Dairy Industry Culture Change – opening Pandora’s Box

When Young Farming Champion Lucy Collingridge recently interviewed Michael Bungay Stanier (MBS) she put to him a Wool Industry challenge.

MBS used the Drama Triangle concept to frame his response ( Lucy’s full interview with MBS will go live on 8th Oct 2020.)

Australian Dairy Farmers President, Terry Richardson’s OP-ED last week put the Australia dairy industry’s toxic culture front and centre. 

Word on the street is there is no shortage of people who agree with him. 

Now that Terry has opened Pandora’s Box – What next 

My experiences have shown me the Australian dairy industry ( at all levels) has spent so much time perfecting the drama triangle it has no concept of what its world would look like without it   

As Lucy and MBS have highlighted the agricultural landscape isn’t alone in favouring the drama triangle over the TED model. We all can default to this culture when its the predominate culture.  How do we reframe the toxic negativity?  How do we help victims become creators, persecutors become challengers and rescuers become coaches ?

When boiling the ocean isn’t an option perhaps dairy might like to take a leaf out of the NSW Local Land Services model and provide extensive personal and professional development for their team members  to be resilient to the negativity and help farmers who are entrenched in persecutor or victim mode to have outcomes focused conversations.  

What can we do?

We can all boil our own glass of water by learning to recognise Drama Triangle patterns and call them out 

Great example from Unions NSW today on Twitter. Sounds like some-one is feeling undervalued. Classic mix of Victim/Rescuer and maybe even a little bit of persecutor/finger pointing thrown in for effect.     


Is it time for a new roadmap for agricultural education?

The Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEFA) recent survey results of young people and their knowledge of the origins of the food they eat and the natural fibres they use suggest we may need a new roadmap for agricultural education in Australia.

Agriculture has been documenting the problem for a long time and the results from his survey appear to show little change in knowledge of the paddock to plate process since the 2011 PIEFA survey.

What could a successful customer centric business model for agricultural education look-like?.

Agriculture is a business so let us have a look at best practice business principles

  1. Find out what customers want and how they want to buy it. 
  2. Debate and adjust your offering to better match what customers want. 
  3. Align your business model to how your customers want to buy. Don’t start from how you want to sell. Start with a new understanding of the real customer need, their search process in finding you and their most desired learning model

What does success look like?

If you are a wool producer or a cotton grower would a program that achieves this excite you?

or this

If you want to raise awareness of the diversity of careers in agriculture would a program that achieves this excite you?

To learn more about The Archibull Prize visit http://archibullprize.com.au/

This result is particularly interesting as the PIEFA survey (see page 16) noted that according to their survey “Agronomist was the most poorly understood career and many students would not be exposed to this job title although it is significant in broadacre cropping industries.” It would appear from our program impact studies there is great merit is showing young people who they can be in agriculture.

If your want to get teachers excited about careers in agriculture would a program that achieves this excite you?

Who is already doing it well?

The only way to know who is doing it well is for industry to measure the impact it is having in schools. As the PIEFA survey shows its time to measure OUTCOMES in preference to OUTPUTS  

Would it be smart to work with the people already doing it well and help them multiply their impact?

This is a no brainer and there is no shortage of people/organisations already showing huge success. Time to signpost those people

Some examples include:

A great collaborative model of aligning your business with what your customer wants to buy are the industries who are building partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Agriculture located at Western Sydney University.

If you want to engage teachers, invite teachers to help you design your offering. I have personally found working with teachers a very rewarding process.

Being customer orientated is a mantra for Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). Understanding what young people care about and want to learn about has led them to create a new series of resources on the eco-credentials of wool and a series of soon to be available factsheets on the following on Microplastics & biodegradability, Natural capital and Greenhouse Gas accounting

AWI will also shortly be releasing as series of great case studies around wool producers that use restorative land management practices and how that positively affects the environment. You will find them shortly on their Learn About Wool site

A mega shout out from me to the farmers in Western Australia behind the new AGZero2030 initiative. As the PIEFA survey shows young people see acting on climate change as a high priority and the AGZero2030 team is setting the bar showcasing what WA Farmers are doing

Speaking of the PIEFA survey  

Should the world of agriculture be concerned about these statistics?
• As per the 2011 study, 30% indicated yoghurt is made from something other than animal product.
• One in six students did not know that bacon and scrambled eggs are animal products.
• One in four students do not know that leather shoes are made from animals
• Over 30% of students did not know that books or pasta are made from plant material.
• Over 60% of students did not know that denim cotton used to make jeans is a plant material.

