Georgia Rose Gorham, Livestock Agent & Auctioneer, Tasmania, Australia

Women are forging change in Australia's dairy industry

Did you know that 98 per cent of Australian households purchase dairy products?

According to Dairy Australia, in 2021/22 there were 4,420 registered dairy farms operating in the country. The dairy industry is a significant source of employment with approximately 34,700 people directly employed on dairy arms and by dairy processing companies. Yet, traditionally, many of these employees and the people running the dairy farms are men. However, the Australian agricultural industry is seeing some big steps with the future looking bright for women farmers.

Forging change in the dairy industry

An example of progress sees Tasmanian Dairy Industry (DairyTas) hosting its very first International Women's Day (IWD) event to raise the focus of gender across its industry. This pioneering event celebrates women either working in or servicing the Tasmanian Dairy Industry, and aims to create connections between women working on farms, their local community, and neighboring regions. Attendees will engage in thought-provoking discussion and open conversations supported by an inspiring keynote speaker and a diverse panel of women in dairy sharing their insights into life on the farm.

The Dairy Tas IWD event keynote speaker embraces the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity theme in both her professional and personal life. Young upcoming talent, Georgia Rose Gorham, is forging change in Australia's dairy industry through resilience and determination, and is re-shaping perceptions of her male-dominated world as she paves the way for a bright future for women agriculturalists.

The first woman to conduct Tasmania livestock auctions

Georgia Rose Gorham works for Roberts, part of Nutrien Ag Solutions business, one of the largest agricultural companies in Australia. As the first woman to conduct livestock auctions in Tasmania, Georgia works alongside some of the best auctioneers in Australia. 

Georgia is compassionate, resilient, and above all passionate in everything she does. She is a shining example of a young woman determined to succeed in the agricultural industry.

Succeeding in the agricultural industry

Growing up and beginning her career in Australia's Northern Territory, Georgia moved across Australia chasing opportunities to bring her closer to a job as a livestock agent.

Georgia's early days in the field forced her to build resilience in an industry wrought with controversial political issues and the challenges of being quite a male-dominated industry.

After years of perseverance and hard work, Georgia secured her current job role in Tasmania. Georgia believes that hiring people based on their abilities and merit is imperative to supporting the future of the agricultural industry.

As guest speaker for the DairyTas IWD event, Georgia will share her story of sheer determination in order to inspire further women.

Forgng change in a changing industry 

While Georgia's story is inspiring, she is not the only woman working hard to forge a path in the industry, for themselves and for others.

Sue McGinn was one of the first participants of the Women in Leadership pilot program held by the Dairy Farmers Association (DFA) in 1997. The program was designed to enable women to rediscover and develop their own abilities, and to acknowledge their skills to build resilience among the uncertainty created by the looming threat of milk deregulation. Sue remembers feeling inspired by and connected with the other women on the program. Although they were meeting for the first time, there was what Sue describes as an "overwhelming feeling of kinship and mutual respect." 

"There was a sort of unspoken appreciation of how we played our own individual part in our industry which was about to be changed forever," explains Sue. 

For Sue, the industry has certainly changed for the better. "It’s very contemporary now to accept women as farmers in their own right. Today, it’s considered acceptable to refer to women as farmers even if they don’t actually drive the tractor or milk the cows - though many of us of course do!" says Sue.

"For many farms, the business is complex and there are many complementary roles. I think we all know them. The point here is that our contribution on-farm is now recognized as being equally valuable."

Creating opportunities for one another

Dairy Australia IWD

A further inspiring woman forging change in agriculture is farmer Jen Stolp. Jen believes it is important for women in the industry to surround themselves with positive people for support and to bounce ideas off each other.

“We can’t do it on our own, we need to create our own A-Team and take as many opportunities as we can and create opportunities for ourselves,” says Jen.

Jen is initiating new safety policies and procedures for the farm and has taken on a project to help her focus on setting priorities. "While we need to plan and be prepared, we also need to prioritize what we can do now and not dwell on things that might happen that we can’t do anything about yet."

Turning to the community during difficult times

Dairy Australia IWD

Creating a support network is important for South Australian dairy farmer Geraldine Dohnt who champions the role of women in dairy and their local communities. Community is invaluable at any time, but for dairy farmers, it is especially needed when times get tough, such as when drought severely affected Geraldine's crop. 

