging the brilliance of the people at Dairy Australia who created People in Dairy

In the first instance – surely we could all work miracles if we bought the pockets of brilliance together so we could learn from each other because this is what people committed to best outcomes for the people they serve do.

Whilst I have seen some brilliance at Dairy Australia  I have seen a lot of things that don’t make any sense to me at all. My area of expertise is designing and delivering programs that empower young people to take action on issues that matter to them.

I created Picasso Cows for Dairy Australia. That  meant I have worked with their Marketing and Communications teams because that’s were the budget for school engagement sits.

Can agriculture fix its images and perceptions issues through marketing and communication?

I am 100% confident that it cant.

The only way we ( farmers and the businesses that support us) can attract and keep employees is by being the places that people are proud to work for.

This requires the capacity and capability to self reflect on our businesses. Simple things like how does my business present to the public. One example rubbish and piles of old machinery lying around are not a good look.

I spent 25 years working in the world of retail. We got taught this stuff. Who is helping people in agriculture self reflect.

When we get ourselves right THEN and only then can we let the people in marketing and communications do their thing  with confidence

Organisations like Dairy Australia can lead by example and show us how its done.

Lets start by taking the pressure off the Marketing and Communications team – they cant fix things that are out of their control

Who do you channel when you need to flex your courage muscle?

Everyday I get to work with extraordinary young people doing extraordinary things

The person who gives me the courage to keep turning up everyday is an octogenarian

His name is E. Professor David Lindsay AO FTSE and my claim to fame is I am his niece and the flower girl at his wedding. Yes that’s me on the left.

He has more courage than any scientist I have ever met in the world of agriculture. He challenges the research and development corporation that will potentially fund his team’s science at the highest level.

If only other industries had scientists with this courage, just imagine how exciting the agriculture space could be

In 2022 will we have the courage to hold up a mirror to ourselves and ask the big question ?

Our Young Farming Champions are participating in a series of workshops with Cynthia Mahoney doing a deep dive into Alexandra Carter’s groundbreaking book “Ask for More” 

I am enjoying the sessions and this resonated with me

Many people believe that it takes two to make a conflict, but you only need one car to have an accident! When you examine what brought you to this place, you’ll have better information to help you move through it. If you’re internally stuck, you can still go through both sides of the situation and look at the conflicting feelings, patterns, and facts that are leading to the stagnation you feel.

Today I sent our Impact Report to our funding partners. I shared my personal joy at getting the best return on investment for the organisations we work with who have all recognised investing in young people (K-12, higher education, early career) is where Australia is going to have the most impact.   Young people may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future and very importantly young people are aware and they are active and they have the capacity to take others on the journey .   

I shared that 2022 has been a rewarding year for me.

      • The highlight has been getting $ from the National Careers Institute to protype a workforce strategy that any sector can replicate and scale.
      • Receiving state Government and Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation funding for the Young Environmental Champions program
      • Our YFC being invited to speak at conferences across the world

I also shared my frustrations and hopes and dreams

Whilst I enjoy supporting young people (K-12, higher education and early career) to take action on issues that matter to them, the agriculture sector remains a sector I don’t understand and continues to frustrate me.


    • The agriculture invests in programs that aim to lift young people up whilst the wider culture in the sector rewards them for learning to fit in, for staying small, for not self-promoting.  Cynthia Mahoney touched on it in a recent YFC workshop  
    • The agriculture sector is desperately short of labour but has no workforce strategy
    • The agriculture sector has very black mark for modern slavery – yet appears to makes no real effort to address it

In 2022 will we have the courage to hold up a mirror to ourselves and ask the big question ?


Culture change can start with acknowledging the pain and respecting the expertise

This post is a reprint of a recent article in AFR.  For me the article’s ethos highlights an opportunity for us all to change our thinking from believing we are all experts on everything to acknowledging and valuing many, many people have dedicated their lives to obtaining expertise is specialist fields. I have been working with teachers for 15 years
“Schools are complex ecosystems, interconnected and intertwined communities that require qualified practitioners to navigate and to educate so that we can give our next generation all the skills they need to make informed choices in their lives.”
I have been working with farmers all my life and listening and hearing their ask to be seen, heard, understood and valued.
I watch from the side lines the pain Indigenous Australians continue to feel.
Surely creating a culture we all want to be part of is a shared responsibility that starts by acknowledging the pain and the respecting the expertise

Fed-up school principal says critics ‘have no idea’

Julie Hare Education editor

The head of an elite private school has railed against baseless attacks and misinformed opinions about teachers by politicians “who actually have no idea what they are talking about” while calling out their remedies for complex issues, such as falling educational standards, as simplistic.