I am not concerned. The best advice I got when we started Picture You in Agriculture was this

“The mobile phone is the most complex engineering feat on the planet. You don’t need to know how it works to value it”

Perhaps another question we could ask ourselves is what outcomes do we want from agricultural education?
Is knowledge of the paddock to plate process what we want to monitor and evaluate?
What else could be more important?

What I know is young people are very interested in learning how to ensure that the safe, affordable, nutritious food our farmers are producing is getting to ALL the people who need it. We can all be very proud this is front of mind for young Australians. Read their stories here

Success will come from a focus on a bottom up approach driven, informed by the wants and needs of farmers and teachers and a genuine desire to collect data, experiment, tweak and signpost success

How are you pivoting in the pandemic?

Today I particpated in the most beautiful, joyous zoom workshop. I was almost thanking COVID for bringing all these wonderul people together.

First some background  thanks to my gorgeous friends Jenny and Angela I am huge fan of the Belvoir St Theatre and our group have shared many wonderful lunches, plays and post play debriefs over the past few years.

All of that stopped with COVID and we have all being doing our bit via donations to ensure the Belvoir can ride out the pandemic.

When Belvoir’s online workshop, Body & Voice Fundamentals in Camera led by Anna Houston popped into my Inbox  I thought it looked interesting and signed up more to support them rather than something I would attend.

I got a reminder yesterday, noticed I was free at the appointed time and tuned it.

Anna did the Harry Potter wizard wand thing at the beginning. If you could wave your magic wand what outcome would you like from this workshop?

As it turns out the same two magic wand moments that resonated for me resonated for Anna and she made it happen for these two people.

We all want to be the best version of ourselves and as these people said “its hard to hide on zoom when turning your video camera on is mandatory for a meeting”

Our Young Farming Champions have had the opportunity to particpate in workshops with people who come from the same background as Anna. I have seen how their lives have changed from the opportunity.

I wish every introvert had an Anna in their lives. There may just be a place left for you

Food for Thought. Is your COVID19 food security crisis management plan inspiring you to become a backyard farmer

I thought of my wonderful Australian leadership coach Zoë Routh from Inner Compass when I saw this article. Like me and my chickens, Zoe’s chickens bring her great joy.  
Is COVID19 inspiring you to think more about the things you alway took for granted like always having access to safe, affordable nutritous food?
  • What is your new food security plan?
  • What are you growing at your back door you werent before?
  • Have you got a House Cow or are you thinking of getting one?
There is no shortage of House Cow candidates in my region ( Ieven have them at my front door)  but trust me milking them by hand is quite a challenge and very grateful for all the dairy farmers who get the milk from cow to carton and I can use my talents for other things.
If having realiable access to fresh eggs and chickens look more like your thing then here is some great info on How to build a chicken coop

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My chickens live in luxury with the chicken coop built out of repurposed materials from some of  house renovations and turning the old orchard and veggie garden into a chicken run  

Chickens are perfect for an apocalypse because not only will they provide you with delicious eggs and fertiliser for your garden, they will help you stave off boredom.


Your chicken house can be made from anything that provides shelter.
Your chicken house can be made from anything that provides shelter.

Chickens are perfect for an apocalypse because not only will they provide you with delicious eggs — about 250 eggs per bird a year — and fertiliser for your garden, they will help you stave off boredom. Chickens are hilarious. When you’re feeling depressed about not being able to watch your favourite band perform live, the chickens will lift your spirits with the way they hunt and chase whatever enters their space. But first you will need a chicken coop. This structure has two parts.

The house protects them from the rain, wind and sun. The run is their main play area. You will need some chicken wire to build a fence around the run. It should be about 2m high with a floppy top leaning outward, so any fox or cat attempting to climb the fence will simply fall to the ground under its own body weight. Similarly, the wire should come all the way to the ground and at least 30cm across the surface of the ground on the outside of the fence, so any dog or fox trying to dig their way in will hit the mesh.

