The force is with you

Pres­i­dent: Good work sup­ported by sci­ence

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - NEWS - AN­DREA DAVY An­[email protected]­ral­

AF­TER back-to-back board meet­ings in Bris­bane, Ge­orgie Som­er­set can as­sure you there will be plenty of jobs wait­ing for her when she gets home to the fam­ily cat­tle prop­erty.

Along­side her hus­band Robert, the cou­ple run My Yon out­side of Durong in the South Bur­nett re­gion.

This week marked Mrs Som­er­set’s first seven days as AgFroce gen­eral pres­i­dent. She’s the first woman in the role since the mem­ber-based group was formed in 1999.

Her ex­ten­sive re­sume in­cludes cur­rently serv­ing on the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (ABC) board, and as di­rec­tor of the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice in Queens­land, and for the Chil­dren’s Health Queens­land Hos­pi­tal and Health Ser­vice.

She is a long-time ad­vo­cate of ru­ral Aus­tralia, and some­one who is deeply proud to be a farmer.

While on a bus to Toowoomba to meet her hus­band for a lift back to their prop­erty, Mrs Som­er­set talked through her goals as an in­dus­try leader.

A key fo­cus for her was to quash any doubts the com­mu­nity might have around food pro­duc­tion.

“While we are trusted to grow great food and fi­bre, there is still trust to build around how we do that,” she said.

“We need to con­tinue the work we have been do­ing so peo­ple ac­tu­ally hear about the great sto­ries.

“Peo­ple need to hear what’s hap­pen­ing in a pro­duc­tion sense: how farm­ers are man­ag­ing the land­scape, iden­ti­fy­ing di­ver­sity and in­creas­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

This year, Mrs Som­er­set no­ticed a shift within the in­dus­try as more farm­ers found a voice through the green-shirt move­ment and dur­ing veg­e­ta­tion law protests.

“In a sense I think there were peo­ple who had just had enough this year,” she said.

“I think, also, there is a grow­ing pride that what we do is backed by sci­ence and it’s backed by best prac­tice – we look af­ter our peo­ple, our an­i­mals and our land.

“We can never as­sume the com­mu­nity knows that.”

AgForce ran a fierce cam­paign against the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment’s veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment laws, which were even­tu­ally in­tro­duced in May this year.

On this mat­ter, Mrs Som­er­set said the fight was far from over.

“We won’t be back­ing down from it,” she said.

“We are ex­plor­ing ev­ery av­enue.

“We are con­tin­u­ing to ad­vo­cate for a sci­ence-based ap­proach that’s sus­tain­able and will de­liver what we know to be the best outcome for the land­scape.”

Ad­vo­cacy work started more than two decades ago for Mrs Som­er­set, and an early high­light was spend­ing Expo 88 in Bris­bane talk­ing about in­land Queens­land and farm­ing.

“I have long been proud of what we do,” she said.

“There wasn’t one point when I de­cided to step up. It’s been a long jour­ney for me.”

Af­ter a busy few days on the job, which in­cluded hand­ing out beet­root at the Queen St Mall dur­ing Na­tional Agri­cul­ture Day, then at­tend­ing the RFDS board meet­ing, Mrs Som­er­set said she was keen to get back onto her prop­erty.

“It can be as­sured there will be jobs for me when I get home,” she said.

“I will shovel the cot­ton seed, or help out in the cat­tle yards when I am there.

“One of the hard­est things about be­ing away is miss­ing the work on our place.

“I try and stay as con­nected as pos­si­ble. I am still re­spon­si­ble for the busi­ness side of our busi­ness.”

Next year, she pre­dicts she will be on the road more of­ten vis­it­ing farm­ers and gra­ziers in the re­gions.

She agreed it was a mile­stone for her to be­come the first fe­male AgForce gen­eral pres­i­dent, but shrugged off any shat­ter­ing of the glass ceil­ing.

AgForce was formed in 1999 fol­low­ing a merger be­tween the Cat­tle­men’s Union of Aus­tralia, the Queens­land Grain­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion and the United Gra­ziers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

“There have been amaz­ing women be­fore me,” she said.

“If you look back, you will see the Cat­tle­men’s Union had a fe­male CEO, so our fore­bears were cer­tainly in there do­ing this be­fore me.

“I think hav­ing 40 per cent of our board as women at AgForce is re­flec­tive of our in­dus­try.

“Women have al­ways had a strong role, they just haven’t al­ways been vis­i­ble.

“It’s not about whether we are men or women, it’s about the skills and at­tributes we bring.”

❝ We look af­ter our peo­ple, our an­i­mals and our land. We can never as­sume peo­ple know that. — Ge­orgie Som­er­set


ON THE GROUND: AgForce gen­eral pres­i­dent Ge­orgie Som­er­set dur­ing Na­tional Agri­cul­ture Day.

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