White Fragility: Thank you for helping me understand

In early 2020 I joined a Global Leadership Academy.  There are five people from around the world and the coach in my core group. Our group are also able to participate in a diverse offering of sessions with the wider academy

Yesterday I got up at 5am for Office Hours (see footnote) with Dave Stachowiak from Coaching for Leaders. I was keen to get the wisdom of the crowd to help leverage an opportunity for Picture You in Agriculture. How grateful was I to get my opportunity workshopped by people of the calibre of Emily Leathers . You can listen to Dave interview Emily here 

I am also part of a Coaching for Leaders Academy book club whose focus is having conversations about race and justcie. See my previous blog here

As Dave reminds us

Words and intentions are a first step — movement through action is also important.

We are starting by tapping into the wisdom of Stephen Covey and first seeking to understand beginning with reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism* by Robin DiAngelo. 

The book is blunt

White people in North America live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race, and white people are the beneficiaries of that separation and inequality. As a result, we are insulated from racial stress, at the same time that we come to feel entitled to and deserving of our advantage. Given how seldom we experience racial discomfort in a society we dominate, we haven’t had to build our racial stamina. Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority that we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race. We consider a challenge to our racial worldviews as a challenge to our very identities as good, moral people. Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as an unsettling and unfair moral offense. The smallest amount of racial stress is intolerable—the mere suggestion that being white has meaning often triggers a range of defensive responses. These include emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation. Source White Fragility:

I am a white person. I see the world through my lived experiences. I am also a woman who grew up on a family farm. I was told by my parents from an early age that men have privileges women don’t and that I should make the most of the intellect I was given because my brother would be inheriting the farm. That’s a very different lived experience to African Americans or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Regardless of our protestations that social groups don’t matter and that we see everyone as equal, we know that to be a man as defined by the dominant culture is a different experience from being a woman. We know that to be viewed as old is different from being viewed as young, rich is different from poor, able-bodied different from having a disability, gay different from heterosexual, and so on. These groups matter, but they don’t matter naturally, as we are often taught to believe. Rather, we are taught that they matter, and the social meaning ascribed to these groups creates a difference in lived experience. Source White Fragility:

Whilst our lived experiences may be very different they can help us understand and they can motivate us to drive change

When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University, explains, “Racism is a structure, not an event.” American women’s struggle for suffrage illustrates how institutional power transforms prejudice and discrimination into structures of oppression. Everyone has prejudice and discriminates, but structures of oppression go well beyond individuals.

While women could be prejudiced and discriminate against men in individual interactions, women as a group could not deny men their civil rights. But men as a group could and did deny women their civil rights. Men could do so because they controlled all the institutions.

Therefore, the only way women could gain suffrage was for men to grant it to them; women could not grant suffrage to themselves.

 Similarly, racism—like sexism and other forms of oppression—occurs when a racial group’s prejudice is backed by legal authority and institutional control. This authority and control transform individual prejudices into a far-reaching system that no longer depends on the good intentions of individual actors; it becomes the default of the society and is reproduced automatically.

Racism is a system.

And I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the intersection of race and gender in the example of suffrage;

White men granted suffrage to women, but only granted full access to white women. Women of colour were denied full access until the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

The system of racism begins with ideology, which refers to the big ideas that are reinforced throughout society. From birth, we are conditioned into accepting and not questioning these ideas. Ideology is reinforced across society, for example, in schools and textbooks, political speeches, movies, advertising, holiday celebrations, and words and phrases. These ideas are also reinforced through social penalties when someone questions an ideology and through the limited availability of alternative ideas. Source White Fragility

I am currently one third of the way through the book. I am finding it a bit depressing I am looking forward to seeing a way forward

Dave has been helping people understand for a long time and you can listen to his podcast with Willie Jackson  here   Wille is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant and facilitator with ReadySet, a boutique consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a frequent writer and speaker on the topics of workplace equity, global diversity, and inclusive leadership.