Wrap the wire around star pickets, and posts in each of the four corners. Allow 3sq m for each chicken inside; we don’t want a battery hen operation. Your chicken house can be made from anything that provides shelter. I’ve seen everything from old trampolines to Portaloos and old cars. For a simple house, join together a couple of pallets with star pickets, add some sturdy branches as a perch and whack on a piece of corrugated iron for the roof. Your chickens will compact the soil very quickly; to stop them skating in their own poo, lay down 20cm of straw or sawdust over the area to absorb the manure. This will smell much better and provide a home for worms that your chickens will delight in scratching out.

A final word: start with at least three chickens. Eventually one will die and you don’t want one to be lonely. Even chickens struggle with isolation.

Survival is the reason it is critically important to put rural, regional, remote Australia in the centre of our thinking and actions

Investing in Young People

Did you know ( I didn’t) if young people in rural, regional and remote (RRR) Australia had the same education opportunities as young people in urban environments we could increase the value of our GDP by a whopping 50 billion dollars 

I am currently working on a large funding application that will allow  Action for Agriculture to deliver their programs that empower young people to solve tomorrow’s problems today to clusters of schools in rural, regional and remote Australia.

The ability to deliver to clusters of schools is important because

  • It values the time as well as the expertise of our Young Farming Champions who are both role models, mentors and program facilitators for students
  • It values the combined expertise of teachers in RRR.

Our teachers are a highly undervalued cohort. If teachers feel undervalued its because they are.

In urban schools large numbers of teachers are being asked to teach subjects they haven’t been trained to teach. In fact 50% of geography teachers are history trained. In RRR that becomes a nightmare where they are required to teach multiple subjects to multiple year levels. 

Below is an extract from Professor John Halsey’s  Independent Review into Rural Regional and Remote Education report.  Its a beautifully written and sobering report and a great call to action. Young people in RRR deserve better. RRR deserves better.

So why is it so critically important to put RRR (rural, regional, remote) in the centre of our thinking and actions at all levels of government, in the private sector, and in the social and cultural life of our country?

In a word, survival!

By the year 2050 the world’s population is expected to reach 9.8 billion (United Nations, 2017). For Australia, this means a population of around 35 million and, as we know, there is much debate about how robust this figure is and whether or not a bigger population will turn out to be ‘a good thing or a bad thing or….’ (Parliament of Australia Website, n.d).

Consider just four facts.

  1. The majority of the food consumed daily in the world, and particularly in the developed world, is produced in RRR areas. Accessing food is already a major problem for nearly a billion people in developing countries. It is also a problem for many in developed countries. The food security of Australia, and the world more widely, is a critical issue and one that we cannot take for granted. Producing food, even if in many instances it has ‘gone the way of high tech’, requires enormous numbers of highly skilled and semi-skilled workers. As Pretty (2002) argues:

Without food, we are clearly nothing. It is not a lifestyle or add-on fashion statement. The choices we make about food affect both us, intrinsically, and nature, extrinsically. In effect, we eat the view and consume the landscape. Nature is amended and reshaped through our connections—both for good and bad (p.11).

2. Secondly, much of the world’s energy is sourced from rural and remote regions and many of the world’s fresh water supplies have their headwaters in rural locations and traverse substantial rural landscapes. In Western countries, between two and five thousand litres of water are used to produce the daily food for a single person (Arthus-Bertrand, 2009, p.134).

3. Thirdly, there is the profoundly important matter of arresting the decline of the natural environment, which includes the effects of climate change, and developing new paradigms for valuing it so that it, in turn, can do what it has always done—sustain life in all its complexity and diversity. To quote Pretty (2002) again:

…an intimate connection to nature is both a basic right and a basic necessity…we have shaped nature, and it has shaped us, and we are an emergent property of this relationship. We cannot simply act as if we are separate. If we do so, we simply recreate the wasteland inside of ourselves (pp.10-11).

4. Fourthly, there is the issue of maintaining territorial security. It is worth reflecting upon how the land mass of a nation will remain secured, as we move into a future with rising pressure on space for human habitation and all the requirements for progressing and sustaining it. Maintaining a purposeful presence in our RRR spaces and places is a ‘soft’ but significant contribution towards national security.

