Young Farming Champion Jessica Fearnley is using her communication skills to kickstart her leadership journey

At Picture You in Agriculture we design our learning and development programs to support Young Farming Champions on their emerging leadership journey. We partner with their workplaces to equip, empower, position and mentor them.

Jessica Fearnley

Young Farming Champion Jessica Fearnley who works in horticulture as a development officer with the NSW Department of Primary Industries 

In this edition of our Lessons Learnt series we look at how the power of this model has enabled Jessica Fearnley to hone communication skills learnt in the first year of the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program by sharing her EvokeAg experience on the NSW DPI twitter account.

Jessica who works in horticulture as a development officer, joined the Young Farming Champions program in 2019, sponsored by her employer NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“Horticulture is one of highest value industries in the agricultural sector and people interact with it every day. There is a story to be told about the people and the places behind the horticultural industry and the people who consume Australia’s diverse array of fruit and vegetables in terms of how the food is grown, produced and how it ends up on supermarket shelves. I wanted to continue my career development by telling these stories and the Young Farming Champions Program seemed to offer the best way of doing this.” Jessica Fearnley

Through the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program Jessica learnt skills in media and communication.

“My presentation skills improved dramatically after the workshop and I now apply this in my day to day work. I am required to present at field days and conferences and I now know I can get up and entertain people, whilst delivering my message and ensuring it resonates.” Jessica Fearnley

The workshops also taught her the importance of delivering messages simply and this skill become particularly relevant when Jessica was selected by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT) as one of six emerging leaders to attend the 2020 EvokeAg event held in Melbourne in February, and her employer asked her to tweet about the event.

“I was given the very exciting opportunity to take over the NSW DPI twitter account to advocate my experience at the EvokeAg conference. This stretched me outside my comfort zone and although I was nervous I felt honoured my employers trusted and supported me to amplify the voices I found interesting on the day and advocate their message to 8726 followers.”

Jessica Fearnley NSWDPI

“It was a great chance to put into practice the concise communication skills I learnt at the YFC workshops and deliver my messages within 280 characters. As a recent graduate I was elated to have the power for my messages and thoughts to reach so many people. I am very supported by my team around me at DPI and I feel they are equipping me to develop my leadership skills as well as help others through the ability to practise and fine tune what I learnt in the YFC program.”

Picture You in Agriculture knows knowledge itself is not the key to success. Success comes when this knowledge is applied and when young people are given a road map for their leadership journey. When we trust people with autonomy and authority we give them an opportunity to prove themselves. When people are given autonomy over their work they feel connected to a purpose and part of a team that cares for them.  With support from NSW DPI and her new Young Farming Champions family, Jessica is taking the first steps on what we hope will be a long and rewarding journey.

Thanks Jess for sharing your lessons learnt and mega shoutout to our supporting partners empowering young people to solve tomorrows problems today

2019 Partners

Young Farming Champions Emily May and Rebecca George share their lessons learnt from their Year One journey

Following on from our chat to new AWI YFCs Matt Cumming and Tom Squires we now find out what the new UNE YFCs thought of their first year of the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program.

Rebecca George and Emily May are both studying at the University of New England and have completed the first year of the YFC program where, like Matt and Tom, they gained media training and skills in how to present their story and networked with other young people in agriculture.

“The opportunity to do personal and professional development and to meet other passionate aggies was my motivation for joining the program. I  was keen to learn how to spread positive messages about agriculture in everyday life.” says Rebecca

For Rebecca and Emily, the power of presenting a positive story was a revelation as they became aware of the connotations of reinforcing negative stereotypes.

 “I learnt the power of having a positive vision to inspire people to join a common cause. The personal story I have chosen to share with school students has changed and I now place a greater focus on sharing more of the positive impacts of my journey.

I live and work on farms in Western Sydney and urban expansion is replacing our fertile farmland all around me. I want everyone to be as passionate as me about getting the right balance between land for housing people in Western Sydney and land for feeding people.

Did you know the vegetables produced in the Sydney region account for 22% of all vegetables supplied in NSW? At times of the year, the Sydney region is the source of 90% of NSW’s vegetable products.

Not only this, agriculture on the edge of Sydney provides ecological benefits that are known as ‘ecosystem services’ – the types of values that we enjoy from having green space and biodiversity. Other examples include improved water and waste management, reduced urban heat effects and improved air quality, reduced carbon emissions, conservation of biodiversity, and improved nutrient recycling. Farms also provide mutually beneficial partnerships for job creation and renewable energy generation” says Emily

Their first Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders workshop coincided with a professional development day for teachers delivering Kreative Koalas into primary schools and the chance to network was another highlight for the girls.

