Motions: Women in Agriculture

Wednesday November 28, 2018

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:39): I rise to support the Attorney-General's motion:

That this house—

(a) raises awareness of the important role women play in agribusiness and in regional South Australia, especially in leadership roles;

(b) notes that women are occupying an increasing number of diverse roles in agribusiness; and

(c) recognises that South Australia continues to encourage more women to pursue careers in agriculture and horticulture as the world’s growing demand for our food continues to rise.

Obviously, we have a direct link in my electorate to agribusiness, regional work and the economic value that it produces. Agricultural production is a key contributor to regional economies. In 2016-17, the total value of agricultural output in Mount Gambier's District Council of Grant was $559 million, making it 58.7 per cent of value output of all sectors in the region and equating to nearly half of all local jobs in the District Council of Grant's area being employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing. It is a monumental contribution, heavily guided by the leadership of all the different sectors of agribusiness. As noted by PIRSA:

Agribusiness recognises an innovative, contemporary and exciting sector contributing significantly to the South Australian and national economies.

It is exciting that leadership roles are now becoming more accessible to women. Although 60 or so years ago, when women were not necessarily in leadership roles per se, a typical sign of the times was that many women were still helping and contributing to the farms, as well as raising children, often by themselves. Today, women are stepping into these leadership roles in a contemporary agribusiness sector.

Traditionally, women joined the Country Women's Association, the Women's Agricultural Bureau and the Red Cross in order to socialise and discuss farming and equality with other women living on properties, sometimes rural and remote. Although these organisations are still around and do some incredible work, we are now seeing more and more women stepping into leadership roles. One example is the new CEO of Grain Producers South Australia, Ms Caroline Rhodes, who has also held previous leadership roles in the agribusiness sector. Another is Mount Gambier-based CEO of Onions Australia, Lechelle Earl, who oversees all parts of the supply chain from growers through to seed, chemical and machinery specialists.

As the agribusiness sector becomes more contemporary, it is also working towards becoming more innovative. I speak of Limestone Coast resident Olivia Nunn, who has to make a two-hour round-trip each day from her home to work as an executive officer of the Coonawarra wine region's grower body. Miss Nunn speaks about the blackspots en route to work. I quote:

Those phone calls that you probably used to take advantage of and be able to do using car kits in a city environment, they don't necessarily exist when you're in a rural environment.

I take this opportunity to commend the Liberal government for their promise to fund regional blackspots, especially since an agricultural community such as the electorate of Mount Gambier often requires mobile phone coverage, even just as a safety backup or, in Miss Nunn's case, for leadership matters.

Women are playing a significant role in the South Australian agribusiness sector. I would like to highlight some quotes from Mount Gambier resident Wendy Fennell, who is the managing director and co-founder of Fennell Forestry, one of the biggest timber harvesting and transport operators in South Australia's Green Triangle. Ms Fennell noted, and I quote, not to:

…be afraid to acknowledge that women and men operate differently. I think personal characteristics are a greater barrier to career success than gender.

She says:

…that people are the most important part of any business and if you're going to lead, lead by example.

Ms Fennell leads a workforce of almost 80, overseeing all facets of the business, and in 2015 she was named businesswoman of the year at the Women in Business and Regional Development awards. Ms Fennell also highlighted that a career in agribusiness is a career that is constantly evolving through innovation and that, when combined with challenges of the natural environment that you deal with on a daily basis, this equates to a diverse platform from which women can launch themselves.

I commend this motion for highlighting the increasing number of diverse roles in agribusiness undertaken by women, particularly leadership roles, and for highlighting the important work they contribute. To quote PIRSA once again, 'Agribusiness is recognised as an innovative, contemporary and exciting sector contributing significantly to South Australia and national economies.' Women in leadership roles are helping break down barriers that initially hindered women in agribusiness, making it true that today agribusiness has become a contemporary, innovative and exciting sector.