While these facts reflect traditional roles and origins of RRR communities, they are also relevant to employment, innovation and the future–and all are underpinned by education and training.

The national results profile of non-urban students clearly shows there is a significant gap to be made up.

The cost of inaction

Major differences in achievements and successful post school pathways between urban and rural, regional and remote children and young people, have persisted for decades (Review Discussion Paper, 2017, pp 15-18).

Given how much debate continues to swirl around funding for education, it is instructive to consider some outcomes relating to the cost of inaction, of not working to bridge the divide between rural, regional and remote educational opportunities and achievements and those in urban centres.

  • Firstly, research shows that people not in full-time work or study by age 24 and who continue in this way over a 40-year period, produce a cost impact on society of around $412,000 per person. The total fiscal and social cost of a lifetime of disengagement is $69.3 billion, using 2014 figures of 45,700 people (Lamb and Huo, 2017). This amount represents about 15% of all of the Australian Government budgeted expenditure for 2016‑17 (budget.gov.au).
  • In a similar vein, it is well documented that one consequence of young people becoming disengaged from education before they complete their schooling is a greater propensity for them to drift into crime and then becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. The financial costs associated with this far exceed those of providing a ‘top quality’ education and there are major social implications and costs as well (Halsey & Deegan, 2015).

If for no other reason, education which fully engages young people and nurtures and builds their capacities throughout their formative years is a very sound investment; one which is repaid many times over during a lifetime.

I have learnt a great deal putting this application together and I am very grateful to the people and organisations I have listed below  for sharing the research with me 

Thank you to 

Dr Cameron Archer for directing me the Halsey Report

Kris Beasley Principal Centre of Agricultural Excellence

Lorraine Chaffer – NSW/ACT Geography Teachers Association

Gonski Education Centre at UNSW who read my mind brilliantly

Kira Jean Clark Regional Skills Investment Strategy Project Coordinator at Cassowary Coast Regional Council

Queensland Government who has done some fabulous work on government’s role in preparing us for the Future of Work

Young Farming Champion and agribusiness lawyer Meg Rice and journalist Mandy McKeesick synthesizers of research extraordinaire

My favourite books

Favourite Books.jpg

What do you do to relax ?

What does peaceful and calm look like to you.?

I can guarantee I never look peaceful and calm.  I know insomnia is my best inspiration.  I do enjoy reading and so do my friends. I love to hear what other people enjoy reading.

I am going to regularly update this post with books that have left a memorable impression on me this year with the most memorable being the first five in my list and the others, books I enjoyed.

I would love to know what you enjoy reading.

Books that had impact in 2020

I did a lot of reading in 2020

In no particular order – 13 books I enjoyed

  1. Anxious People – Fredrik Backman. For me this book was an insight into the domino effect of suicide and how kindness and compassion  are integral to surviving each day
  2. Sorrow and Bliss – Meg Mason. A powerful and at times very funny book about the impact of chronic depression on the protagonist on the people around her. Its a book about hurt and loss and forgiveness and self compassion. First seek to understand how hard it is to love some-one with chronic depression
  3. The Thursday Murder Club- Richard Osman. This book is a delight
  4. The Survivors – Jane Harper. Her best yet
  5. Lucky’s – Andrew Pippos. An interesting read
  6. Trust – Chris Hammer
  7. All the Devils are Here – Louise Penny. Not her best an a bit far fetched
  8. A Song for Dark Times – Ian Rankin. Another excellent Rebus book
  9. The Order – Daniel Silva. Always enjoy Daniel Silva
  10. When She Was Very Good – Michael Robotham. Not his best
  11. Too Much and Never Enough – Mary Trump
  12. A Life Repurposed – Ronni Kahn. Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant. Want to learn more about this extraordinary woman Highly recommend the documentary Food Fighter
  13. Cathy Goes to Canberra – Cathy McGowan. Wonderful insights on how communities can determine their own future

I also spent a lot of time updating my knowledge on the latest thinking on leadership. It was a great reminder there is not enough people putting leadership thinking into action with Cathy McGowan and Ronni Kahn notables who are walking the talk in spades.