“My major highlight from the program was the formal dinner we attended during the first workshop. During this night we met people from various backgrounds including new and alumni YFC, teachers and our YFC ‘tutors’. This was a great experience as it made me come out of my shell and talk to people.”

“The other YFC motivate and inspire me so much. This was my highlight of the program. It is a very special thing to have a large group of people who are all passionate and incredibly knowledgeable to work with, and I learnt something every time I spoke with a YFC.”

Recognising the power of learning from others and having opportunities to practice what you learn are pivotal to success the Picture You in Agriculture team work closely with our supporting partners to ensure success.YFC Impact Talent DevelopmentDeveloping their personal stories, learning about the media and networking with others has led Rebecca and Emily to become more involved with ag-week at UNE and to spread their agricultural knowledge beyond their own circle of friends and family.

For Emily this has led to an association with the Hawkesbury Harvest.

“Through connections made with YFC I was put in contact with the Hawkesbury Harvest Trail who offered me the opportunity to be one of their voices for their segment on ABC radio. I have applied what I have learnt by reducing the amount of jargon I use in my speech and ensuring the message I portray is of positive nature. Making sure to not reinforce the negative has also been important in developing my messages to be aired on ABC.” Emily May

Listen to Emily on the ABC on the radio

With both girls keen for their second year of the Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program they realise the importance of being proactive in their training.

“I think this program is unique in that the more you put in the more you get out. I am now confident I can use my voice to advocate for agricultural change.” Rebecca George

Shoutout to our supporting partners who are empowering young people to collaborate and solve tomorrow’s problems today

2019 Partners

 

Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders Roundup

At Picture You in Agriculture we love the quote

‘There is no such thing as failure.

You either succeed or learn!’

and we love to share what we learn from our Young Farming Champions.

In recent years the initial training of the Young Farming Champions (YFC) has been formalised in a two-year Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program. In this edition of our Lessons Learnt series we talk to the Australian Wool Innovation sponsored YFC who completed the first half of the program in 2019 – Matt Cumming and Tom Squires.

In their first year Matt and Tom, both shearers, undertook media training, immersed themselves in the networking resources of other YFC and learnt how to tell their own stories to the world to promote shearing as an exciting career choice.

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“I’ve worked in shearing sheds, on and off, for 6 years. As shearers we strive to do the best job we possibly can, and we do so in a professional manner. It’s an industry that cares about people and cares about sheep and I wanted the opportunity to share that far and I wide.  I wanted to tell people about my life growing up on the land and how great it can be. I thought Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders would be a great stepping-stone in allowing me to do that.” Tom Squires

A career in wool lets Tom lead the lifestyle he has always dreamed of 

During the workshops Tom and Matt were given an insight to the workings of the media and got the chance to be interviewed by a journalist.

“One of the key skills I learnt from the training was how the media can help you get your message across and how it can get it all wrong if you don’t have the right facts and or haven’t done your research to ensure they receive the correct message,” Matt says.

For Matt shearing is a lifestyle that allows his family to work and play together 

“Being able to talk to leading journalist in the media industry was brilliant,” Tom says. “It challenged me to think from another angle. For example, the one-on-one interview I had with the journalist made me realise journalists wouldn’t run a story unless they know it has an interesting angle for their readers. Now, it may seem common sense, but I never sat back and thought about it. From there it made me think about what is it I really care about and how can I communicate that in a way that will inspire other young people to join me in a career in wool”

Tom and Matt also learnt that to able to effectively talk to the media required the polishing of their own stories; to reduce the use of jargon, to talk in descriptive and personal tones, to use real-life examples rather than facts and to tailor their presentations to a particular audience.

“The program has given me an insight into better crafting a presentation for an audience beyond the agricultural industry,” Tom says. “After presenting, the feedback given was focused around me making sure what was on the slides was able to be read and understood by anyone. This prompted me to shape my presentation more around myself and my own life experiences, rather than telling facts and figures about the industry.”

Adding to this story-telling skillset, Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders also delivered training in the often daunting arena of public speaking and introduced Matt and Tom to a network of young agricultural professionals who can support and encourage them in their own careers.

And so, one year into the program, what have been the highlights for these new YFC and how are they employing their new skills? For Tom, seeing other young leaders striving for success in agriculture has become a great driver.

