Meet our team:

Matt Linnegar


Matt Linnegar

As the Chief Executive, I work with the board, our fantastic team, alumni and many partner organisations and wider network to set the direction and support the ongoing work of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. 

When I’m not at work, I love going home to my small block out of Canberra. I run as often as I can and enjoy the tranquility of a bush camp with family and friends. 

Where does your passion for rural, regional and remote Australia come from?

Despite growing up in Sydney, I decided rural, regional and remote Australia is where I wanted to be and contribute to very early in life. 

Thanks to family and friends living in rural and regional communities I had a strong connection. For thirty years, I have now worked in primary industries, advocacy and leadership and called rural and regional Australia home. 

What’s your professional background?

I’ve been around a while so just a few things. I was the CEO of the National Farmers’ Federation and before that with Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia and roles with the former Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation (now MLA). I’m also on the board of the Telstra Foundation, Agribusiness Australia and The Leadership Network. I have volunteered in many organisations, most recently as President of the Carwoola Community Association.

What’s your favourite memory or most memorable moment in rural, regional and remote Australia?

My most memorable moment took place at the Carrathool races over 20 years ago… It’s the early years of the millennium drought and as hot and dry as an oven. Yet there’s a healthy crowd of locals and visitors from far flung places. I’m under the lid of a broad brimmed hat sitting with family and friends, local and from Sydney, while the air fills with the sweet smokey scent of barbecue. The sun bakes down, the horses fly past the post and the laughter drifts across the endless plain. Quite suddenly there it is, a change in the air, a shift in the breeze, a scent of turned earth. 

‘Maybe some rain’, I thought and God knows we needed it. But then a stronger breeze, enough to ruffle clothes and flip hats and then….what is that? No one was looking at the nags going ’round or at each other as all eyes drifted inexorably to the west and there it was. A towering, rolling dust storm. Not of the thin-fronted variety but with a depth and menace extending beyond the eyeline into a black pit. 

Some immediately swept into action, folding chairs, pinning down loose items and collecting children. Others just stood and gaped unable to comprehend what this was. My wife and I looked at each other and started gathering our things, looking for something heavy to lob on top. Our Sydney friends yelled ‘What is this and what do we do?’….’get under shelter, something solid!’. And then it was on us. Thick, choking dirt instantly dehydrating and caking faces and exposed limbs. Gusts flattened the young, old and thin of frame. Many took to the ground, face-down, arms over heads trying to wait it out. And then a shift. Small missiles thwacked into parched cotton and bare skin, a mix of grass seeds, small twigs and sheep dung followed by another assault. This time fat drops of rain thrown sideways turning the swirling dust to mud.

And then it was over. The day, recently turned to night, re-emerged and bathed the scene in sunlight. It looked like something out of a movie scene, people slowly scraping themselves off the ground and out of corrugated fox holes, a look of bewilderment etched on faces caked with grit and mud. Then it was the muscle memory shared by rural Australians – ‘are you OK?’ ‘Come on lets give you a hand’…and then the way we seem to cope in the face of events like these – laughing at ourselves and each other.

There were some stories told which seemed to get taller as the day (and the rest of the races) went on. 

Three things you love about working at the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation?

My favourite parts of leading the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation are the connection to purpose, the people I work with and interacting with people from all walks of rural, regional and remote Australia.

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