“It’s great to be with other women who face the same issues; it helps you realize it’s not just you against everything," says Geraldine.

Working together to improve farming

Olivia Lineham Dairy Australia

Olivia Lineham relishes being part of the dairy industry and, like Geraldine, believes community is invaluable.

“The industry is really supportive,” comments Olivia. "It’s a lovely industry because everyone works together and people are really open with suggesting ways to improve your farming. There is so much quality information available to new dairy farmers."

A bright future of innovation and progress

Rachelle Moon dairy farmer

Numurkah dairy farmer Rachelle Moon sees a future for the dairy industry that is full of promise and innovation with a lot of unsolved mysteries.

“I have no idea where it’s going to be in 10 years’ time,” explains Rachelle. “The stuff they’re doing and thinking about just blows your mind, and I’m definitely feeling positive. There will always be a market for fresh milk but people will need to think out of the box a bit.”

“We’re always thinking of what’s next. I’ve seen vending machines in New Zealand where farmers sell milk,” adds Rachelle. “If we had a pasteurizing plant we could sell it through vending machines. It’s an interesting concept.  There are lots of options out there.”

Improving health and safety in farming

Sara Butcher - dairy farmer

Former nurse and current south-east Queensland dairy farmer Sara Bucher has seen first-hand how accidents destroy lives. Now she’s determined to make sure every farmer and farm worker goes home safely at the end of the day

Sara is supporting a new Dairy Australia safety program that gives farmers the tools they need to create a safe work environment.

“My background as a nurse and our success with the other business highlighted the importance of managing risk through proper farm safety systems,” says Sara. “Having seen terrible injuries to people in my past career has made me extremely determined that every person go home safe and well. Farmers sacrifice so much of themselves. It’s their passion and determination that feeds our country, why should they risk their lives doing it?”

Sharing stories of endurance and resilience 

Shirley Wilson dairy farmer

Aged in her late 70's, Shirley Wilson hopes to inspire a new generation of farmers with her stories of endurance and resilience

“Women have been the backbone of a lot of dairy farms, and it’s a good thing that more women are now getting involved in committees. You need a female say in things because they see things a bit differently to what men do.”

While farming has been tough. Shirley wouldn’t change a thing. “If I had my life over again, I’d do the same thing. There’s nothing better than rearing children on the land.”

Growing up in a different world of dairy farming

Winnie Oslear dairy farming

Like Shirley, Winnie Oslear grew up in a different world of dairy farming.

"I never went to school; it would have been a three-hour trip each way on the horse and sulky, so we just did correspondence school for a few years and that was it. We lived way out of town, there was no power and I used to milk cows by hand before I was five," explains Winnie. “Technology has made it easier in a way but people have lost some of the hands-on skills. It’s all changed but not always for the better. You need a certain amount of technology but I think you need hands-on skills also.”

Embracing change in the dairy industry

Tammy Negus farming

Busselton farmer and agronomist Tammy Negus is a big advocate for embracing change in the dairy industry.

“The world is moving and consumers’ preferences are moving. As producers we need to be prepared to change as well and use all the innovations that are available to give us an advantage," explains Tammy.

Tammy finds farming both "challenging" and "dynamic".

“There’s a lot of expertise and scientific research that farmers can call on, and we’re continually finding more information to farm better," adds Tammy.

Creating formal networks of female farmers

While individuals like these inspiring women keep agricultral communities alive, this vital form of support is facilitated by organizations such as Dairy Australia. 

Dairy Australia has established women's networks to help meet the needs of women in the industry, such as the Australia’s Legendairy Women’s Network (ALWN).

Inspiring the next generation of dairy farmers

While Dairy Australia is working hard to progress gender equality in the present, the organization is also looking towards the future. 

Ensuring a future for women in the dairy industry means inspiring the next generation to follow in farming footsteps. Dairy Australia offers programs and resources for both school children and their teachers to educate about the industry.

Learn about Dairy Australia's schools program which includes Picasso Cows and Healthy Bones Action week, as well as a farm visit kit for dairy farmers hosting school children.

Dairy Australia also promotes inclusive job opportunities, assuring that, no matter your skillset, dairy farming is a career path for anyone, regardless of gender.

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