Topping the list for 2019

  1. Difficult Conversations – How to discuss what matters most . In moving this book to the top of the list I want to make mention of the equally revolutionary Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition and Never Split the Difference  as well as Zoe Routh’s “Real Talk – Connection is Currency workshop” I participated in May 2019 and my friends who are good listeners. The reason this book sits at the top of my list is this quote
Give yourself some empathy. We’ve all made sense of our experiences as best we could – often with very little guidance – and made choices that did and did not work out.
Life is not easy. What we need is a little empathy for ourselves – our mistakes, our failures, and our shortcomings, our moments of weakness, selfishness and stupidity – and forgiving ourselves these, are essential steps towards finding balance now and growth in the future.
For some, this feeling of deep caring towards oneself comes in a flash of insight; for most of us, it’s a lifelong project of small adjustments and daily reminders. It’s not about making excuses or shifting responsibility towards others. It’s the simple intention to accept and care for what is.
If we are not satisfied, we can apologise and grieve, and we can try for better, starting right now”

2. Leaders Who Ask by Corrinne Armour –  I am a strong believer in the Growth mindset  which is the belief that talents and abilities can be developed over time; that there is a potential to foster new skills in yourself and others. This book has done wonders for my soul and helped me say piss off to my inner critic who previously sucked far too much of my oxygen. This book has increased my drive to surround myself with people who can help me grow and pay it forward

3. Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee  totally agree with this review ‘Brutal, brave and utterly compelling . . . I can’t remember a book I devoured with such intensity, nor one that moved me so profoundly’ Rebecca Starford. I  strongly recommend that John Howard and Tony Abbott read it

4.  The Rosie Result  –  by ​Graeme Simsion This review sums up the book perfectly for me ‘The Rosie Result is a handbook for those who believe the world can be organised by rationality. It is, above all, sensible. Simsion indexes many of the fads currently piercing the stately fabric woven by Team Enlightenment. Homeopathy, non-vaccinaters, mouthy sports parents, 25-year-olds with psychology degrees let loose on the public, junk food, veganism, teachers and others who unthinkingly label, education in general, all get a run. And men.’

5. Tin Man by Sarah Winman. I learnt alot about myself reading this book.

6. Rusted Off by Gabrielle Chan. This book gave the whole concept of a rural/urban divide genuine perspective for me and how out of touch so many of our career politicians are


Ideas for Careers Media Wall


7. The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan – I like this genre and I loved Dervla’s debut novel  The Ruin which I read last year. Dervla McTiernan is a lawyer from Galway, who moved  Western Australia following the global financial crisis of 2008.

8.  Bruny – storyline covered very well here ‘The novel is amusing but beneath the laughs serious questions are teased out about Tasmania and Australia’s long-term strategy for agricultural and economic security. At “the end of the world” the local and the global, political and personal intersect. The story is set a few years in the future – about 2022, the time of Tasmania’s next state election – when the US has withdrawn from the UN; Daesh has expanded its reach and China has developed strong ties with Australia, and a particularly strong interest in Bruny Island. How far, the novel asks, will a person go to realise their own political ideology and when does a passion turn extreme?

9.  When the Crawdads Sing .  Dymocks Book of the Year. I am looking forward to the movie

10..  The Dutch House –  for me a book about letting go

11. Beartown –  I loved this book. For me its a book  about understanding we may have difficulty figuring out right vs. wrong but there is a clear distinction between Good and Evil. Its a book about “fear vs. courage and the importance and limits of friendship and loyalty.” The sequel Us against You is also a good read though not quite as powerful

Other good reads

Lanny by Max Porter – quirky

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes – delightful

The Wife and the Widow by Christian White – how love of family can blur the lines between right and wrong



PETA vitriol reminding us to be kinder to humans

Kindness .jpg

Social media has opened the door for everyone to have an opinion, and too often showcase just how nasty we can be to each other.  So when I got Airlie Trescowthick – Founder of Farm Table newsletter this week and reached the section on feedback they received on this Facebook post a little piece of me died. This wonderful team of people doing such awesome job on behalf of farmers being attacked by farmers.

I had glanced at the original post briefly, smiled and moved on. What on earth could possibly generate all this vitriol?