Bonus Audio


I have now finished reading the book and its a tough, tough read

I think the Chapter I found toughest to read was Chapter 11 White Women’s Tears. I now understand why Amy Cooper’s response to this event was so wrong on so many levels  and a lot of admiration for Christian Cooper on so many levels

I will do as the author suggests and take the time to process my feelings and reflect on her advice

We can interrupt our white fragility and build our capacity to sustain cross-racial honesty by being willing to tolerate the discomfort associated with an honest appraisal and discussion of our internalized superiority and racial privilege. We can challenge our own racial reality by acknowledging ourselves as racial beings with a particular and limited perspective on race. We can attempt to understand the racial realities of people of colour through authentic interaction rather than through the media or through unequal relationships. We can take action to address our own racism, the racism of other whites, and the racism embedded in our institutions. All these efforts will require that we continually challenge our own socialization and investments in racism and the misinformation we have learned about people of color. We can educate ourselves about the history of race relations in our country. We can follow the leadership on antiracism from people of color and work to build authentic cross-racial relationships. We can get involved in organizations working for racial justice. And most important, we must break the silence about race and racism with other white people. Source White Fragility

Follow up

Loved this review in The Atlantic titled The Dehumanizing Condescension of White Fragility



Dave Stachowiak from Coaching for Leaders hosts an Office Hours session each month so we can connect live as a community and share perspectives to help each other with current situations. Here’s a few reasons why people participate:

  • You’ve got something you’d like immediate feedback on
  • You’re working to become more coach-like and want more practice in asking effective questions of others.
  • You want to get to know other leaders in our broader community.
  • You’d like insight on what other leaders are facing right now, in real-time.

Show me the heart in your story

share your world

I am currently part of a team reviewing 60 plus applications for scholarships for young people to participate in the Growing Young Leaders program.

The process begins by asking the applicants to answer a series of questions. The questions have been submitted by our organisation and our funding partners.

From our organisation’s perspective it’s important to us to get an understanding of what the applicants think we do

The perceptions people have of the role of Picture You in Agriculture are remarkably interesting. In some cases, it would appear we can work miracles and teach people how to change the minds of far-right wing and left wing thinking extreme activist groups.

This diversity has given me an opportunity to me to reflect on why I founded Picture You in Agriculture and our programs that work with emerging leaders in agriculture and young people in rural and urban primary and secondary schools

It all started with a committement to help farmers connect with everyone they rely on in the supply chain.

A supply chain that can be extremely complex

Supply chain

At Picture You in Agriculture we see the supply chain community as our allies and we value their opinions highly .

In particular the increasing distance in the 2st century between producers and consumers requires trust at every step of the process.

Trust is built through relationships.

Relationships between people.

Genuine relationships require you to be curious about what others are thinking and caring about

People and relationship building are at the heart of everything we do.

Picture You in Agriculture also exists to support young people to build personal resilience – the ability to be okay no matter what life throws at them.

Our big picture goal is to build an agricultural community that can advocate for itself.

What is next in the selection process for our next intake of emerging leaders?

Our team has selected 20 young people to go through to the next stage of the application process. Their brief is to write a blog for us.

  1. Share your journey to a career in the agriculture sector.
  2. Show us the heart behind your story
  3. Show us what you stand FOR – Hear Simon Sinek talk about PURPOSE here

Looking for inspiration.

In a great post, business writer Sharon Tanton recommends taking this approach:

  • Workshop your story by starting with a rant.
  • Identify what’s wrong with the world.
  • How would things be so much better if only people did something differently?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change about your industry?

The joy we are getting reading these stories is truly magnificent and I look forward to sharing them with you



You can be who you can see

little girl child holds dry reeds and a branch with small white flowers in hands, sunny spring weather, smilling and joy of the child

In my lifetime I have found myself in two life threatening situations. One when I was eight years old and the other in my early forties. In both situations I wish I had made better choices.

The way I have addressed my regrets is to create a national program of initiatives for young people (no matter their age, location, education, socioeconomic status, everything and anything that may prevent a level playing field for equal opportunity ) to support them to have the knowledge, confidence and role models in their lives to make life and career choices they are comfortable with.

This organisation is a charity and it relies on me to source funding. I realised in the last couple of years my biases and baggage were getting in the way of me doing this at the highest level .

I took NO too personally. I saw a NO as some-one telling me, my eight year old self wasnt worthy. I knew for my wellbeing and for the organisation I had to rid myself of this baggage.

What an extraordinary journey it has been. Surrounding myself with beautiful kind people, coaches and mentors and engaging in life long learning

One of the things I have learnt is the importance of compassionate curiosity and the best way to channel it is to think of some-one you know who has it in spades. Today I am sharing a piece written by one of the beautiful people in my life at the moment who does compassionate curiosity better than anyone I have encountered.  This piece was written by Dave  Stachowiak, the founder and host of Coaching for Leaders.

