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Tessa Chartres takes out 2024 Zanda McDonald Award

17 June 2024

This year marked the 10th year of the coveted Zanda McDonald Award, recognising Tessa Chartres as a promising future leader within the agriculture industry.   

The Zanda McDonald Award recognises determined and passionate individuals within the agricultural industry aged between 21–35. The award aims to assist with both personal and professional growth. Based in Deniliquin, Tessa is the General Manager of Business Development at Murray Irrigation, winning the Australian component of the trans-Tasman award, alongside New Zealand-based Nancy Crawshaw.  

Back to the start  

Born to stock and station agent parents and raised on a mixed farm near Bathurst, NSW, Tessa said that agriculture was an inevitable pathway for her.   

“I studied ag all through school, but I wasn’t quite sure what my career should look like,” Tessa said.   

“Then I jumped over to an accounting degree because I had some pretty good advice from my boss who said if you’re a good accountant, you can work in whatever industry you like.”   

“It’s been some of the best career advice I’ve ever received.”  

After graduating, a career working with irrigation came as a surprise.   

“Growing up, I didn’t really understand the concepts of irrigated agriculture at all, so it’s been quite a steep learning curve for me, but I love it.”  

“The irrigation sector supports all types of the ag sector. As an accountant, it’s been interesting applying those theories to water accounting and the economics of it all.”  

At Murray Irrigation, Tessa is responsible for Commonwealth funded projects, Water Policy, ICT transformation and commercial business contracts.   

Tessa was one of six finalists for the 2024 award.

A big year ahead  

Since winning in March, Tessa has been planning her mentoring trips across Australia and New Zealand, which are part of the award.   

“The trip will be tailored to Nancy (NZ award winner) and I, so it’s a pretty amazing opportunity,” Tessa said.   

“For me, I’m interested to hear from people involved in all sectors of agriculture, how they interact with policy and how it is incorporated as part of their business.”  

“I’m also interested to learn about succession planning, leadership, and learning how to get the right people involved in agriculture and support them.”  

Tessa will also receive up to $10,000 towards a professional development course or further education to support her career path, and a one-year position as a judge of the award.   

Tessa said it’s the networking opportunities, that already began as a finalist in the competition, that she’s most looking forward to.   

“It’s been such a wonderful network and safe environment to share ideas and learn from some pretty incredible players in the ag sector.”  

“To have access to that knowledge and experience is pretty unparalleled as you come up through your career.”  

Opportunity of a lifetime  

As Zanda McDonald Award Alumni, Tessa plans to utilise the connections she has made and continues to make this year throughout her career.   

“This award isn’t a finite opportunity.”   

“Coming out of this process, I want to continue building and creating those links so that as I continue through my career, I have established connections with people I can reach out to for support whenever I might need to call on it.”  

“Then, I can start giving that knowledge back and sharing it with the new alumni or people outside of the award in my own community.”  

As a major sponsor of the award, MLA aims to contribute to the success of agriculture in industry through emerging generations.   

With plenty to look forward to in the coming months, Tessa is already a big advocate for the award.   

“It can be really difficult to put yourself out there and take a leap of faith, but when you’re feeling uncomfortable it’s probably a sign that you’re doing the right thing,” Tessa said.   

Find out more about the Zanda McDonald award and how to apply here