Some responses against the content of the post stated:

  • “Why are we quoting and promoting such an anti-farming group from a group called Farm table? If nobody took notice of their stupidity, they would have no platform and no following to do the extreme damage they do. Disappointed, to say the least.”
  • “I hope this bullshit is just a joke? Surely? If not then you need to eliminate your cottonwool wrapped fairy genes out of the genepool. Seriously, get a grip!”
  • “Not worth the oxygen they breathe”.

Some of the language used was violent and directed slander at PETA and/or Farm Table.

I come from a family that doesn’t do difficult conversations full stop and it remains a skill set I have failed to master. Great article here on why its important and how to do it here. As the second article reminds us the language we use in conversations matters and the importance of not letting our emotions dictate our delivery.

Here is a further cut and paste of the section from Airlie’s newsletter

‘Last week, we shared PETA’s new phrases to replace common ones in our vernacular. As expected, the feedback we received was incredibly polarising. What was most striking to us was how people shared their respective view points –  comments I received from fellow producers or people involved in ag in support of the language change were written in a very measured, thoughtful and practical manner, whereas those against were often very rude and used shocking and defamatory language.

However, those respondents that chose to contact me directly via email raised some very valid and salient points that I also wanted to share here to see another viewpoint.  For example, I received one email that read, ‘We should all endeavour to undertake continuing education to keep evolving and improving the lives of animals in our care rather than languishing in the dark ages. Is it unreasonable to say “feeding a fed horse” rather than “flogging a dead horse” (because the horse was flogged to death in the first place by an unethical owner)? A positive spin is far more uplifting than a negative one. In future, I hope you can use the well-meaning observations of those that sit at one end of the spectrum to impact on poor practices that, sadly, are still occurring at the other end of the spectrum!”

Whilst I do not agree with many methods and campaigns PETA adopts, I completely agree with these comments and that opening up a positive dialogue around continuous improvement is vital. It also showed that you can sit on whatever side of the fence you would like, but the ability to explain and communicate your stance is so important. What is not useful is name calling and viciousness and last week shows that we are still a long way from having open dialogue in the public realm. Measured and thoughtful comments like those above did not make the public realm on social media for fear of bullying and trolling. How can we endeavour to move forward on issues like this? Part of Farm Table and Farmer Exchange’s role is to be a space to have open debate in a safe environment – we know the importance of this now more than ever.’

I have made my thoughts clear on PETA in the past but this post isn’t about PETA,  its about us, HUMANS learning to be kinder to each other.

I reached out to Graeme McElligott who practices veganism and is the founder of “Aussie Farmers and Vegans Connecting” for his thoughts

” PETA’s recent tweet in regard to the use in common talk of phrases that trivialise cruelty or harms to other animals makes sense when considered from the point of view that it’s worthwhile choosing to be kind when we can. Our choice of language – the words we use each and every day – can say a lot about our attitudes, beliefs and even actions. Choosing words and phrases with positive overtones surely is better than those that express negative sentiments. So in a sense, PETA’s suggestion encourages us to examine our own attitudes and prejudices.

Yet on the whole, the reaction I have seen to PETA’s proposal has been largely negative. One might have thought vegans and animal advocates would have welcomed the suggestion yet even in those quarters there has been considerable outrage. The main complaints seem to revolve around questions of relevancy (“who cares”), to bringing animal advocacy into disrepute (“PETA makes us look like fools”) and to inappropriate or even irresponsible conflating of issues (“comparing these phrases to those that contribute to institutionalised racism or gender inequality etc is just wrong”). I can’t claim to have spent a lot of time monitoring this whole brouhaha, but my overall sense of it is that PETA didn’t receive a positive reaction from either vegans or non-vegans.

That’s disappointing. Because really, when it boils down to it, PETA has just asked us to think about how our actions and words affect others. In this case, the words and phrases are those that make light of the suffering of our fellow animals and to be honest, I rather hope that most of us don’t really wish to be unsympathetic to how animals can and should be treated best. Whether people choose to take PETA up on its suggestion probably isn’t that important. What I think is more valuable is the discussion it might provoke and the concern it expresses. What exactly is wrong with choosing language that utilises more positive views of our relationship with other animals? Should we rather use “flogging a dead horse” over “feeding a fed horse” and if so why? If it is just a matter of tradition it seems to me that we might think about whether this is a tradition we can dispense with.

