Susan grew up on a dairy farm at Flinders, on the Mornington Peninsula and with her family, operates a 3,500ha dry-land cropping enterprise near Horsham. She has served on the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Southern Panel, and is currently working with renewable energy developer, RES, in communications and engagement. Upon completing the 12-month Wimmera Leadership course with a background in grain growing and a desire to continue with formal leadership training, it made sense for Susan to apply for a GRDC sponsored place in the ARLP.
“The Wimmera Leadership course gave me the confidence to apply for ARLP and ultimately that program is the reason I hold the positions I do today,” she said. “The experience was unforgettable and valuable in so many ways and pushed me to consider the world in a different way.” Susan’s cohort undertook sessions overseas in India, as well as Sydney, Tasmania, Adelaide, and the Kimberley. “We worked with homeless people in Sydney and in Tasmania we undertook a case study examining the impact of forestry on the environment,” Susan said.
“During our time in Sydney we worked with homeless people and on one evening I found myself sharing pizza on a beach with a tattoo covered, drug addicted teenager who shared a candid and honest account of her plight, and the hopelessness of her situation, which really hit a chord with me.
“The fact that some young people saw no value in their own lives prompted me to reassess the world.”
But it was the tireless commitment of those determined to help them that had the greatest impact on Susan.
”That was a turning point for me in the program and once it was complete, I was confident to start to take on leadership roles in various industry and community groups, including the GRDC,” Susan said.
“Partially driven by the need to support the industry that had supported me, I also realised that I now had the skills to enable change, including the ability to recognise the needs of others and advocate on their behalf.”
Over the past decade, Susan has worked with the Wimmera Health Care Group, the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environmental Advisory Board, and the Centre for Agricultural Engineering – all roles that are fundamentally based around improving the health and wellbeing of those in regional communities, and of regional communities themselves.
She is now using her science communication skills to promote renewable energy, all the time drawing on the skills of empathetic listening and understanding of the lived experiences and viewpoints of others developed during the ARLP course. “These skills are an asset when dealing with any project that may involve different sectors of the community, with diverse opinions and beliefs,”Susan said.
“I am a strong believer in inclusivity, in considering people from different socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities, but I am particularly passionate about women supporting women,” she said.
“By serving as a role model within agriculture, renewable energy, health and natural resource management, I am acutely aware of the fact that I can set an example for other women keen to embark on their own leadership journey for the betterment of their community, industry and self.”