Briony Scott, the principal of Wenona School in North Sydney, said teachers were trivialised, their profession bastardised and their contribution overlooked by a generation of political decision makers who see the world in black and white and have no comprehension as to the complexity of the school “ecosystem”.

Outsiders and politicians like to tell Briony Scott how to do her job and she’s had enough. Louie Douvis

In an impassioned speech at a conference about female educational leaders, Dr Scott said everyone, having attended a school at some stage, considered themselves an expert with their opinions often misinformed and too-rarely imbued with facts or evidence.

“Every couple of years an education minister or prime minister will say something along the lines of ‘we should focus on the basics of how to read and write’. And I’m like, oh, I hadn’t thought of that one,” Dr Scott said.

“They say schools must focus on character and values and in my head I’m thinking ‘have you heard of Aristotle? What do you think we have been doing for the last 2000 years’?

“And then I think, they have no training, but they [think they] know more about my profession, what I do with my three degrees and where I have worked on the ground for decades. Tell me again, how to do my job.”

Dr Scott elaborated on the complexity of the teaching profession by detailing what is not, in theory, part of her job, but is nevertheless intrinsic to it.

“I’m not a family counsellor, but I have sat with children and held their wrists as they were bleeding, patched countless self-harm injuries, told a child that their mother has died and they just found her body,” Dr Scott said.

“I’ve ridden in far too many ambulances to count, counselled warring parents, dealt on the front line with medical issues, accidents, alcoholism, mental health, breakdowns, suicide, domestic violence, murder, bankruptcy, unemployment, homelessness, and couch-surfing primary school students. Tell me again, how to do my job.”

She went on. “I’m not a medical doctor. But I have students who are walking around with defibrillators in case their heart stops, epi pens in case their body stops, nebulisers in case their lungs stop. And yes, I confess to the crime of talking about sexuality. I have talked to my students about sex and consent, long before it became a political football or an openly discussed subject,” she said.

“I’m not a police officer, but I give students advice about where to go when they’ve been assaulted or raped. What to do if someone stalks them online or at the bus stop. I explained over and over that child pornography laws apply to them if they send a naked photo of themselves online, even if their boyfriends ask them to, or how to get out of a car when the person who wants to drive has drunk too much. Tell me again how to do my job.”

Dr Scott said she is not an extrovert, but has dressed in too many ridiculous costumes to count to raise money and awareness for various issues. Neither is she an expert in cybersecurity but has found herself helping a 14-year-old take down a porn site she created so people would like her more.

She is not a lawyer, but has spent days in courtrooms as an expert witness, prepared subpoenas, “interpreted and misinterpreted court orders, parent restraining orders, and been threatened with legal action too many times to list”.

She said she had been imperiled, trolled and “silenced by those who think I should know better”.

“Education is my profession. And despite popular but lazy stereotypes, I don’t expel students for vaping or for being obnoxious or for having dodgy parents. I don’t turn my back on the quirky, the illiterate and the children who aren’t gifted.”

“The whole purpose of education is that it is given to every child so that they have the opportunities to make informed choices about who they want to be, what they want to do and where they want to go. I appreciate that it doesn’t always work this way and that we have huge inequalities that need addressing.”

Dr Scott said politicians had in recent months accused teachers of being extremists, of indoctrinating students on gender fluidity and climate change “because of this belief that we can’t be trusted”.

She said teachers were judged by school performance in various tests, such as NAPLAN, PISA, higher school certificate and ATAR – “all interesting measures but frankly, the equivalent of a butter knife in an operating theatre”.

‘Dud teachers’

In March, Stuart Robert, then acting federal education minister, blamed “dud teachers” for the decline in the academic results of Australian school students.

He told an independent schools conference that the “bottom 10 per cent of teachers” who “can’t read and write” were a key reason for Australia’s plummeting performance in the international education benchmark tests.

