July Alumni Connect

Welcome to new graduates 

Another busy month on the graduate front with our Central Australian Alice Springs Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) cohort graduating on June 16th and our South Australian Mid North/Yorke crew on June 28th. Welcome to the network! We only have one more of the ten LARC Cohorts now to graduate – our Geraldton crew in early July.  

We are all looking forward to bringing two representatives to Canberra from each of the cohorts in late July/early August so we can create some cross cohort connection as we start to develop the LARC alumni network. It will also be quite the celebration as we acknowledge the success of the program across our regions.  

Alumni award recipients 

It’s been a big month for our alumni in terms of award recognition.  

The 2023 Farmer of the Year awards were announced in Canberra recently and we were thrilled to hear that ARLF Fellow Tess Herbert and her husband David were named as this year’s winners. Tess completed the ARLP back in 2012 and more recently, joined our National Mentoring Program as a mentor. A more detailed reflection on Tess will be included in the next e-news.  

Plus, Dr Mary Retallack, ARLF Fellow and Drought Mentor, was recently awarded the SA Environment Innovation Award for her work over the past 28 years championing the environment by sharing ways to employ ecological restoration in and around production systems. Congratulations Mary.  

And then of course, the 2023 Kings Birthday Honours List saw four alumni in our network recognised. And we know there may be more with over 1000 recipients celebrated. So, if you or someone you know in the network has been recognised, please reach out. We’d love to celebrate their achievements too. 

We were thrilled to see Lisa Wilson, a graduate of one of our earliest ARLP cohorts and ARLF Board Member from 2001-2007, awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her distinguished service to primary industry, and to the education of refugee and asylum seeker women.  

Lisa is the founding principal of the River Nile School in Melbourne, a specialist secondary college for asylum seeker and refugee women. Most of her students are new arrivals from war torn countries with little or no literacy due to the lack of educational opportunities. The school offers free lessons, covers the costs of public transport and childcare is provided. Since the school was officially founded in 2017, it has grown to accommodate 100 students and 14 teachers. The following quote appears on the school’s website “No matter what obstacles the journey throws up, women when educated, will thrive”.   

Lisa’s AO is also in recognition of her many years of service to primary industry, working as the Director of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation, CEO of Australian Dairy Farmers, and General Manager of the Australian Wheat Board during her career. Not to mention all her work on advisory boards and committees over the years.  

Lisa, in reflecting on receiving an AO, says: “I am grateful, humbled, surprised and a little bit emotional. It provides time to pause, think of and be thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve worked with and met over my 35 plus year career – for their love, counsel, inspiration, shared adventures, joy, trust and support. The rewards are always due to team efforts. The people and relationships are crucial. My journey with the ARLP on Course 2 in 1995-96 (sponsored by the GRDC) was transformative and empowering, I have life-long friendships that sustain me and I them.” 

David Anthony, also a graduate of ARLP Course 2 and prominent figure in the Australian cotton industry and cotton communities for many years, was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (AM) for significant service to the agricultural sector and to the community of Narrabri. 

David’s long career, from the early days of the cotton industry, spanned his chairmanship of Auscott and close involvement with water and biosecurity agencies as CEO, chairman and directorships which saw him engaged in cotton regionally, nationally and internationally.  

David’s role as a leader in the cotton industry spans generations of huge growth and dynamic industry change. Well-deserved recognition! 

Noel Graham, based in Deniliquin NSW, completed ARLP Course 6 back in 1998 and has been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his significant service to agriculture through the rice growing industry.  

Noel’s family have farmed the land for 114 years, and he watched his father Greg step up to take on positions of leadership, namely President of the Rice Growers Association (RGA) for many years. He spent many a time at a RGA meeting as a young man. When Noel’s father passed away suddenly at the age of 54, it wasn’t long before Noel threw his hat in the ring to become secretary of the local RGA in Deniliquin. Noel was 25 at the time. And so began his own leadership journey.  

From secretary of his local RGA Branch, Noel soon found a pathway to the RGA central executive, and up until his recent retirement, has spent every year since involved in a rice or irrigation committee role. 