“In some ways its like shearing,” he says. “In the shearing sheds you always want to be as good as the best shearer (referred to as the gun) in team. You look at the gun and think if he can do it why can’t I? This program was the same for me. I looked around at what the others had achieved and what they had done for the industry and it made me want to do the same.”

For Matt the program is providing continuation of his leadership journey.

“I now have the confidence to want to change and to make a difference within my industry by telling my story and achieving my goals,” he says. “The Cultivate – Growing Young Leaders program has taught me that I can lead the way in my industry, and it has given me skills to develop myself and help others to achieve any outcome we are striving for.”

 

 

Sam Arnfield discovers agriculture is a place where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly

I’m not yet thirty but I’ve already worked in grains, viticulture, horticulture and now the wool industry. It’s been an unconventional path but that’s OK. I think its important people know that with a bit of enthusiasm, anyone will take you on and give you a chance. Looking forward I’m excited to continue to learn new skills, with a view to becoming a leader and a manager of people, in whatever corner of the industry I find myself. One thing is for sure, I’ll be doing work that makes me happy. says Sam Arnfield Project Officer with Australian Wool Innovation

At Picture You in Agriculture we get a buzz out of sharing stories about young people who grew up in the city and discover agriculture is an exciting industry where innovation, disruption and creativity are fostered and where careers with purpose can grow limitlessly

This blog post introduces you to  Sam Arnfield our man on the spot with Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).  Sam’s career journey was first profiled as a 1st year university student. Ten years after leaving school Sam is a project officer working closely with Picture You in Agriculture to ensure our wonderful wool Young Farming Champions are well supported.

This is Sam’s journey to our door and it’s a journey with lessons for us all.

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Sam Arnfield sharing the properties of wool with students at RAS of NSW Farm Day education experiences 

I grew up on a concrete farm five minutes north of the Adelaide CBD. While I have zero family background in agriculture my love of food, biology and geography made studying it a natural choice and I was very lucky to have a fantastic high school ag teacher, Chris Muirhead, who was buoyant about the prospects of careers in agriculture.

At that time, university enrolments were on the slide and the sentiment in the industry was poor. South Eastern Australia was in the midst of the Millennium Drought and the wool price was around a third or what it is today. However, with booming middle classes in Asia and the advent of e-commerce and smart technology, Mr. Muirhead saw changes on the horizon for our world and our industry. He recognised the importance of enticing people from non-traditional backgrounds into agriculture at a time when young people were leaving the family farm in droves, never to return. I ignored him and followed my school mates to law school.

I took some time off after school teaching English school kids how to play cricket. This was the perfect opportunity to take stock and work out what I really wanted to do with my life. Returning home, I ditched law school before even starting and embarked on a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Adelaide Uni. It was there I met my best friends. We drank together, played footy together and ended up working together for some time.

Without a farm to go back to, or any practical agricultural skills, I foolishly chose the graduate job I thought could earn me the most money. I took a job in grain marketing – not the smartest move for a kid who’d failed maths every year in high school. I sucked, badly, and lasted six weeks and one day.

It was a lesson in doing things for the right reasons and a reminder that you should always do things that make you happy. Maybe that’s a selfish outlook, but we spend more time at work than we do with friends, family and loved ones so we may as well be happy while we do it.

With a degree and no job, I sheepishly went back to a research organisation I’d done some work experience with and begged for a job. I began as a casual, doing all the things nobody else wanted to do – counting potatoes, counting weeds, washing cars and weighing grain. It was mundane but it was fun. At that time, the organisation was packed full of young people, most of whom I’d studied with. We had fun and we worked hard. I stuck around like a bad smell, eventually landing a full-time job where I could spread my time between horticulture, viticulture and the grains sector, conducting field trials for new agro-chemistry.

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Jobs in agriculture offer diverse opportunities 

The job allowed me to travel around South Australia, learn some practical skills and gain a knowledge in a raft of sectors but I eventually realised I was working because I loved the people and not the work itself. After five years it was time for a change, and time for some more skills.

As serendipity would have it, I met a girl while I was searching for my new job. She just happened to be moving to Sydney. I quickly changed my filter settings to ‘Ag jobs in Sydney’ and before too long we were off. I landed a job at Australian Wool Innovation, which was odd to my friends considering I’ve never worked in wool in my life.

I barely knew the front end from the back of a Merino. I must have bluffed my interviews well, but I think it goes to show that if you’re keen and passionate about ag it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done, or what you know, people will give you a chance.

