NFF's 2020 diversity leaders announced

Updated May 21 2020 - 12:27am, first published May 20 2020 - 7:30pm
Alison Hamilton

Twelve outstanding women with skills and a vision for agriculture have been selected for the National Farmers' Federation's 2020 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

The 2020 cohort hails from across the country and boasts a broad range of expertise from science, research and development; farm health and safety; education and farm business management.



The 2020 participants are: Alexandra Thomas, South Australia, Jessica Fealy, Queensland, Alison Hamilton, NSW, Margaret Jewell, Queensland, Alysia Kepert, Western Australia, Niki Ford, Queensland, Diana Fear, NSW, Rebecca Staines, NSW, Fiona Marshall, NSW, Sarah Parker, Victoria, Jaelle Bajada, NSW, and Susie Green, South Australia. Profiles on each of the women can be found below.

The program is in its third year and is made possible by the support of many of Australia's leading voices across government, business and advocacy who have committed to increasing gender diversity within their organisations and to reporting annually on their progress.

These include AgForce; AACo; AgriFutures Australia; BASF; Bayer; CANEGROWERS; Coles; Cotton Australia; CPC; Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment; FMC; Grains Research and Development Corporation; nbn; NSW Farmers; Nufarm; Nutrien; Primesuper; Rabobank; Rimfire Resources; Rural Bank; Syngenta; WFI and Wine Australia.

NFF President Fiona Simson said in the face of the challenges such as drought and most recently COVID-19 fostering farm sector leaders had never been more important.

"With some modifications to the schedule, the NFF was resolute in pressing ahead with the program at time when keeping in touch is crucial," she said.

From today, the 12 women will begin a five-month one-on-one mentoring program with a collective of experienced leaders as mentors and will take part in regular online personal development opportunities.

The NFF has a goal for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030. The 2030 Roadmap, the plan to achieve $100 billion, outlines a target to double the number of women in agriculture leadership roles by the same year.

"The Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program is making serious inroads towards this goal," Ms Simson said.

"Graduates of the 2018 and 2019 programs have gone on to assume federal and state government-based board roles and to be high-profile female advocates and leaders of our sector," Ms Simson said.

Australian Community Media is the media partner for the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

Alison Hamilton - Wagga Wagga NSW

Alison and her family run a small beef cattle trading business. Alison also runs a consulting and project business, AJM Livestock Solutions, that aims to simplify on-farm operations. She is passionate advocate for supporting producers in adopting and using technology. Alison is a Councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW; a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership program (ARLP) and was the 2010 NSW RIRDC Rural Women's Award Runner Up.

Alexandra Thomas

Alexandra Thomas - Mount Osmond, South Australia

Alex began her agriculture journey at a sheep station in South Australia's north-east pastoral. She is now based in the Adelaide Hills where she is a self-employed work health and safety consultant and an advocate for the health, safety and wellbeing of those in rural industries and communities. Alex was awarded South Australia's AgriFutures Rural Women's Award in 2018 for her work in farm safety.

Alysia Kepert

Alysia Kepert - Perth, Western Australia

Alysia's passion is agricultural education. Having worked for the Department of Education for 19 years, Alysia has led agricultural education initiatives and has championed the need for industry to work cohesively to promote themselves and their activities in a way that resonates with young people. She is currently working on a state-wide primary industries education project that aims to provide professional learning so that teachers can be confident to deliver curriculum using a primary industries lens and promote the opportunities in all parts of our primary industries sector.

Diana Fear

Diana Fear - Condobolin, New South Wales

Diana is the CEO of Central West Farming Systems (CWFS), a not-for-profit farming systems organisation set up by local growers in to undertake RD&E in the low rainfall zone of Central West NSW. Diana is also a board member of Regional Development Australia - Central West. Originally from Goulbourn, Diana lived in Sydney for 20 years where she worked in politics before moving back to rural NSW.


Fiona Marshall

Fiona Marshall - Mulwala, New South Wales

Fiona farms with her family at Mulwala in the southern Riverina of NSW producing prime lambs and dryland crops. Fiona currently serves on the Southern Panel of the Grains Research and Development Corporation and is a committee member of the Riverine Plains Farming Systems Group. Education is a passion for Fiona, who was a secondary high school teacher for 12 years. Fiona is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Jaelle Bajada

Jaelle Bajada - Sydney, NSW

Jaelle is currently the head of corporate affairs for Syngenta ANZ. She is passionate about shaping and telling the story the production of safe and sustainable food. Jaelle has 20 years communication and advocacy experience in a variety of industries including plant science and agriculture, energy, federal politics, public service, health and private consultancy. Jaelle has completed a Masters of Business Administration and a Masters of Marketing Communication and a Bachelor of Arts (Public Relations).

Jessica Fealy

Jessica Fealy - Paddys Green, Queensland

A qualified chartered accountant, community engagement professional and founder of 'Back Paddock Business' a business and communications support service, Jessica and her family also grow avocados, mangoes and limes at their base in Mareeba, in Far North Queensland. Jessica is an AgriFutures Ignite Advisory Panel member, Regional Economies Centre of Excellence (RECoE) Advisory Panel member and a board director with the Northern Gulf Resource Management Group. Jessica completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at UNE in Armidale, NSW followed by a 15 year stint of corporate life in Brisbane before returning to agriculture.


Margaret Jewell

Margaret Jewell - Brisbane, Queensland

Margaret is Meat and Livestock Australia's Carbon Neutral 2030 (CN30) Manager. She is an Agricultural Scientist with more than 10 years experience in intensive and extensive agriculture, and is committed to ensuring that Australian agriculture can prosper while remaining sustainable and contributing to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Margaret is also a director on the National Board and Chair of the Queensland Division of the Ag Institute Australia.

Niki Ford

Niki Ford - Brisbane, Queensland

Niki is the current CEO of Australian Organic Ltd, the leading peak body for the organic industry where she works alongside producers and processors across all agriculture sectors. Niki is an accomplished executive with 10 years of leadership and industry expertise across numerous companies within agriculture and manufacturing industries. She is experienced in operations, lobbying, product distribution and marketing.

Rebecca Staines

Rebecca Staines - Albury, NSW

Rebecca is an agribusiness professional committed to advocating sustainable farming practices and assisting rural communities to thrive. Bec's experience in the agricultural sector is diverse and includes intensive cropping systems, livestock enterprises and plant biotechnology. Bec is currently the National Seed Category Manager at Nutrien Ag Solutions - Australia and has completed tertiary education in law, commerce and agriculture.


Sarah Parker

Sarah Parker - Undera, Victoria

Sarah has worked in a variety of corporate roles and has held a number of board positions in the industry, including her current role as President of Australian Women in Agriculture and Director of the National Rural Women's Coalition. Last year Sarah helped establish the Australian Dairy Collective which is a collective bargaining group for dairy farmers and is still involved as company secretary.

Susie Green

Susie Green - Lenswood, South Australia

Susie is passionate about vibrant, sustainable and profitable agricultural communities and the regions. Susie is currently the CEO, Apple & Pear Growers Association of South Australia Incorporation and the Executive Officer, Cherry Growers Association of South Australia Incorporation. Susie is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds tertiary qualifications in agriculture science.

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