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Leading the way to address industry challenges

18 March 2021

Gillian Fennell has always seen leadership as an opportunity to improve the Australian agricultural industry, and it started long before her involvement in the Livestock Collective’s Livestock Leaders workshop in 2020.

Running a million-acre farm in rural South Australia with her husband Mark, Gillian has also been involved in several committees and boards to boost the profile of the industry, such as Livestock SA and the Cattle Council of Australia.

She said there were still many benefits to attending the Livestock Leaders workshop though, all of which upskilled participating leaders to be the best industry advocates they could be.

Better communication to meet industry challenges head-on

Gillian said the Livestock Leaders was a chance to learn about communicating the issues the industry faces across a variety of mediums to ensure the message has its best chance of being heard.

“Being a livestock producer in Australia often involves living in remote areas, and it’s no secret we lack access to a lot of services like healthcare,” Gillian said.

“The longevity of our industry depends on access to these, so having the skills to communicate effectively about the challenges we’re facing is crucial to them being addressed.

“Livestock Leaders was valuable in that it taught us how to better our social media presence to be able to have our voices heard, and worked on our interviewing skills to ensure if we have the chance to engage with media, we know the appropriate way to conduct ourselves and raise these issues.”

Gillian also said she was drawn to the workshop and her other representative responsibilities to better advocate for industry in the face of misinformation, such as that ‘livestock production relies on land clearing’ and that ‘beef producers are responsible for the climate crisis’.

“You can’t sit back and hope others are going to address false claims like these – it’s up to everyone who is affected to improve the standing of the industry, which is why it’s so important to have the skills to do so,” she said.

A shared industry goal

Gillian also said the workshop showed her the value of networking right across the supply chain.

“When we think about developing our industry, it’s clear to me that we need to pull together a lot more than we have in the past to produce the best outcomes for everyone,” she said.

“We’re all working towards the same goals of increasing production and profits, and creating a sustainable future.

“Networking with other industry professionals means we can freely share concerns and information we have from all angles, which is only going to improve how these are heard, considered and acted on.”

Raising the profile of women in ag

Gillian said that while taking part in the Livestock Leaders wasn’t intended to be about representing women, the passive impact of it has been apparent.

“It wasn’t a goal of mine to do this for women, but it’s been a positive consequence of learning how to be a better advocate that the profile of women in the sector has been raised,” Gillian said.

“Women have crucial roles right across the industry from business management and advocacy through to farm work, and showcasing them through my own life and work I hope demonstrates that there’s a place in agriculture for anyone who’s up for it.”