I got learned up pretty quickly on the sheep front and I’m currently coordinating projects in the Leadership and Capacity Building portfolios. This group of projects aims to capture and retain the best and brightest people within the wool industry. I work with initiatives such as Young Farming Championsto foster the development of young wool industry participants and to encourage YFCs to become inspirations for young people. Other projects involve fostering careers through scholarships, educational resources and leadership programs. I get to work with passionate, smart and driven people from all around Australia every day.

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A typical day at the office can include sharing the properties of wool with school students

A typical day in our office at Circular Quay has me collaborating with colleagues, contacts and industry leaders about how to best present the wool industry to students, updating educational resources, planning events and of course all the boring backroom administration. Recently, I’ve been working with colleagues to coordinate a response and to collate information to assist woolgrowers impacted by the recent bushfires.

Although I’ve only been here a year, I’ve learned an incredible number of skills and have grown more confident in my abilities as a communicator. From people management and organisation as well as managing funds and writing legal contracts it’s been a steep learning curve. Stepping out of the paddock into an office was tough but it’s a step I needed to make. My colleagues have been so generous with their time, and I’m absolutely loving my role.

The history and camaraderie that exists within the wool industry is, I think, unique to wool. Everyone I speak to is hell-bent on improving and driving Australian wool forward. Everyone’s got lots of great ideas and with that comes some robust conversations.

At the core of it, wool is a choice for growers and consumers. The challenge to encourage people to continue to grow and buy this fantastic fibre is one that the industry is tackling head on.  That discerning consumers around the world are attracted to the sustainable credentials of wool is encouraging and I think the current market value reflects this.

I  look forward to playing my role in encouraging young Australians to enter and remain within this vibrant industry.

I’m not yet thirty but I’ve already worked in grains, viticulture, horticulture and now the wool industry. It’s been an unconventional path but that’s OK. I think its important people know that with a bit of enthusiasm, anyone will take you on and give you a chance. Looking forward I’m excited to continue to learn new skills, with a view to becoming a leader and a manager of people, in whatever corner of the industry I find myself. One thing is for sure, I’ll be doing work that makes me happy.

Anika Molesworth a case study in expertise – Young women in agriculture finding innovative ways to connect from the heart.

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Continuing our Lessons Learnt series

The vision of Picture You in Agriculture is to inspire pride in Australia’s agricultural industries and to empower youth voices to do this. Through Young Farming Champions, the Youth Voices Leadership Team,  The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas this vision is being realised. The next step is to take key messages beyond traditional agricultural and educational circles and in this Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth is leading the charge.

Business newspaper the Australian Financial Review, conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund, French cosmetic producer Klorane, high fashion celebrity magazine InStyle and food-focussed event Global Table may, at first glance, have nothing in common. They are not traditional agricultural avenues, but Anika is using all of them to champion her message of climate change.

“I’ve recently had opportunities to share my story and the work happing in Australian agriculture with urban-based audiences,” Anika says. “I describe to them the incredible landscapes, the innovative people and opportunities we find by overcoming adversities. And I love it when I see their eyes light-up, their jaws-drop, and their hands-raise to ask questions. It’s not hard to get people excited about food and farming – because this sector is steaming ahead in problem-solving, creative-thinking and community spirit.”

In 2018 YFC Jo Newton was named in the AFR 100 Women of Influence list and this year it is Anika’s turn to shine, making the list for her career in science communication and for promoting rural resilience in the face of climate change. Anika’s profile has also been enhanced by being named a governor with WWF-Australia.  According to the WWF website governors  are appointed because of their commitment to WWF’s mission, their standing in the community and their ability to contribute to our success.

“World Wildlife Fund invited me to become a governor as they have a substantial interest in promoting sustainable agriculture, as well as land stewardship and climate action, amongst many other things,” Anika says.

When cosmetics company Klorane went in search of women making change in biodiversity and sustainability they, too, arrived at Anika’s door.

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“Our #KloraneChangemakers echo what we here at Klorane think: that the environment is something we should protect, not take away from,” the company says on its website. “Through protecting, exploring and sharing knowledge, our #KloraneChangemakers are doing their part to make sure our planet will be healthy for years to come.” Joining Anika as change-makers are Sydney apiarist Vicky Brown and owner of ethical furniture company Koskela, Sasha Titchkosky.