So, if the real intent behind PETA’s tweet was to provoke more genuine consideration and debate about how we treat other animals, I feel it’s rather ironic that the backlash online was so vitriolic. The very thing PETA was highlighting characterised so much of the online discussions and that’s a shame. It’s a shame because I think we all lose when we take that path.

British philosopher Philip Kitcher in his book “The Ethical Project” suggests that humans have been involved in what he terms an ethical ‘project’ since our earliest times. His explanation for how and why we have ethical attitudes is that we have always come together as communities to fix failures of altruism. More to the point, it’s through genuine discussion and debate about the issues that confront us all that has guided this ethical project and the many real positive changes our civilisations have made. Whether he’s right or not in an historical sense is open to debate but I think he makes a good point. It is possible and I think preferable for us to come together in good will to share ideas, to listen openly and  honestly to each others’ views and to subject our own beliefs to scrutiny.

How can we make progress, develop better ways to tackle the trickier aspects of our societies and create stronger communities if our automatic reaction is to laugh at, deride or even dismiss those with whom we disagree? The world of social media has elevated this kind of disagreement almost to an art form and I reckon it’s not quite what Professor Kitcher has in mind. The truth is we can make better progress and develop stronger ties between different elements of our communities by being willing to consider what others have to say. We learn more by listening and talking, not by bullying.

PETA represents a particular view of the world and while we may have our disagreements with the organisation and its methods, at the end of the day I think this one tweet has opened us to a difficult conversation. A conversation between farmers and vegans, animal advocates and the livestock industry, between producers and consumers, perhaps even between farmer and farmer. All too often this conversation has been dominated by the negative, but there are signs for change. Vegans and farmers have come together to discuss various perspectives and beliefs on Facebook pages, the agricultural sector has shown itself increasingly aware of the need to meet with and be sensitive to community expectations, farming groups have developed initiatives to help build genuine channels for communication between agriculture and consumer (for example Farm Table, Art4Agriculture and This Is Aus Ag).

With the challenges facing society in the not so distant future – such as how to sustainably feed a global population of 9 billion and the impacts and effects of climate change – now more than ever it is important for us to create honest and respectful conversations. Conversations that might build closer ties across diverse groups with diverging views and help us move forward on these big issues. I saw an example of this positive approach on Facebook recently. A group in the UK called Friends Not Food regularly hold vigils at the Tulip Slaughterhouse in Westerleigh, hoping to raise awareness in regard to animal exploitation and suffering. This group invited slaughterhouse management and staff to join them for a vegan Christmas dinner, which apparently many attended. That is a real example of reaching out, building shared stories and promoting open, honest communication.

I truly think we can do this.”

Successful 21st century businesses rely on teams that are creative, collaborative, adept at problem solving and have the capacity to have difficult conversations that have a positive effect on the team.

I salute Airlie and Graeme who have mastered the art of difficult conversations. I am still learning how and I look forward to many others in agriculture joining me on the journey.


Highly recommended reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable



This week in retrospect – the beautiful and the ugly

Brene Brown integrity .jpg

Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver. Brene Brown.

Social media showcases the extremes in people’s behaviour and values and the extremes can be both very beautiful and inspiring  and very ugly and depressing.

Senator Penny Wong modelled beautiful and inspiring  this week when she said this about the rescue mission in Thailand

“Isn’t it just wonderful news, and what a wonderful relief for parents, particularly for family and friends,” Senator Wong said.

“But can I say this? In a world where we see a lot of bad news, a lot of tragedy, isn’t it wonderful to see the power of co-operation and the lengths people will go to, the courage people will show, to help a fellow human being, and I think it is a cause for inspiration and optimism.” Source The Australian

She retweeted this beautiful tribute to Former Thai navy seal Saman Guana who died at Tham Luang cave.

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and then there is this. What can I say beyond this that its  #NASTY #ABHORRENT #UNNECESSARY #POORTASTE

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and then I read about Steve Parish .  Wildlife photographer Steve Parish went from mansion to shed, but has found a new focus. His photos have always wowed me. Now his new ethos inspires me. Steve says it’s important to work on yourself to become a great photographer.

“You need to do more work on yourself than on your creative skills — you really need to know who you are and where you want to go with your photography,” he said.

