Citizen of the Year honours for Christiane

Citizen of the Year honours for Christiane

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A rush of emotions flooded Christiane 'Chrissy' Smith when she found out she'd been awarded Esperance Citizen of the Year for 2019.

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Farmers Across Borders co-secretary Christiane 'Chrissy' Smith was overcome with joy when she found out she had been awarded Esperance Citizen of the Year, which happened to be while on the road for the hay run.

Farmers Across Borders co-secretary Christiane 'Chrissy' Smith was overcome with joy when she found out she had been awarded Esperance Citizen of the Year, which happened to be while on the road for the hay run.

A RUSH of emotions flooded Christiane 'Chrissy' Smith when she found out she'd been awarded Esperance Citizen of the Year for 2019.

Surrounded by friends, family and like-minded, community-orientated people on the 2020 WA hay run with Farmers Across Borders, Chrissy said she felt "surprised, honoured, extremely humbled and proud" to be presented with the community's highest honour.

Unknowingly nominated by a local friend, Chrissy said it felt wonderful to even be considered, let alone win.

But with her passion for the Esperance community, the people and the industries that operate there, she was a well-deserving recipient.

Having lived in Esperance since she was a child, Chrissy has a great deal of pride in her town.

Some of her current voluntary commitments involve being the vice president (former president) of a local outdoor cinema group which injects its profits back into the community, part of the local fire brigade, helps out the art centre and one of her biggest projects of 2019 was being the co-secretary of Farmers Across Borders (FAB), which is operated by volunteers such as Chrissy.

FAB reached some big milestones last year and part of that was because of her dedicated work.

The group became a not-for profit early last year and last month was recognised as a charity.

What many people don't see is the behind-the-scenes work that goes on to make plans happen in a group such as FAB and Chrissy has been one of those key mover and shakers.

With FAB she was responsible for the mountain of paperwork needed to achieve the charity status, which led to making the organisation more legitimate and accountable, as well as dealing with the Australian Taxation Office to allow tax deductible donations and tax concessions.

She has also worked with sponsors and handles the minutes and gathering everyone for meetings when required.

These are the sorts of tasks that not many people want to do, but without someone to do them, the work won't get done.

"There are so many cogs in this big Farmers Across Borders wheel that need to be checked and maintained," Chrissy said.

"Through this role I have learnt things that I can use in my professional and personal development, so I have just loved to have the opportunity to be part of it."

While she may not be farming or working in agriculture at present, Chrissy's passion for the industry is just as strong as someone in the industry, if not stronger.

"I just love agriculture - it's something I am really passionate about and I know the importance of it," she said.

"I love that through Farmers Across Borders, I have the opportunity to keep fighting for the industry and be a voice in different areas because I get to talk to a lot of different people."

Chrissy said she felt frustrated that governments seemed to have a lack of understanding about the industry and for not acknowledging its importance.

A friend from the Eastern States told Chrissy that hundreds of dairy farms had been forced to close which started to raise her concerns about the future of the industry.

"If dairy farms are starting to close down, where are we all meant to get our dairy from?" she said.

"People really need to think about what that means - not just for agriculture but for all of Australia."

Chrissy believes people need to think about agriculture in a different way - that seeing as it feeds Australia and the world, it's a necessity and should be considered as such, like healthcare or education.

"It should be thought of in the Federal and citizen interest because the industry feeds us, but at the moment it is run by private enterprise," she said.

"Yes, people are in the industry to make money but the ultimate outcome and bigger purpose is to feed the world.

"Government doesn't help or subsidise small businesses because they are private enterprises so maybe that has something to do with why they don't help farmers much - maybe it feels like it shouldn't subsidise farmers because they are private enterprises or corporations.

"And it's the only industry where farmers pay retail prices for products to make their products which are sold at wholesale prices - how are they meant to survive long-term with that model?"

With experience in small business, politics and government, the transport and agriculture industries, communication and marketing, Chrissy's diverse career has served her well with her recent role with FAB.

Members of the charity always spoke extremely highly of her throughout the recent hay run.

No task was ever too hard to help sort out and she always had time for anyone and if she didn't she'd make time.

She's one of those people that just gets things done and always with a smile on her face.

These people often fly under the radar and up until now Chrissy had been.

But it's high time she was recognised and celebrated for her (voluntary) work and dedication to the community.

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