While the AFR, WWF and Klorane accomplishments are all recognition of Anika’s hard work, talent and determination, it was at the recent Global Table event in Melbourne where Anika truly shone. “I was moderating a panel on Disrupting Climate Change, and then got to have a one-on-one conversation with [68th US Secretary of State] John Kerry,” she says. “I told him my story – who I was and what was important to me. He sat back in his chair and said ‘Wow! You have to get your story out there. It is so important that you share this’.

Anika John Kerry

And Anika is doing just that – sharing her story beyond agriculture, getting her message out there. “There are so many exciting things happening in ag. We are using drones to monitor crop health. We are raising ruminants that produce less methane through feed improvements. We are growing crops that are more heat and drought tolerant. We are drawing carbon out of the atmosphere and into soils vegetation. We are building a native food and botanicals industry that celebrants the unique flora we find in this country. But the problem is, a lot of this is happening a long way from the majority of the population, and so many people don’t hear of these amazing goings-on,” she says. “For Australians to really celebrate the incredible work of the agricultural sector we’ve got to take our story out of ag, and to the people.”

Anika will continue to take her story beyond agriculture this year as she prepares to travel to Antarctica with Homeward Bound.

You can join us in supporting Anika to travel to the Antarctica by donating to her crowdfunding campaign here

You can join us in supporting Anika to travel to the Antarctica by donating to her crowdfunding campaign here

 

Lessons Learnt – When you put your hand up to “have a go”, roll your sleeeves up, take some risks, you’ll wake up one day and realise you’re living your dream job

“HAVING A GO” LEADS TO POSITION OF GENERAL MANAGER

In recent weeks in our Lessons Learnt series we have heard from Kate McBride and Ben Barlow who both sit on the board of the Western Division of Local Land Services. Staying in that space we now chat to their general manager Erlina Compton, who, at 38, decided to “have a go” and take on the position in an acting role. That, in turn, led to a permanent position and her trajectory, according to Ben, as one of the best leaders he has met.

Meet Erlina Compton

If a job advertisement for General Manager of the Western Division of Local Land Services was written it would probably ask for someone with a passion for the people and places of western NSW; and for someone with a strong background in landholder liaison, strategic planning and environmental commitment. It would probably ask specifically for Erlina Compton.

Erlina grew up around Narrabri in northern NSW, worked with Landcare in Victoria, completed a PhD looking at landholders and decision making, and worked with the NSW Catchment Management Authority. “One of my long-term goals was to work in western NSW and when Local Land Services formed I moved across from the CMA and took up a position as Strategic Planning Manager in Dubbo,” she says.

However, her career was soon to take a different turn. “The General Manager resigned after twelve months,” Erlina says, “and, out of the blue, I was asked to act in the role while they recruited a new one. It was supposed to be for eight weeks and I thought ‘I don’t think I can do this but I’ll have a go and do it for this short amount of time’.”

Complicating Erlina’s new appointment was the fact a major organisational re-structure had just been announced but this gave her a unique opportunity to not only help implement it but suggest changes.

“Ben and other board members have been brilliant to work with,” she says. “They are all landholders – practical people quite free from government processes – who provide real-life guidance and support, and so I started working with the staff and the board to figure out where we would go.”

Erlina found she enjoyed the work and when the permanent position was finally advertised, two years later, she had no hesitation in putting up her hand.

In her role as General Manager Erlina has faced the challenges of working with a diverse group of people, with a limited budget over an enormous area. But with the challenges comes the satisfaction of seeing Local Land Services evolve into a successful model bearing fruit for her landholders.

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Western Local Land Services Gilgunnia Cluster Fence open day.

Part of Erlina’s success comes from her relationship with the people she works with.

“Being a good leader is about supporting and growing the people around you,” she says. “It’s about bringing the people, whether it’s your staff or the board or the organisation generally, on the journey.”

Erlina is also inspired by young staff working with her and believes “having a go” is an important trait.

“There are so many young leaders who come forward with fantastic ideas and think about doing things so differently than I would,” she says. “It’s about being brave enough to speak up and share the ideas no matter how different they are.”

From Kate McBride, who joined the LLS board at 18, to Erlina Compton who was General Manager at 38, to Ben Barlow who uses his wealth of experience to nurture and guide, leadership takes many forms, but perhaps the most telling characteristic is the confidence to say yes to challenges and opportunities as they are presented.

 

 

Ben Barlow learning and growing by empowering young people

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Shoutout out to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for the awesome image

As highlighted by the Chair of our youth leadership team, Dr Jo Newton in her opionion piece in the Stock and Land, agriculture has a lot of great immersion workshop leadership training opportunities. The question Picture You in Agriculture is seeking the answer to is – Are we making the same mistake as the rest of the world and not giving young people the opportunity to practice what they are learning.

