"I'm not your ordinary 16-year-old girl. Instead, I'm a dairy advocate. My name is Mon and for me, Australian agriculture is my passion.
I chose to enter the dairy industry in 2016 because I was looking to gain some experience in the industry and agricultural sector. Mum and Dad didn't work on a dairy farm, nor did we live on one or own one. However although we didn't own one, I didn't see why that should have deterred me away from the industry. I started off milking in a 27 arm swing over at Herrick (Tasmania) before going along to work at a 50 unit rotary at Telita last year.
2016 was also the year when the dairy crisis struck, hitting Australian farmers hard. Farmers were being milked dry, with some going bankrupt and others selling up. Throughout the coming months, dairy farmers across Australia continued to be hit hard by unsustainable and unrealistic price cuts. Inspired from the start by debilitating milk prices, I wanted to help create a change for the better. Hearing about all these farmers experiencing struggles and having to sell up made me realise that something needed to be done. I started jotting down my thoughts about current issues surrounding the topic, and some ideas about what could be done. I then shared it online via a Facebook Dairy Group, attracting likes, comments and shares from across Australia. After posting it, I sent it through to the editor of “The Australian Dairy Farmer” and had it shared by them.
I was completely unaware of what a 16 year-old-girl would achieve in the coming months. I wanted to keep on pushing forward even further, because I wanted to see change and if I wasn’t to see change, then I wanted to either help or be the change that farmers needed. Consumers needed to know that buying $1 milk wasn’t sustainable, and that Australian farmers needed to be supported more than ever before, as they still do to this very day. And so that is how I found myself becoming a dairy advocate.
At 16, I expected myself to be living a normal life like any other kid but I’ll have to admit that life has changed. I’ve been given opportunities of a lifetime, interviewed by ABC Radio, received a letter from MP Michelle O’Byrne, attended a conference and spoke as a guest speaker, and I’ve had my dairy article shared by more than 7 newspapers across Tasmania and mainland Australia. With this aside, I’ve also started studying a Certificate II in Agriculture as part of my Grade 11 studies this year. While I currently work in hospitality and enjoy my job and the experiences that come from working within the industry, I certainly plan on making a comeback into the agricultural industry in the near future.
It is important to understand however, that my story isn’t just about me. It’s also a story about women in Australian agriculture as a whole. I believe that there are endless possibilities for women in Australian agriculture if it is the path that you are looking or willing to take. You don’t have to come from a farming background and you don’t have to be married to a farmer. If my story on becoming an advocate isn’t an example that times are now changing for women in Australian Agriculture, and that women are now taking up many aspects of agriculture that have been male-dominated for a long time, then I’m not sure what else is.
Women make up more than 50% of the agricultural workforce worldwide, however only a small number are seen in corporate job roles, and I don’t believe that is right. A lot of women are actually the decision makers. They’re the accountants and the first people that you’d go to for all things finance. They’re cleaning, cooking, educating, washing, and caring for their kids, and often they’re also managing the farm on top of that, and on a day to day basis. Managing the farm, they’re having to deal with challenges that arise such as climate change and droughts, maintenance, employees, season prices, demand, markets and so on. It’s a 24/7 job that they do 365 days a year. They are contributing to Australian agriculture more than ever before. I believe that these women need to be given the recognition that they deserve, there is no doubt about it.
Last month I had the absolute privilege of attending the inaugural 2018 INSPIRE: Women in Agriculture Conference, ran by the Tasmanian Farmers & Graziers Association. I was chosen to present a short speech in front of more than 140 women from all walks of life. We listened to each other and supported each other to give it all we’ve got. From this, I learnt so many things, one of them being the future is bound to see more women enter the agricultural industry.
As a young person myself, I encourage anyone to go after what it is that they truly want to do, and if agriculture is what you want to do, then so be it. Don’t let others try to take control and tell you that you cannot do it, or you aren’t capable. You can do it, and you are capable. I think a lot of it comes down to the people that you surround yourself with and the people that inspire you to learn, the people who help you grow, and the people that support you. A lot of it also comes down to education. What I’ve achieved hasn’t been and wouldn’t have been possible without the education that I’ve already received and the education that I’m continuing to receive today.
The opportunities that I have been given, the contacts that I have made, the people that I have met and the support that I have gotten from everyone since day one has been truly overwhelming. I honestly can't thank everyone for all their support. Australian agriculture has given me so many opportunities already, and I’m excited to see what the future has in store."