None of us could have imagined at the beginning of the year how 2020 has changed the way we live, work, and interact with each other. It has been dramatic, severely challenging and forced us to adjust in many ways to survive. Our hard work is not without cost - both socially and financially. Our sector has shown once again how we can be resilient and agile – making changes to benefit individuals and communities. Nowadays, we often hear the cliché ‘we are all in this together’ but I believe that since March 2020 TWiA has demonstrated that we are an organisation that cares and supports its network and communities.
Our recent initiatives have upheld our Vision of a dynamic, connected, and relevant community that enriches women. Your Executive have been determined in their endeavours to deliver initiatives to empower our members during recent months. Our #BuySomethingTasmanian campaign, Paddock Talks, On Farm to Online eLearning initiative and 'All Together in the Paddock' held in August, are fine examples of being proactive and thinking outside the norm. As Chair, I wish to sincerely thank all who have been involved in these initiatives to help us build resilience in our network and for Tasmania as a whole.
At a government level, I have been participating in the State Government’s Agricultural Coordination Group which was convened to address issues arising from the COVID-19 disruption. Key industry stakeholders, as well as a range of State and Federal government representatives have been contributing on a weekly basis (now fortnightly) to raise awareness of key issues impacting on our sector and to identify how it will be managed. We also placed a submission to the Premier’s Economic & Social Recovery Council. There will be significant challenges ahead as we work towards spring and summer crops, but there is a collective and strong approach to finding solutions. TWiA has applied for a Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) Grant Tackling Tough Times Together which aims to build regional recovery and resilience through food, community, and the circular economy with a focus in the Glenmorgan/Spring Bay and Break O’Day areas. Our thanks go to Allison Clark from the Circular Economy Network of Tasmania for assisting in these important pieces of work.
Together with Rural Business Tasmania and other key industry stakeholders, TWiA have actively worked on a Healthier, Safer and Productive Workplaces Grant from Worksafe Tasmania, to contextualise tools to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and other forms of bullying and harassment in Tasmanian rural workplaces. I am personally very pleased to see this initiative underway to address the appalling statistic from 2018 where national data (Farm Weekly, 15/11/2018) identified that 93 percent of women working in agriculture have been sexually harassed in some form. Anything we can do to reduce this statistic is a win in my view. Our initial approach to launch resources at Agfest 2020 has been changed and we are in the process of finalising three short 10-15 second videos to be promoted using social media and a range of printed materials to be made available to rural businesses. The materials will be launched by Minister Barnett on 22 October in Launceston.
Our focus continues to deliver professional development and educational courses that members want at a subsidized rate, with non-financial members having to pay the full fee. Current regional groups can apply for mini grants up to $500 each to enable them to complete a project that will benefit their group. We can also provide start-up seed funding for regional groups depending on needs.
The COVID-19 disruption has shown us that the use of digital technology and social media can been beneficial. TWiA have keenly and rapidly promoted useful information for our network to harness and use. There is so much information being circulated, and we have worked diligently to cut through the chaff and only provide material that we think is relevant. Together with our social media feeds, eNewsletter, and website, we have worked to keep connected with over 500 in our network. My sincere thanks to Larna and Ella for their support with communications and outreach – their dedication holds us together.
One of my final initiatives as Chair was to coordinate a recent Paddock Talk with young farmers across the globe.Three representatives from Tasmanian Rural Youth and the Young Agricultural Professional Network, together with two representatives from Cumbrian Young Farmers, participated in our fifth Paddock Talk, where we discussed contrasts, similarities and adjustments made on farm during COVID-19 as well as mental health initiatives aimed at helping our younger farmers. It was such a buzz listening to this generation and shows we are in good hands for the future.
I am stepping down as Chair after nearly four years in the role. I am immensely proud of what I have achieved during this time with the Executive team. My sincere thanks to each and every one for their heartfelt and dedicated activities during this period - their time and contributions given have made my role more flexible and enabled us to gain real progression on our agenda. I wish Mandy Cooper and her incoming team all the very best.
Wishing you all special moments.
(Pictured Belinda Hazell outgoing chair, Minister Guy Barnett and incoming chair Mandy Cooper)