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Alumni stories

Time for change after three droughts in two decades 

21 February 2022

In her 21 years, Meg Kennett has experienced three severe droughts.  

She has seen the effect it has on not only farmers and their families, but the land and rural communities. 

“This has sparked a desire in me to reduce this hardship faced by the rural families through improving the resilience of both land and people,” she said.  

Meg originally hails from Harden in NSW’s south west slopes and this year will study a farm management course – as well as participating in the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program, a Future Drought Fund initiative.  

“When I found out about the drought resilience mentoring program, I was extremely excited as I not only had the potential to find a mentor but one that also had a passion for rural Australia and drought resilience,” Meg said.  

“I hope to be able to develop networks and be a part of collaborative conversations focused on drought resilient strategies throughout the mentoring sessions and alumni opportunities.” 

She is currently working on a project trying to better connect rural and urban Australia through a series of videos showcasing how food is produced in the agricultural sector.  

“I hope that my mentor may be able to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge and expertise to help bring the project to fruition.”   

“I hope to develop a meaningful relationship with my mentor so that even after the six programmed mentoring sessions we continue to be in contact, catching up and supporting each other.” 

Meg says the number of potential paths in agriculture can get a little bit overwhelming – which is just one of the ways her mentor Melissa Neal is a perfect partner for her.  

“The most important advice I can offer in a mentoring relationship is have a big vision for your future and be courageous enough to discuss it with the right people that can help give you clarity and insight, and build up connections to help you get there,” Melissa said.  

“The biggest benefit I have had from a number of mentors over the years is to be think bigger, bolder and more broadly – they’ve opened my eyes beyond my current realm of knowledge and helped me link my learnings in other areas.” 

Currently the Industry Leadership Manager at Sheep Producers Australia, Melissa has led state and national development projects to improve productivity, profitability and quality for the red meat industry throughout her career.  

Melissa says she’s been “so lucky to have had great mentors over the years”, who provided her with opportunities, new perspectives and different ways of seeing the world.  

Both Meg and Melissa were attracted to the Drought Resilience Leaders Mentoring Program because of its focus on people passionate about rural communities and resilience.  

When it comes to drought, Meg believes it can actually be a catalyst for change, forcing us to think outside the box to use our resources more efficiently.  

“I think drought may actually help to identify what we can do better as rural industries and communities and offer up the opportunity to create change in ensuring long-term prosperity,” she said.  

“Drought resilience is all about being prepared for the challenge, developing coping mechanisms during the good seasons for when the times aren’t so good and our ability to bounce back. 

“At this point in my life I can’t pinpoint exactly what direction I would like to take my career and hence it’s hard to say exactly how drought will affect me. However, I’m extremely passionate about the sustainability of the agriculture industry, and to become sustainable we need change.” 

Melissa couldn’t agree more, saying the sector had to continue to make changes that were going to suit what was next around the corner.  

“The best agriculture businesses and agriculture leaders are looking ahead and preparing for what is coming next,” she said.   

“My passion has always been around growing agriculture, business and people, and while they are three different topics, the main difference in how you develop them is using different measures.” 

One of those measures that works across the board is mentoring, which is why Melissa is encouraging those around her to participate in this program.  

“At the end of the day people drive agriculture and rural communities and the more we can have great relationships with great people, the better,” she said.  

“All you need to be a great mentor is to have an interest in people and be willing to share stories and experience that you have had along the way – encouraging a mentee to be their best is a fabulous opportunity that you don’t get every day. 

“You can have confidence the program will match you with the right person for your interests and skill sets.”