Dave has also kindly agreed to be part of our Young Farming Champions (YFC) Leadership is Language webinar series  and will shortly be interviewed by our YVLT Chair Emma Ayliffe and Vice Chair Dione Howard who are mega fans of his podcast series

This is Dave’s personal reflection this week with the podcast found here  and the text below

Changed My Mind

When I was 16 years old, I discovered that the police department in the town I grew up in had an explorer program. Since I was interested in a career in law enforcement at the time, I attended a meeting and quickly joined.

I was never a sworn police officer – nor have I ever done any of the difficult work in policing. However, I did spend two years volunteering in uniform at community events, riding along many times with police officers on patrol, and even graduated from a junior police academy. I once witnessed a police officer get assaulted right in front of me.

I had an up-front view of how complex the job of police officer is and, although I concluded that law enforcement wasn’t for me, it shaped a lot of my worldview – especially from the perspective of the police.

If you’ve ever listened to the Coaching for Leaders podcast, you know that I often ask experts at the end of interviews what they’ve changed their minds on. It’s a question I also pose to myself.

It’s relevant to speak on the events of the day, because George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the police has direct implications for how many of us in organizations do better.

In the recent years, and reaffirmed in the last month, I’ve changed my mind on at least three things.

First, I used to believe that, unless there was substantial evidence to the contrary, we should generally give police departments the benefit of the doubt, since excessive use of force seemed rare and isolated.


On this belief, I was wrong.

Thank goodness for smartphones with cameras. They have opened my eyes to what Black folks have been saying for years about police brutality. After seeing hundreds of these videos in recent years, it’s clear that many of these incidents are deeply rooted in systemic racism, not only in our policing, but in American society as a whole.

Yes, of course police work is dangerous, but so is commercial fishing, agriculture work, and construction. Yes, there are police leaders who have taken significant action to address racism in policing, but many also have not. I’m done giving police departments the benefit of the doubt.

Second, I used to believe that, it’s just a reality for us as a society to accept some “bad apples” in our police forces.

Comedian Chris Rock points out that there are some jobs that are too important to allow for bad behavior. Take pilots for example. No airline allows a margin of error for a certain number of crash landings each year. No nuclear power plant allows its engineers an acceptable number of meltdowns. No hospital allows surgeons a quota for ignoring the needs of certain patients.

I’m left with the uncomfortable conclusion that, particularly on this issue, racism is why I haven’t held police officers to the same standard I would expect of any other professional dealing with life-safety issues. As a result, I’ve changed my mind on allowing a different standard in policing – and in my thinking.

But the most important thing I’ve changed my mind on is my own contribution.

If George Floyd’s murder had happened five years ago and you asked me who killed him, I would have said, “Four police officers.”

I’ve changed my mind on that, too.

Today, I know his blood is also on my hands. While my contribution is different than the people who physically killed him, I and others with privilege contributed to his murder by:

  • Not speaking out against the militarization of America’s police departments.
  • Not recognizing that we need better options for responding to complex situations in our society other than just sending in armed officers.
  • Not pushing any of my elected representatives on this issue.
  • Not having enough empathy for my Black brothers and sisters who have been doing everything imaginable to get attention on this, for years.

I don’t know where this leaves you, but it leaves me with the commitment to do better on what I’m often inviting others to do:

Ask questions instead of assuming, listen for meaning instead of just words, and taking the time to know the stories of others — not just my own.

Dave’s Journal is available by audio on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsOvercastStitcher, and Spotify.

Human beings are hard wired to do meaningful work

‘For every single human being, the way that we are wired as human beings, is we need to directly see and connect how the work that we are doing is helping others. That is something we all innately need as human beings. Its hard wired into us.” Scott Anthony Barlow


How wonderful is the recent rain

Twenty years ago when I left my community pharmacy role, I knew wanted something different. I wanted something different and I wanted it to feel much more meaningful to me.

Whilst I was figuring out what that was, I became a full-time dairy farmer.

Being a farmer is highly meaningful work that my family love doing. However, it is  not valued at the point of sale and farmers returns for what they do, and they do a hell of a lot more than produce food are not something that would get me out of bed every day. Changing this is a whole of industry role and I have found agriculture seems to think it is somebody else’s role.