The problem is, while the science of management has advanced significantly in the past three decades, the practice of management hasn’t.  The new purpose of business — and the future of work — has to include maximizing human potential. Source

The management team at Western Local Land Services is certainly doing everything it can to empower emerging leaders through action learning  Ben and Erlina.jpg

Chair of Western Local Land Services Ben Barlow with GM Erlina Compton – source

In the last episode of our Lessons Learnt series we met 21 year-old Kate McBride and learnt of her leadership journey. As the youngest board member of Local Land Services she credited Ben Barlow, chair of the Western Division, as an important role model and mentor. Today we chat to Ben to discover his take on leadership, diversity on boards and his advice to young people looking to make an impression on the world.

With experience in agriculture, both on the ground and in corporate and financial circles, Ben Barlow was an obvious choice as an inaugural board member when Local Land Services formed in 2014. The new organisation represented an amalgamation of the Livestock Pest and Health Authority (LHPA), Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and extension sections of the NSW Department of Agriculture.

“I thought it would be a bit of a challenge to bring them all together.” Ben says of his reasons for joining the Western Division board. “Whenever you bring cultures together you can’t expect them to work well straight up; you’ve got to bring the best out of them all across the organisation and you set the tone from the top – from the chair and the board down – and through good counselling and quality discussion time with the general manager who is running it day to day.”

“When we started I think the western board had the lowest customer engagement and staff satisfaction scores of the group and now they are the highest in the state,” Ben says of the transformation that has occurred in the five and a half years since inception.

This transformation has been a product of clear direction and purpose from the beginning, with the Western Division having a strategic plan in place before one was finalised for LLS as a whole.

“Our principles are customers and stakeholders, people, productivity and natural resources of the region,” Ben says. “If a policy enhances these then good; if not we don’t do it. It’s pretty basic. This makes it one of the few agri-political boards I have been in that does not have any politics at all. It just focusses on the job at hand.”

Ben has held the position of chair for three years and believes it is not the role of the chair to have opinions or objectives, but rather to get the best out of the people sitting around the board table, and to facilitate the best questions so management can form direction. To this end he is a strong advocate of a diverse board.

“Over time we’ve moved the composition of the board from mainly older men and a couple of women to a fifty/fifty gender ratio with an average age of about 40, with the youngest being 21,” he says.

“We’ve moved to a generational change to create diversity, pass to the next generation and to maintain good corporate leadership and governance.”

But gender is not the only measure of a diverse board and the Western Division has a stated objective to encourage traditional owners to apply for a seat on the board in the next elections.

“I think that will be a significant step forward. A board is about asking the right questions and you therefore need the right people represented around the table.”

As Kate McBride can attest, joining a board when young and female can be overwhelming and although LLS offers professional development opportunities such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, it is personal guidance and mentorship that can prove most valuable.

“I said to Kate when she was appointed that this was going to be a bit daunting but I would stand behind her all the way,” Ben says, “and it hasn’t been just me but the whole board who have nurtured her and helped her grow. It’s about relationships: Kate may have valued my support and advice on lots of levels but I have also really valued that interaction. It has helped me grow.”

“I enjoy seeing people grow and develop and try, and make mistakes and reach out and try again and get over it. If you do nothing you’re going to learn nothing. If you do something and make a mistake you learn. You’ve got to do something to learn. I’ve had some wonderful leaders and I’ve had some awful ones and I’ve learnt a lot from the best and I’ve learnt a lot from the worst and I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself.”

With his experience and life-learning Ben has this advice for people looking to make an impression on the world:

  • Listen carefully and watch; take the best of things you see and ditch the worst of things you see, and be very distinctive about that choice,
  • Don’t put on social media what you don’t want to see on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald; where there is mystique there is margin – it gives you some latitude and leverage in life,
  • Find someone who might be able to help you and ask them to help; and they will usually say yes

By legislation, Ben’s term as chair and board member of the LLS Western Division will come to an end in 2020, but Ben believes in the power of positive transition and will step down from these roles this year, but don’t call it succession.

“I think succession implies the end of something whereas I think it is about progression where the work you’ve done has got you to a point and the next part of the journey for the enterprise is a new leader who takes that culture further and does something with it. We’re here for many generations and if we do it well handing over the reins will be a progressive thing.”

#YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #YouthVoices