In an article from the Deniliquin Pastoral Times, Noel says: “On the balance, in my time, I’d like to think I have made a contribution. That has been my drive. I have always thought I had the capability to contribute, and I have always had my own business so had the time. And I have always had the support of my family too.” 

Congratulations Noel! There is little doubt of your valued contribution over many decades.  

And finally, Aunty Cheryl Penrith, one of our more recent graduates, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to the Indigenous communities of the Riverina region.  

Cheryl completed the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Program (NATSLIP) with the ARLF back in 2017 and just recently joined a local cohort as part of the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) in the southern NSW Rivers to Plains region.  

Aunty Cheryl has served as an Indigenous leader in her community for over 30 years. But it was after caring for her husband, whom she lost to illness 11 years ago, that she found she more time on her hands and was keen to do something positive with that time. Bit by bit, she got more involved with public life and her local community – particularly in supporting the local Wagga Art Gallery.  On receiving her award, she said in a local ABC Radio interview: “It’s really lovely to be recognised for the work I’ve been doing. Everyone should get out there and do the things they love.”  

She believes everyone can have an impact and her drive is to “help create a kind of world we want our young people to live in”. Cheryl is also quite the fashion guru, running ‘Hand me down, Style me up’ workshops in her local hometown of Wagga, encouraging others to take part in the slow fashion revolution and rethink their relationship with clothes. She uses the quote “stand strong in your own light” to live by. Aunty Cheryl – you are certainly doing that!  

Congratulations again to Tess, Mary, Lisa, David, Noel and Cheryl. We are so proud of the work and impact of our alumni, and immensely proud to have them within our network. Let these awards announcements act a reminder to nominate someone who is having a significant impact at a local, state or national level. There are plenty of award opportunities on offer across the country. And everyone needs to be nominated by someone – be that someone! 

Alumni gatherings 

Matt had the pleasure of meeting with some of our South Australian alumni based in Adelaide in late June. And I can’t wait to meet some of our ARLF alumni based in sunny Melbourne on Thursday July 13. If you are keen to help host a gathering in your neck of the woods, please let us know. We’d love to support you by helping to bring people together. 

Alumnus Bruce Maynard’s lifelong work recognised by national Landcare Award  

ARLF Alumnus Bruce Maynard, a mentor from our Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program, had his lifelong work recognised when awarded the prestigious Bob Hawke Landcare Award. This bi-annual award (Bruce is the 2022 recipient) publicly recognises an individual involved with championing Landcare and who inspires others to act. It also acknowledges their leadership commitment to Landcare, natural resource management and sustainable agriculture.   

After a 35-year career, Bruce has lots to be proud of. He claims his greatest achievement is his development of the ‘No-Kill’ cropping technique, a revolutionary process that relies on the retention of full grassland function without reliance on external inputs. Bruce’s sustainable methods came about to help remove the choice between productive farming and conserving plants and native wildlife. “By changing grazing methods, you can achieve greater diversity of mass of your natural asset, whilst still getting a better business result,” he explains. 

Bruce also initiated the Constructive Farming Cooperative, a group of farmers and researchers committed to extending the application of regenerative agricultural techniques. Together with Dr Dean Revell, Bruce co-developed the ‘Stress Free Stockmanship’, a new field of animal behavioural science called ‘self-herding’. Bruce says: “by taking an active role in stock behaviour, we can change their habits. And we are seeing a range of really positive results – anything from fixing gully heads to working with Indigenous groups to help keep wild, feral animals away from culturally sensitive areas.”   

And this work takes him far and wide. When I spoke with Bruce recently, he was sharing his knowledge around ‘self-herding’ with farmers on remote cattle stations in SA and WA.  As part of winning this award, Bruce will create a series of resources to share his expertise with the broader community. The next Bob Hawke Landcare Award winner will be announced in 2024 with applications opening later this year.  

We are so privileged to have mentors of Bruce’s calibre involved with our programs – highly experienced people from their industries keen to give back and share their knowledge and wisdom. And we know that our alumni network is full of great people, just like Bruce, doing their bit to make the world better. 

Written by Julia Strang, Alumni Engagement Manager

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