“Our society has the right to determine and influence what happens in schools. I have no problem with that. But schools are not political playing fields nor are we chess pieces to be moved at the whim of others,” Dr Scott said.

“Schools are complex ecosystems, interconnected and intertwined communities that require qualified practitioners to navigate and to educate so that we can give our next generation all the skills they need to make informed choices in their lives.”

Dr Scott said it was time teachers stood up and defended their profession because without doing so, they were “handing it to people who have no idea how to do this job”.

Julie Hare is the Education editor. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a writer, journalist and editor. Connect with Julie on Twitter. Email Julie at
  •  #CreatingaBetterWorldTogether

What does is take to be a changemaker?

What does is take to be a changemaker?

Such an important question

My uncle is Emeritus Professor David Lindsay AO FTSE. He has spent his entire life trying to create a movement to bring the Australian Wool industry into 21st century  

If the powerbrokers aren’t listening to some-one with his credibility  how do everyday people like you and me drive change?

As an aside – my uncle Dave was always popular with the ladies – my cousin Helen ( on the right) and me were flower girls at his wedding

Speaking of legends and doing a deep dive into the family history. There have been some amazing women in my life. I adored my grandmother, she was devasted when her youngest son was run run over by a truck at the farm before his second birthday – she endured so much and she was such a lady. I will never forget the day she asked me to cash in her Dairy Farmers Co-op shares to find  what  she  was  forced  to buy  50  years  previous, now  as a dry shareholder they were basically  worthless

I called my son Nicholas Phillip to honour her journey

Nick and Gran at my cousin Michael’s ( uncle Dave’s son) wedding

We are all a product of our life experiences, our biases are often handed down from generation to generation without even knowing the back story  

Knowing the past can help better inform the decisions we make in the future

The past is a funny thing. Humans love to reflect and study the past as a way of trying to make sense of our world today. As Carl Sagan once famously put it “You have to know the past to understand the present.” But the past is also complex and frustrating. The more we try to understand it and learn from it, the more it confounds us.

Human nature, it seems, is to constantly question and wonder “what if?” This is absolutely true at the personal level. As individuals, we constantly ask ourselves, if I had only done this differently, how would things have changed? Or, what if I said this instead of that, or reacted in this manner as opposed to that manner? While it can be frustrating and resulting in much soul-searching and sleepless nights, I truly believe such introspection is healthy and ultimately helps us in making decisions in the future. Source 



Time for agriculture to deal with the impact of the “Haters”

There is no-one I have met who exemplifies courage more that Emma Ayliffe and as the person who nominated Emma Ayliffe for Australian Young Farmer of the Year,  I found reading this interview so hard.

When the first thing a young person like Emma has to think about is how to manage the “haters” you wonder is the sector you have invested your life’s work into worth the effort.

I know too well how my son and my former husband struggled with dealing with the “haters”.

I know too well what you must lose when you put yourself out there to change the conversations around agriculture.

If there is anything agriculture needs to change it’s how they celebrate people doing it differently.

Supporting young people to change the conversations about agriculture.

Its almost 20 years since I returned to my farming roots and went on a mission to change the conversations around agriculture.

  • Agriculture as a career choice
  • Agriculture’s environmental credentials

My vision was for agriculture to be perceived an exciting industry
– where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered,
– where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly and
– where partnerships across sectors are encouraged and nurtured

– that was part of the solution to solving the world’s wicked problems.

When my work started attracting young people and they become the focus of our work and the face of our programs, my team asked ourselves how can we give back to them as individuals and the organisations that support them.

To achieve this we asked them what they wanted. What did they say

Young people said we may be only 20% of the populations but we are 100% of the future  we want agency and voice in designing that future.

We then asked schools and teachers who are given the important role of ensuring young people are ready for the reality of life beyond the classroom what they want

They said we want:

  • an Ecosystem of Expertise we can tap into where our students are connecting  with real people, with lived experiences to investigate real issues together.
  • opportunities for our students to enhance their wellbeing, build their reliance and leadership skills.

To achieve this we have 3 foundation programs:

Our school programs (The Archibull Prize – secondary school )and Kreative Koalas -primary school ) engage students in agricultural and sustainability awareness, understanding and action through art, design thinking, creativity, teamwork, and project development.