“If you want to bring some sort of refocus to humanity, then you are already successful, but if you go along the path of ‘look at me’, you will just be one of 1.6 billion people uploading to social media everyday … and best of luck to you. We all really need to be in charge of our own joy.”

I am keen to be in charge of my own joy and encouraging a culture of people being kind to each other.


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Rudderless Dairy – makes my heart bleed


Marian McDonald was a gusty woman when she took on the family farm in 2008. She bought a refreshing feistiness to dairy conversations. She is a champion of the grass roots, is not afraid to tackle the tough issues in her blog MilkMaid Marian, she asks the questions that need to be asked of people who should have the answers and she has the courage of her convictions

Today she gives her thoughts on John Mulvaney’s opinion piece in The Weekly Times in her post Disillusioned Dairy  

Mike Logan the former CEO of Dairy Connect also reflected on the state of the Australian Dairy Industry in Nov last year in his opinion piece Australian Dairy has Lost its Rudder.

Mike says

The leadership challenge of the Australian dairy industry has increased to a level that I believe is insurmountable without significant government intervention. I am not a supporter of government intervention.

Unfortunately, the time has come.


The hubris of the board and senior executives of MG ( Murray Goulburn) has left the Victorian dairy industry – and by association, the Australian dairy industry – without a guiding rudder. The Victorians are at sea and going nowhere and are hoping for tides or winds to take them.


Put simply, the end of the era of co-operatives has allowed the processors to control the industry. Presently, there is no unity between the farmers and the processors. Many will blame the supermarkets but the numbers don’t support that view. It is not Colesworth.

The leadership challenge is within the industry itself. Specifically, the leadership challenge is with the farm sector of the dairy industry.


The ship is at sea, rudderless.

It is tawdry to note that the current Chairman of the ADF is also an ex-chairman and I believe a current Director of WCB. Another Director is from Fonterra. Most of the ADF’s budget is channelled through the processors. Clearly, the processors control the farmer’s representative body.

Mike comes from an industry with a highly successful farmer leadership lobby model in Cotton Australia. As a former Chairman of the Board of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation he bought a breath of fresh air, a wealth of experience and drive and like Marian feistiness to the dairy industry.

In his opinion piece Mike proffers the following solutions

What should the ADF do?

The ADF is the focal point of the leadership challenge. The ADF needs to reform itself into a functional & efficient dairy farmer representative body.

What should the Government do?

The government is rightly reluctant to interfere in industry policy and strategy. Governments all hope to be guided by an industry with a unified approach to the challenges of the future. When governments are forced into these positions they usually deliver blunt and inelegant solutions. Often, there are deleterious impacts from the unintended consequences of government interference in industry policy.

The Government is now at a point where it has to assume that role. The government has to free up the relationship between the farmers and the processors by addressing the focal point of the relationship – the contracts.

You can read the full piece here  It makes one hell of a lot of sense

My thoughts on farmer leadership in dairy?

As some-one who did put their hand up for roles on farmer lobby groups I agree with Marian. We wear out our champions. The majority of us are under-prepared from a governance, negotiation skills and general whole of supply chain knowledge capacity to make the changes required.  I was one of those under-prepared. ADF has some fresh blood and now has funding to build leadership capacity for our farmers. I look forward to them using it wisely. I look forward to our farmers seeking out the successful models, asking the right questions, being prepared to listen and feeling confident they have the skills and the support of their fellow farmers to take the Australian Dairy Industry to the heights it deserves

Added note. Another hugely successful farmer lobby group model is Farmers for Climate Action I know why this model works so well. It would be a very exciting day if  Australian dairy farmers embraced this model. Look out world



“Showgirl” – when we ask ourselves what do we hold dear – the outcome or the moniker?

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The Land Showgirl Competition means so much to many young women in agriculture I work with.  Yet is struggles to gain the respect it deserves. Others ask is the name “Showgirl” doing the competition more harm than good? My take is the competition is very relevant – the name no longer

Excellent work WinNews with this coverage.

Showgirls have been a staple at the Sydney Royal Easter Show since 1962; however, questions have been raised as to whether the competition is relevant in today’s society. We follow one Showgirl’s journey from paddock to podium to find out.