My meaningful work became changing the culture in agriculture from it being somebody else’s problem to it being everybody’s opportunity.

Meaningful work for me in 2020 sees me working with the team at Picture You in Agriculture where we build the capacity of young people to thrive in business and life.

We use agriculture as a lens, and we work with champions and clusters of organisations and schools to provide educational equity and excellence for all young Australians. We want all young Australians to have equal opportunity to be successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

We get to meet extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. One of those is Kris Beazley who is the Principal of the Centre of Agricultural Excellence at Richmond.

Kris who we profiled here is one of those people who spend her life adding value to others. I have introduced her to many of the wonderful people who have supported Picture You in Agriculture’s journey. She is a joy to watch. Each time she connects with others something wonderful happens

Do you have people in your life like that?


Rural women supporting each other to be part of the solution and the lessons they learn and share

two women rear view

Clover Hill Dairies Diary has had multiple metamorphoses since I began sharing my opinions and vision for a bright future for both the dairy industry and agriculture in 2010.  I realised I could write a book about all the things agriculture doesnt do well but that would mean I would be adding to the problem instead of being part of the solution.

The mission became to do my best to share the positive stories. I found that hell has no fury like glass half empty thinking trolls and learnt lots of lessons from that experience. One lesson I learnt was the value of your tribe and when the trolls come out to play my tribe ensures I can be resilient and perservere. I now have an extraordinary tribe of people who share with me stories about people in agriculture doing extraordinary things

A great example is Mandy McKeesick . Mandy is a features writer for Outback Magazine. Mandy also supports Picture You in Agriculture to share the great stories of young people in agriculture working with young people in schools through our cornerstone programs the  Young Farming Champions and The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas. 

Mandy writes the Lessons Learnt series for PYiA blog .   Mandy gets very excited when her two favourite roles cross paths and she recently rang me about a story she had written about Bald Blair Angus in the latest Outback Magazine  (featuring proprietors Sam and Kirsty White) Mandy was very impressed with how Bald Blair Angus had leveraged the story in Outback and how it would make a great Lessons Learnt story for everyone in agriculture. In fact for everyone in business and how right she was

Bald Blair in Outback Magazine

The story in Outback gives quite a bit of Sam’s backstory and his diverse career journey to bring multiple skills back to the farm. I was keen to learn more about Kirsty and asked Mandy to connect us.

Kirsty’s story is equally fascinating and I can see why they make a great business team. Kirsty’s background is in politics with a highlight being working for former deputy PM John Anderson (interesting story here on John Andersons lastest venture. Apparently he is still ludicrously handsome !!!!!!!! unusual comment from a male journalist – I imagine there was lots of good humoured comments around the Anderson family table about that one)

I was particulary interested in the way Kirsty taps into her tribe to stay resilient and invigorated through the plethora of exciting initiaitves created by rural women for rural women in the New England region

Check out

Initiative Contact 
The Seed Scheme Kim Deans
Ladies in Livestock Georgie Oakes
The Grower  Al Mabin
The Rural Woman  Rebel Black

And what did Mandy think our Young Farming Champions ( and the world) could learn from Sam and Kristy

LESSONS LEARNT 13 –  HOW TO LEVERAGE MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES  (even when the last thing you want to do is to talk to the media)

Imagine – it’s the middle of a screaming drought and you’re in crisis management mode. Every stressful day is a constant of feeding animals and trying to survive. Then you get a call from a journalist wanting to do a story. Do you run for the hills or do you buckle up, set your boundaries and turn this opportunity into a positive experience?

This was the case for Sam and Kirsty White of Bald Blair Angus in the New England area of NSW when they were approached by Mandy McKeesick to profile their stud for RM Williams Outback magazine; and in this edition of our Lessons Learnt series we take a look at how they handled the situation.

Sam and Kirsty are big believers in collaboration and networking. For the past four years Kirsty has been a member of THE Rural Woman, an online business community for rural women run by Rebel Black. In 2019 the Whites engaged Rebel as a mentor for twelve months. It was through this association they were introduced to Mandy.

“It was good timing to engage Rebel as it was a bastard of a year, the worst drought ever in this region,” Kirsty says, “but not such a good time to host a journalist. We were close to pulling out of the story because it all seemed too hard; the land looked terrible, there were bushfires and dust storms, we were flat out feeding and were very much in survival mode. But in the end we decided to take a leap of faith and trust that Mandy would do the right thing.”