The face of our school programs are our Young Farming Champions. Young people who are role models of who you can be in agriculture who we train to be confident communicators and trusted voices. They become dedicated life long learners like me committed to changing the conversations around agriculture. Our Young Farming Champions represent the diversity of people in agriculture. Sam Wan is a first generation Australia forging a career as wool broker still turning up every month to our workshop to learn how she can wake up tomorrow to do it better

Twenty years ago when I returned to the farm, I was flabbergasted when someone said to me farming was an esoteric career. I was frustrated to see  stories about women in agriculture being focused on our shoes.

I was even more horrified by statistics like this from some research Fiona Nash commissioned

In my previous role as Federal Minister for Regional Development, I examined a six-month period of regional stories across the two major metropolitan newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne.

The findings:

  • In Melbourne, 80% of the regional stories were negative, 15% were neutral, and just 5% were positive.
  • In Sydney, around 75% were negative and only 25% were positive.

When this is the narrative city people are fed, it’s no wonder they fail to understand the reality in the regions, the huge driver the regions are for city economies as well as regional economies, and the huge, untapped opportunity they present for businesses and individuals alike. Source

Young  people like Sam are changing the conversations around agriculture and Action4Agriculture is super pumped to be supporting Next Gen to do that in the agriculture sector and in the community.

How can we ensure that investment continues?

The Power of Strategic Partnerships

Seeing things from another person’s point of view can feel like putting on a new pair of glasses

Like the non-renewable energy sector, agriculture is participating in the race to develop and scale solutions that will pave the way for a greener world. To enable the net-zero transition, farming businesses and the value chains they supply are reimagining nearly every aspect of their businesses, from partnerships to talent and innovation. Doing so requires creating the right conditions to foster innovation, as well as investing in the right resources.

At Action4Agriculture we are working with highly diverse strategic partners that bring outside perspectives to how to source agriculture’s talent pool.

We are being energized by our partnerships with:

We are looking forward to creating a culture in agriculture where getting outside perspective is the norm. It requires deliberate effort and we are confident it will produce so much value. Whilst switching perspectives can be surprisingly hard to accomplish. it gives us the best possible information from which to advocate, allows us to examine our contribution to a situation (which enables us to then change it if we desire), and empowers us to design a workable solution..

Seeing things from another person’s point of view can feel like putting on a new pair of glasses: initially it takes work and focus and may feel unpleasant before your eyes adjust. But getting that perspective is important. It helps us move from a black-and-white (and often biased) view of a situation to having a “learning conversation,” where we grow in our understanding of an issue rather than remain stuck. ” Alex Carter “Ask for More”

Footnote. The Web Development & Consulting Club provides opportunities for passionate students to gain industry experience by establishing pro bono projects on website design and development and to give back to the University of Auckland and the local community by offering our services.

#CreatingABetterWorldTogether #SuccessIsAJourney #CommunitesofPractice #StrategicPartnerships

Social impact – if you could wave a magic wand what would you fix?

I work in the social impact space and I am appreciating participating in peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset..

Inspirational speaker panel- How awesome are peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset.. 

A fortnight ago I had a 30 min zoom call with some-one who asked me some great questions including what success looks like for me.

After a fortnight of:

I am confident I now have a lot more clarity on what the 5 pillars for success looks like for me underpinned by the 5th pillar

  1. A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life
  2. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap
  3. Clear Pathways to get between  1 and 2
  4. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags
  5. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together

If success is a marathon not a sprint how far have, we travelled?

  1. Excitingly we have travelled a significant distance to achieve No 1 – A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life.

Great examples include:

The main roadblock to the finish line appears to be the focus on ATAR scores instead of the  The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration which will require a significant culture change in schools and an attitude change by conversative politicians.

  1. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap. The good news here is we have crossed the starting line.  The Action4Agriculture team look forward to having their Action4Youth initiative funded to experiment and see what works, what has potential and what we can park
  2. Clear Pathways between 1 and 2. I am confident if funded Professor Felicity Blackstock can bring together a team of bright minds to make this vision a reality
  3. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags. We know what we need to do, building a critical mass to make it happen is another thing. We must focus on the huge cost of inaction on this one
  4. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together. This one is particularly close to my heart and I will continue to work with my tribe to celebrate the wins on this one – no matter how tiny

What are you optimistic about?