What part(s) of the industry do you work in? I work in two related parts of the red meat and food industries.
Firstly I manage research and development in a Division of CSIRO – Animal, Food and Health Sciences.
Secondly, I help govern the expenditure of public and industry money by serving as a director on the board of Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd.
Job title Director, External Engagement
What does your company/ business do? My primary employer is CSIRO so I will answer for them. CSIRO is Australia’s largest scientific organisation, specialising in research, development and commercialisation of science.
Describe your job on the average day Over the last year I have been leading a research group of 40 people. CSIRO calls that a ”Theme”. My particular Theme included geneticists, biochemists, microbiologist, parasitologists, mathematicians and technicians, all focusing on aspects of animal production. We work on approximately 40 projects simultaneously.
On an average day, I work with the scientists to develop proposals for the next research projects. These might be up to five years long, require millions of dollars and foresee delivery of a radically new piece of technology or know-how. We firstly have to secure internal CSIRO resources for that project, and then go seeking resources from co-investing organisations. Those might come from a research and development corporation (like Meat and Livestock Australia), from global corporations or from small to medium sized Australian companies. Occasionally investments come from donors or bequests. Over the five years following the initial idea, I will be involved in leading, managing, planning, controlling, commercialising or talking about the project. Things never go exactly as planned, so sometimes we have to completely re-think our plans midway through the process. Our project teams always include postgraduate students, and that is our way of contributing to the next generation.
Its about science, and its about the wealth of the community.
How did you get involved with agriculture? Since finishing my first degree in 1980, I have always been a research scientist. For the first ten years it was in medical research. Since 1992 it has been in animal agriculture.
When deciding whether to continue with medical research, a admirable and satisfying profession, I thought carefully about where I could make a real difference. My family had worked in aspects of animal Ag (Grand Uncle ran a cattle property; Father owned and ran a butcher shop and boning room), so it was a natural decision for me to focus my energies back in this direction. I knew the problems that needed solving.
Bachelor of Science (major in biochemistry) University of Queensland;
Doctor of Philosophy (biochemistry) Monash University;
Professional development course work (genetics, management, leadership) various international universities and institutes;
Graduate Diploma of Technology Management (APESMA/Deakin)
Australian Institute of Company Directors (Company Directors course)
If you studied/ trained in agriculture, why did you choose that degree/ certificate? I don’t have formal qualifications in agriculture, though I do now hold the post-nominal of Certified Practicing Agriculturalist (CPAg), through Australia’s Ag Institute.
What are/were you plans after school/TAFE/university? I wanted to become a research scientist, but I didn’t really know what that meant.
Laboratory cadet (1978 – 1979)
Laboratory assistant (1980)
PhD student (1981-1984)
Postdoctoral Fellowships (1985 – 87; 1987 – 88; 1988 – 91)
CSIRO Research Scientist (1992 – 2006)
Meat and Livestock Australia, Manager of strategic science (2006 – 2008)
CSIRO Livestock Industries Deputy Chief (2008 – 2012)
Meat and Livestock Australia, director (2009 – 2012)
What are your interests? Seeing and experiencing the world (rather than just touring through it). Visual and performance art. Sailing
What is your favourite thing about the industry? I enjoying meeting people of integrity and vision, and then helping them influence the future.
Best experience in agriculture? Meeting and talking with Australia’s Ambassador to the European Union and NATO, Dr Brendan Nelson, whilst traveling on behalf of Meat and Livestock Australia (2011).
Seeing agricultural researchers recognised along side other scientists, through awards such as the Eureka Prize, and the ATSE Clunies Ross Award or CSIRO Medals.
Worst experience in agriculture? Sustaining injuries while working as a work experience kid at my Grand Uncle’s cattle property (1974).
What do you think will be the biggest challenges of the agricultural industry in the future? Meeting the demands of Asian food consumers, while maintaining sustainable enterprises here in Australia.
Why do you think less people are becoming involved in agriculture? People think professions other than agriculture enjoy higher community prestige and greater monetary reward.
What advice do you have for people thinking about getting into agriculture? Don’t think of agriculture as it was in the past. Think about what it could become and how you might make that change.
Think rationally about your role in agriculture. It is not about lifestyle – though that can be a pleasant by-product.
How important do you think an agricultural background is to become involved in the industry? I think awareness and empathy are important. In modern Australia, with our current and future skills shortages, each person’s skills and aptitude is significantly more important than their history or family background.
What do you think is the most common misconception about agriculture? Agriculture is and will remain dominated by men. Things are changing rapidly.
Agriculture is all about the clothes people wear and the places they live.
Agriculture as a profession is done by those who have no other option.