WIAA 100: Oustanding work in the community
WARRACKNABEAL farmer Julia Hausler believes the ‘can-do’ spirit of rural communities is needed more than ever to get things done.
She says small rural towns cannot afford to wait for government funding or assistance for projects, no matter how clear a case they have, and instead should just get in and do something.
It is this preparedness to get in and have a go that Julia has brought to the Warracknabeal community that has played a key role in a number of major initiatives in the town, such as its street beautification scheme, the setting up of a youth centre and the building of a skate park among others.
Julia said she felt it was important to support local initiatives.
“I really want to help improve the area I live in and keep it sustainable,” she said.
Key to that is keeping local businesses and the agricultural sector viable.
“We have a declining and ageing pool of volunteers, the key to keeping our amenities up is to keep people in the district and that means attracting and retaining business.”
Julia, who farms at Batchica, north of Warracknabeal, with husband Tim and three children, moved to the Victorian Wimmera in 2000 after growing up at Wellington in Central West NSW.
She was with Cargill in a grain trading capacity for 10 years before lecturing at Longerenong College on risk management before taking a full-time role in the family business, along with a position on the medium rainfall zone regional cropping solutions committee for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
She is also seeking a position on the southern group of Graingrowers’ national policy group at the coming elections.
Reflecting on the issue of the sustainability of rural communities, Julia said infrastructure was by far the biggest concern.
“In terms of our farming business, roads, rail and reliable internet are our biggest concerns.
“We are aiming to work on up-to-date information in terms of our agronomic and marketing program and we’re really constrained with what we can do with our wireless broadband package.
“I pay a fortune for a very small amount of data a month, we would like to see an equal playing ground when it comes to businesses.”
Looking outside the agricultural sphere, Julia said government had a role to play in keeping regional towns vibrant.
“We could look at initiatives such as decentralisation of government services, which would release the pressure on infrastructure in the city.
“Equalisation schemes to allow new businesses in rural areas to compete with city counterparts fairly would also help.”
Internally, Julia said her focus was on getting the community to work together.
“We know there’s only limited funds we can get our hands on, so we need to make best use of these scarce opportunities.
“An example of that is in Warracknabeal where four local sporting clubs have all identified the need for storage and collaborated to get a multiclub shed built – it was difficult for one single club to achieve this.
“There really needs to be clarity regarding projects and targeting the most important and cost-effective.”
She said volunteers needed to work smart together, utilising the different skillsets they had.
“For each group of people you get together, they usually have diverse skills.”
For her part, Julia brings a range of tertiary qualifications to the table including a Bachelor of Economics from
Sydney University, a Masters of Agribusiness Marketing from Monash University and postgraduate studies in rural leadership at James Cook University.
Along with this, she also has taken part in the prestigious Australian Rural Leadership Program, sponsored by GRDC.
As part of these skills she has taken on roles in terms of business projects in Warracknabeal and for her local
Yarriambiack Shire, with time on the economic development committee with Yarriambiack Shire and as chair of the Warracknabeal Action Group, a community development group.
Julia admits to being amazed at how much small centres such as Warracknabeal can get done.
“A recent Warracknabeal Evening Branch of CWA ‘Dancing With The Stars’ series of concerts, featuring local dancers, raised $35,000 for nine different community groups, this was all local money.”
She said she was enjoying a current role with the CWA, which has expanded from branch treasurer to a term as Central Wimmera Group treasurer.
She is also proud of her local CWA branch skills scholarship initiative for women.
“We award a $1000 education grant to women in our shire and it is so good to see what people who apply for this grant can do with the money. We’ve seen people retraining, or it could go to rural students who need to travel for study.
“The strong volunteer spirit around here makes it possible to achieve real outcomes and that is very rewarding.”