And so the story went ahead, with Sam and Kirsty gaining respect and admiration for allowing themselves to be vulnerable and open in such a challenging time.

“We’ve had lovely feedback,” Kirsty says, “with people offering feed, emails from other angus studs and general support, and we’ve come to realise how far and wide Outback reaches.”

But it is what Sam and Kirsty have done since the story was published that shows the power of collaboration and leverage. Firstly they thanked their clients for their continued support, sending a copy of the magazine to those who had bought cows and heifers during the drought. They then sent the story to journalists they have worked with in the past and to podcasters and industry event organisers they hope to work with in the future. With each copy of the magazine they included brochures of businesses they work with, such as Optiweigh who provide cattle scales for their paddocks.

They took to social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, YouTube – promoting the story and again thanking everyone involved. They shared with local businesses such as Armidale Tourism who in turn used the story for their own social media content. They connected with the RM Williams social media team to also thank them for their sharing their story, and are looking to leverage further with advertising.

“We love what we do here at Bald Blair Angus – raising cattle and sheep on a family farm – and we love to tell our story and build relationships,” Kirsty says.

So rather than have their story published in a national magazine and then think no more of it, Sam and Kirsty are using every opportunity to leverage the publicity.

And what advice do they have for YFCs looking at doing a story of their own in similar circumstances?

Kirsty’s advice

  • Set your boundaries first.
  • Get your message clear and talk about what a journalist can and can’t take photos of.
  • Have a media sheet ready with all the facts and figures written down.
  • It is also important to have good photography and video.

“Mandy was here during a drought but we had photos on hand by Al Mabin showing the property in a good season; hone your own photography skills. Most importantly build relationships and believe in collaboration – we are all in this together.”

Mega thanks to all the wonderful women in agriculture opening doors and connecting each other.





Archibald Prize winning artist Cherry Hood fundraiser for Wildlife Rescue

CHerry Hood Koalas.jpg

2002 Archibull Prize winning artist Cherry Hood is doing a bushfire fundraiser for WIRES.

I had the pleasure of working with Cherry who judged the school students Kreative Koalas artwork in 2018. She is a passionate environmentalist and was so impressed with the way the students at Goulburn Public School shared their Kreative Koalas sustainability journey with her she painted a special artwork for them. She is producing prints of this artwork to raise money for WIRES

This is Facebook post with the details

I’m selling signed prints of this painting which I made some years ago as a prize for a school in Goulburn which did an extremely impressive environment project. They also painted a large fibre glass koala provided to the by Lynne Strong who coordinated this great project.
I’m going to produce prints approximately 50 cm high on paper and sell them for $130 each. All profits will go towards Southern Tablelands Wires. They coordinate the rescue and care of koalas. There are massive fires near Goulburn and east through to the coast. More fires to the north at Wombeyan Caves which can be accessed from Goulburn. Please go to my website cherryhood.com.au to order your Koala print. Cheers Cherry

CHerry Hood Koalas

Leaders who leave legacies we can all be proud of – where have they all gone?

Bob Hawke meme

I got a call earlier in the week from some-one looking for Bob Hawke’s Statement on the Environment speech from 1989. This was the day he announced that he had done the impossible and bought together farmers, conservationists and governments to form the Landcare movement. This week marks the 30th anniversary of Landcare

In Bob Hawke — 23rd prime minister, true moderniser and Labor giant — Australia found a political leader the likes of which we’d never seen before. Catherine Taylor Source

I knew I had a copy because I quoted from it when I won the inaugural Bob Hawke Landcare Award in 2012. That was the night I first met Bob Hawke (who clearly on the night would have preferred I was a little shorter for the photos). Its fascinating the things you remember from highlights in your life. What I remember most was Bob Hawke’s presence when he stood at the podium to make his speech. This was a man in his eighties who had the room spellbound. This was a man who was a great orator, a man who had achieved so much and left legacies like Landcare we can all be proud of.

Watch his fabulous interview with Pip Courtney here

What makes Bob Hawke stand out from the crowd is summed up by the man himself in this response to a question from Pip

Pip Courtney:

You brought warring parties together, farmers and conservationists. Is that your enduring legacy?

