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Alumni stories

Mentoring from New South Wales to the Top End

21 February 2022

Adelaide born Hugh Dawson has big dreams.      

And it’s all thanks to a gap year in 2016 on Beetaloo Station, a 10,500 square kilometre cattle property located between Darwin and Alice Springs.  

As Hugh will admit, he’s since forgotten to go home. That gap year has turned into six years on the Barkly Tableland property, where the 23-year-old is now Head Stockman.  

Hugh has his sights set on putting down permanent roots in the Top End after studying agribusiness next year.   

“After that, little bit ambitious but I think it’s not unreasonable to try and get on one of these bigger places and try and work out some sort of a deal, even part ownership would be an option, and try and start making my own way,” he said. 

He’s hoping his involvement in the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation’s 2022 Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program will provide him with the edge he needs to help make that a reality.    

The program – fully funded as part of the Government’s Future Drought Fund initiative – pairs farmers and people in agricultural related fields, with experienced mentors.  

It’s all about sharing trusted advice and providing support to help tackle challenges and even maximise opportunities associated with the impacts of drought, climate science, well-being and agricultural practice. 

Hugh Dawson says getting a broader insight into agriculture and leveraging of the experience of a mentor will be greatly beneficial.  

“Having someone there to bounce ideas off and soundboard ideas and then to bring those ideas to life, I think is probably the biggest thing for me, that’s where I see a lot of value,” he said.  

Over the next six months 300 mentees and 250 mentors in the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program will take part in at least six virtual mentoring sessions to discuss topics and issues related to goals set by each mentee.    

Hugh will be mentored by Dave Crowley, an agronomist based in Young in Southern New South Wales.  

Dave admits one-on-one support is a real gap in the agricultural sector. He jumped at the chance to help out the next generation of rural and regional leaders.  

“Often farmers can get very focused on everything that is going on within the boundaries of their farm. Just having someone with an external view and someone to bounce ideas off I think is a really, key thing,” he said.  

He says building drought resilience is imperative for those getting established in the industry.  

“It’s about developing a bit more of a formal support network and setting goals and just having a structure to adapt to challenges as they arise,” he said.  

Inspired by a focus on regenerative farming at Beetaloo, Hugh Dawson says droughts present a unique opportunity which he is keen to explore as part of the program.    

“It is something we have to adapt to and move quickly with and be able to make good business decisions when it matters, so we can keep running good businesses,” he said.  

The enthusiastic stockman says he’s going into the mentoring program with an open mind and a healthy dose of optimism.      

“I am excited to see where the journey will take me. These opportunities are fantastic in that they just open doors and so I am excited to see where doors will open up and what will become possible through going through this process,” he said.