Women in Agriculture


I move:

That this house—

(a) raises awareness of the important role women play in agribusiness and in regional South Australia, especially in leadership roles;

(b) notes that women are occupying an increasing number of diverse roles in agribusiness; and

(c) recognises that South Australia continues to encourage more women to pursue careers in agriculture and horticulture as the world's growing demand for our food continues to rise.


It is with pleasure that I rise today to speak on this motion. Firstly, I acknowledge the extraordinary work of Women in Agriculture and Business. As some members may know, last year they celebrated 100 years of operation. For those who have followed the history of this important organisation, it first established a women's branch of the agricultural bureau, which was popular in South Australia at the time. It subsequently changed its name to Women in Agriculture and Business and into the modern and dynamic organisation it is today.

I also acknowledge the Country Women's Association, of which I am also a member. As you can see, it postdated its establishment from the Women in Agriculture and Business, but it also established an important network for women in regional and remote parts of South Australia. Both organisations are very important and both continue to work very hard to ensure the health and happiness of those who live in regional and remote South Australia, to provide the food and product and to provide us—

  In addition to that acknowledgement, and whilst the role that women play in agribusiness in regional South Australia has developed in a different way throughout the state's history, I reflect on the situation as it was 100 years ago and on those women who were residing in rural and remote South Australia, who were strong advocates for the controlled and responsible use of alcohol, for example, and ensuring that drunkenness was not a matter that should permeate the colony. They were certainly part of the moral watchdogs for the preservation of family life and safe community arrangements.

I also acknowledge the work at that time in education, ensuring that educational opportunities be available for their children—something that continues today, especially with the tyranny of distance—in the establishment of health services, particularly post World War I when repatriation hospitals were developed around rural South Australia to accommodate and care for those men of that era who returned with savage wounds; and also, of course, in transport generally. They fought for good, accessible and sufficient roads and obviously the development of a network of railways.

These were all important issues of the day and, quite frankly, they are still the issues of the day. They are a very important component of women's representation in leadership in agribusiness and also in regional South Australia generally. I am absolutely thrilled at the number of women who were elected at the recent local government elections, both to mayoral positions and as members.

I congratulate Elizabeth Calvert, for example, who is a former Women in Agriculture and Business state president from the Clare Valley area, on her re-election to the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council. Mrs Calvert, to me, is someone who represents decades of service in relation to community leadership and also in ensuring the health and wellbeing of her community. She has taken up the responsibility to lead the charge on a number of important issues.

I can recall her and others being very strong when there had been the proposed utter destruction of country hospitals some 10 years ago by the former Labor government. There were rallies around the state: 32 public meetings, often up to 1,000 people attending local public halls to say, 'We don't want bandaid clinics; we want to have our hospitals retained.' These are the women who show leadership. They understand the significance of having health services, for example, to ensure that they have the capacity and are in a safe environment in which to pursue their roles, and, as I say, be the economic leaders for the recovery and continuation of our state.

Women are occupying an increasing number of diverse roles. There is no question that women who undertook child-bearing and child raising provided educational services, health and first aid, cooking and cleaning and are now providing all those services to modern women in the community in regional areas. They are driving trucks, harvesters and tractors, and they are dealing with stock management and training themselves in horticulture and agriculture. They are leaders in sustainable farming and they are working side by side with their partners and/or husbands in the agriculture and horticulture industries. And so they should be.

At age 12, I used to say to people, 'When I grow up, I am going to be a lawyer,' because I realised that I was not going to be given the opportunity to be a farmer. That seemed to be a generation when you could not actually take up that responsibility. It was probably the right decision, but I make this point. I used to say to people at the time that I was proposing to be a lawyer. They would say, 'What do they do?' and I would say, 'Actually, I don't know what they do.' They would say, 'Why do you want to be a lawyer?' and I would say, 'Well, we have these people who come from Adelaide, including lawyers, who buy properties and they think that they are going to be able to understand farming.'

One of them turned up one day—a leading person from a legal firm—and he said, 'What do you think you want to do?' I said, 'I think I might be a lawyer.' He then looked out over a paddock of wethers and said, 'I think we're going to have a lot of lambs this year,' and I thought to myself, 'If lawyers think that you can get lambs out of wethers, any fool can be a lawyer.' So that seemed like a pretty good option at the time. I am diverting myself. The important thing is that women are entitled to have that role and they are undertaking it.

Of course, we now have, in the new era of South Australia's agricultural and horticultural industry and rural living, new opportunities for women in that aspect. Sustainable farming and food production are very important to our state's economy and we need to ensure that we give them all the support we can to be able to undertake that.

I understand from a number of reports that there are well over 10,000 employment opportunities that are needed in rural and regional areas for us to be able to continue to have that productivity and to provide those rural towns with services to ensure that people who are living out there with their families do not just survive but thrive and continue that economic sustainability and growth for our state. It is important that we encourage our girls to undertake careers in agriculture and horticulture; as the world's growing demand for our food continues to rise this is a large envelope of opportunity.

The other aspect of this is that clearly we understand, particularly in relation to agriculture and horticulture, that it relies on a number of things. It relies on commodity prices being viable. It relies on pest management. It relies on productivity within the envelope, usually with enough rain or sufficient water access that can be bought at a reasonable price to be able to grow anything. Therefore, all these things have areas of employment opportunity and careers for women.

Let's just consider a few: meteorology, satellite technology, cybersecurity, cyber use and obviously e-technology to be able to check on a daily or minute by minute coverage of the world price of grain, as an example. These are all areas of career opportunity that we can provide for women. Other areas include pest management and dealing with the advice that is necessary for modern agriculture and horticulture. There is an enormously rich opportunity for women to undertake a role in that space.

Agronomy is another area, as is dealing with chemical management and non-chemical management in relation to clean and green food production. There is also a mining opportunity for women to undertake to pursue their careers. I would urge all our young people in South Australia to consider a career in this area, but particularly I highlight to women that we are never going to have enough food in the world. We produce some of the best in the world. We have air, soil and water at the highest and cleanest level and we ought not waste the opportunity to exploit the food production that can come from that.

We should be an ever-growing provider of the source of food for the world. I am confident we have extraordinary, well-educated people with high expertise who can go into these leadership and career options in regional South Australia to build our state on what is already an area of economic base for our state. It has been for 180-odd years and it can be even greater. I commend the motion to the house.