Bob Hawke:

I did that not only in regard to Landcare, but my whole approach in government was a consensus approach. When I said to business and trade unions, I said, “You each have legitimate objectives, business, to grow your businesses, unions, to gradually improve the wages and conditions of your members. You’re much more likely, each of you to achieve those legitimate objectives if you work together.” And we did that on the economic side, and I used the same approach in regard to the environment.

I was extraordinarily fortunate then having two great men to work with, the late Rick Farley, of the National Farmers Federation, and Phillip Toyne of the Australian Conservation Foundation. Remarkable Australians, and they’d basically been at loggerheads so much and I brought them together, and we formed a tripartite approach, which brought the strengths of government, the conservation movement and the farmers together, well we’ve seem the results.

Yes we all know #collaboration is the key. We all know there is no #PlanetB. Yet we struggle to elect leaders like Bob Hawke who understand that humans have to find a way to live in harmony with nature

It’s time to empower our new generation of courageous champions who will leave legacies we can all be proud of.



Can we teach courage?

6E6D1DEB-BF9D-400E-805F-AF839E7941C0.JPGWith the National Farmers Federation about to launch their Telling our Story Initiative, lets not kid ourselves it takes a lot of courage to stand up and share your story. You can listen to other people tell you how to do it until the cows come home, doing it yourself is something else again.

Having spent the last ten years sourcing funding for Picture You in Agriculture to support young people in agriculture tell their story I am always on high alert looking for others leading the way we can partner with.

I get so excited when I read an application for the Young Farming Champions program that tells us they are a Heywire Alumni. Why? Because Heywire has nailed giving young people in rural and regional Australia a voice and wow dont they use their voices powerfully

I am a huge admirer of this program because it undertands the leadership development journey thay young people require that agriculture in the main hasnt quite grasped yet. We have made some well meaning token gestures inviting young people in agriculture to the decision making table but in the main beyond a few shining examples agriculture struggles to hand over the reins and actually give them a voice.

Here is the super simple version of the highly successful Heywire model.

  1. Young people in rural and regional Australia tell their story.
  2. If your story is selected you are invited to a week long summitt in Canberra where you work with ABC producers to have your story heard on the ABC.
  3. You also get to work with other young people who share your passion to develop a project that makes regional Australia a better pleace for young people with over $100,000 up for grabs to implement your project ideas.

A lot of other great stuff happens at the week long summit

But its what happens next that makes this program so special. Remember there is $100,000 up for grabs to put these young people’s ideas into action and it how the grantees are selected that lights my fire.

The funding for the grants is coordinated by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal who invite and mentor an alumnus from the Heywire Trailblazer  program to help them short list the grant recipients. Intern Ashley Eadon blogged about her experience here

“I have given my honest opinion on the applications as a Heywire winner, previous grant recipient, but most importantly, as a young person. I can now safely say, that after reading over 100,000 words in applications that I have an insight into the philanthropic side of grants that most 20-year-olds don’t. It was evident that the strongest applications had involved youth in the grant writing process. Key take away: when youth share their ideas and feedback on projects targeting them, and this perspective is valued, the projects are more likely to succeed. Overall, there were many strong applications put forward (some completed solely by youth). Once these projects are implemented, they will serve to create positive change in areas of mental health, racism, safety, employment and ‘adulting’.” says Ashley Eadon

The next step in the process also involves young people with the grant recipients being selected from the short list by a panel of alumni who have come through the program.

It gets better! The grant winners are announced at a ceremony at ABC Melbourne MC’d by Heywire Alumni. What a joy it was to attend the latest annoucement of grants and do a bit of amateur filming of the event. ( next time I will sit a bit closer)

Look what happens when you guve young people a voice – listen to Chanceline sing around 10.50 mins – magnificent

Wait there is more!!! Heywire Alumni also get a role in selecting the story winners for the following year. This is called giving young people agency (see footnote ). BTW I also filmed the speeches by MD of the ABC, CEO of FRRR and Minister McKenzie which were all very impressive. I am very confident, like me, everyone in the room remembered the impact the young people had on them. My gut feeling is if we adopted a similar ethos in agriculture we could change the culture from despair to hope overnight!

Brene Brown is 100% confident you can teach people courage and so am I – lets do it Agriculture



Agency in context – Agency is the power people have to think for themselves and act in ways that shape their experiences and life trajectories. The opposite of agency is Learned Helplessness

Heywire stories featured in this blog

1. Ivan Reyes

2. Chanceline Kakule

3,  Lauren Paynter






Great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar

Its almost two months since I put fingers to the keyboard for my personal blog.  To be honest I have been embarrassed by the discourse between farmers and farmers on social media. I also see a lack of leadership by industry in encouraging respectful conversations between farmers and the community and it saddens me.

