Away from the suits coupled with boots, of policy and the economy, a country route leads to my roots and fresh new grass shoots. Where community pride is nestled on a sheep's back ride and the old folk meet in the middle of the street, lies my home town of Boorowa.
During the course of the Christmas break, whispers trickled around my home town of Nabiac that the Council had closed the saleyards, without mention to the local community. As the sale, which last month saw 700 head sold, seemed to inevitably been closed, the words of Troy Cassar-Daley beat through the land and hummed through the trees- "I hate to see a small town die".
Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of joining an incredible, all Indigenous panel at the Indigenous Land Corporation's (ILC) Senior Managers Conference. Tasked with reflecting on the organisations successes over the last 20 years and projecting what the future may hold, the conference was a time to pause and to dream.
As an industry, we must work together and continually discuss these changes. We must meet consumers where they stand and not dictate to them that they must purchase the items we produce. Rather, we must respectfully listen to them and work with them to produce the food that meets their ethical requirements, while being cheap, affordable and nutritious.
Our story in Australia begins more than 40,000 years ago, as our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters sustainably farmed the earth we walk on, the water that flows around us and the air we breathe. They used sophisticated farming practices to sustain and work with the environment in order to feed our families, our communities and our culture. But the knowledge of these shared, sustainable practices have faded away into the minds of our Indigenous Elders, as we instead embolden competition over land for property development, Western agricultural practices and mining.
Almost 10 years ago, I recall sitting at my Great Grandmother’s dining table at the farm with my Grandpa and my Dad. To be honest, things were pretty rough… The drought was settling in over the once flourishing paddocks and there became a time several years before that prevented this gorgeous little farm from providing our family with all the opportunity they could have dreamed about. There became a time, when despite my Great Grandparent’s enthusiasm for raising their children on the land, that it was no longer feasible to do so.
I was driven with a desire to help people, a heart that wanted to give and a mindset triggered by an accident. It’s a mentality fired by loss and hurt, by passion and influence. In order to reconcile the events of the past, I grew up believing and being told that things happen for a reason, that each additional day was a blessing and opportunities would be presented when they were ready.
I feel the Land.
I embrace its presence.
And I thrive at the joy in farming it.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for the opportunity to address you on behalf of our young farmers. I would like to further acknowledge that we meet on Aboriginal land today and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present.
When R.M. Williams first opened his first store in Adelaide, Sir Sidney Kidman celebrated his birthday in the heart of the city with a rodeo and Pharlap won the Melbourne Cup, 14 percent of the Australian population was employed in Australian agricultural sector. Both rural and urban communities celebrated the industry and a career in agriculture was highly valued.
It is with great frustration at times that I hear this throw away line, a simple phrase that I believe is truly attributing hindrance to our progression as an industry. The very notion of negating what we do instantaneously prevents the discussions that we should be having, especially to an audience who may have no idea as to what a farmer actually does. But these 4 words are ruining more than this, they also frequently appear as one of our arrows in the quiver, hiding away to limit or refute our successes.