Outback by accident – that could describe Shannon Chatfield, Picture You in Agriculture’s newest participant in the 2021 Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. So exactly how does someone from a hobby farm accidently find themselves on one of the Northern Territory’s largest cattle stations? Let’s meet Shannon and find out.
Shannon grew up on small acreage an hour south of Perth surrounded by horses, which led her to study and work as a veterinary nurse on the completion of high school in 2009, although she wasn’t sure what direction this would take her. She knew she wanted a career in a rural environment so five years later she went travelling and decided to work as a jillaroo in the Northern Territory for a month.
“I was attracted to Kirkimbie Station [Consolidated Pastoral Company – CPC] because it was a remote cattle breeding property with a small station team,” she says. “It also ran a horse stud to top up camp horses for the rest of the CPC places. This was attractive to me coming from a horse background and was the only thing that felt familiar when moving into a completely foreign environment where I didn’t know anyone on the station, let alone in the industry.”
The fact she was not from a strong agricultural upbringing did not deter Shannon.
“I believe that coming from a different background you don’t take this kind of lifestyle for granted and it’s easy to appreciate how amazing and unique the agricultural industry really is.”
This attitude has taken her from a one month contract to an extraordinary career with northern Australia’s cattle industry. She has worked across various CPC stations, completed a Bachelor of Applied Science, expanded her knowledge of the industry through courses facilitated by CPC and the NTCA (Northern Territory Cattle Association) and now holds the role of Research Project Officer for CPC and Manager’s Assistant alongside her partner Jimmy on Newcastle Waters Station.
“What started out as a month contract on a station out of pure curiosity has turned into a new passion and a career with long-term goals.”
Those long-term goals include leadership in an industry Shannon has come to love. She sees social licence, research and technology and the retention of young people as important issues and would like to see the northern beef industry “lead in sustainability both economically and environmentally.
I want to be a leader people look up to; someone who can confidently promote the industry but also talk about the tough issues challenging agriculture and help the industry take steps to overcome these. I want to be part of the solution encouraging conversations between producers and consumers and help support young people within the industry to be future leaders.”
CPC also hosts Indonesian students and as a testament to the opportunities open to young people in the industry Shannon had the opportunity to go to Indonesia in 2020 as part of the NTCA Indonesia Australia Pastoral Program (NIAPP).
“It was an amazing experience to be able to see the whole supply chain from station to Indonesian families buying meat at the wet markets”
With these ideals in mind Shannon is looking forward to embarking on her Young Farming Champions journey, sponsored by NTCA, where she hopes to learn from others, develop skills in communication and engagement, and promote the range of career opportunities in agriculture.
“When I first started out as a jillaroo on a station, I had no idea of the possibilities and career paths within the northern beef industry. All I could see at the time was the promotion to a leading hand, head stockman, then eventually to manager. I could have left the industry soon after, thinking there was not a place or career for me. I think we as an industry could be better at offering and promoting alternative career paths to retain people who may not fit within those specific station roles.”
Welcome aboard Shannon. We recognise your passion for the northern beef industry and look forward to learning from you as you learn from us.