‘Great leaders inspire others to raise their own bar.’

This post is a special shout out to the team at Bulla Burra for continuously showing great leadership. You can see the full post on Facebook here

Bulla Burra.JPG

Last week I had the pleasure, courtesy of Wingecarribee Shire Council of being on the panel post the showing of the 2040 Film.  The film has some confronting things to say about some of our current agricultural systems. Its also uses very inclusive language to invite everyone to work together and use the film as a launch pad for bold visions 

This will require respectful conversations between everyone – thank you Bulla Burra for showing us how it is done.

John concludes his letter by saying

The main point of this letter is to say that agriculture is a professional, thriving industry – but we are not very good at talking about it. We tend to live in our own little farming bubble and talk and whinge amongst ourselves. We get frustrated when we see something on “Sunrise” or “The Project” which affects us, and we go off half cocked on FB or Twitter – mainly to people within our own industry. And when we do get to talk to you we are usually being reactive or do a poor job of articulating our argument. We are sorry about that.

From our perspective we also need to do a far better job of listening. You rightly have questions and concerns about what we do, as the results of our efforts ends up feeding and clothing your families. How can you not be rattled by what you see on social media about GMO’s and Roundup, especially if we don’t have meaningful conversations with you about what we do and why. Of course those of you who love animals will be furious (as we are) when you see examples of animal cruelty. And yes, the whole idea of climate change is scary for us all.

Make no mistake, farmers are some of the most intelligent, educated, climatically aware, hardworking people on the planet – and focused on developing new, innovative and environmentally sustainable ways to continue to feed, clothe and fuel us all. As farmers, we don’t always get to have meaningful conversations with people outside of own agricultural bubble, so please feel free to pass this letter on to your friends both within and outside of ag. It is only by listening to each other that we create understanding, empathy and stronger communities.

With respect

Believe in yourself.jpg

Success is a journey and the Pygmalion Effect is a powerful motivator





Why I blog and why do 10,155  people follow my blog 


I get asked a lot why I blog and do I know who follows me

Why I blog varies from blog to blog and why people are interested in what I say I imagine is just as diverse

I blog when I feel some-one or something has been wronged, I blog when I feel proud of something or some-one, I blog for all the people out their striving to see the bright light in a sea of darkness, I blog for the people who share my vision and look to me to amplify it.

And I blog for history as my blogs are being recorded in the National Archives

My most popular blogs are

Barnaby Joyce has jumped off the cliff of no return

Coles it’s tough being the villain in the story 

10 Reasons why the world should buy Australian produce

What makes milk froth

My blog started as an experiment. I wanted to know how much time and expertise it took to blog after finding myself at a meeting of agriculture’s Research and Development Corporations senior people.

In late 2011 there was close to 50 people sitting around the room at a presentation being given by Charlie Arnot from the Centre for Integrity  There was a consensus in the room that the voices of our farmers should be amplified and a number of people suggested that farmers should start writing blogs. My mouth just dropped open and I just couldn’t help myself and in my blunt manner I said.

Okay if farmers are going to find the time to do this who in the room is going to support them? Just to start with you need a blogging platform and considerable amount of expertise to navigate that blogging platform.

I got a sea of Julie Bishop death stares, so I taught myself to blog.

One of the things that I blog about a lot is the need for building the capacity of our farmers to operate their businesses in a manner that will allow them to consistently and profitably meet or exceed community expectations. I will go so far as to say the fact that to date we haven’t built that capacity is the biggest threat to our food security in this country. And it is under threat. For the first time ever there is the reality we will be importing milk into this country

After 15 years of lobbying for the programs and support networks to build this capacity in our farmers I spend far too much time reminding myself of the few wins and tapping into my support network that helps me get out of bed in the morning.

Some questions we can ask ourselves

What does the community expect from our farmers beyond safe, affordable nutritious food and quality natural fibres?

How do we ensure our farmers have the capacity to meet or exceed community expectations?

Where are the gaps in our training programs?

What support networks do our farmers need?

Having worked outside agriculture for 25 years I know how other industries meet or exceed consumer expectations. It can be done. It starts with a willingness to acknowledge why its important.


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