27 January 2023

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

For 10 years I was on the National Australia Day Council, helping oversee the selection process for our Australians of the Year, an enormous honour and privilege. Today, as my own Australia Day honour sinks in, I’m inevitably more aware than I’ve ever been of the significance of today, particularly given the debate around the date of our national day.

I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of the Australian of the Year Awards, believing that national recognition such as this actually elevates us all, providing inspiring role models whose stories have so much to teach us and whose efforts have had life-changing impacts for many. The Australians of the Year are often not well-known and they come from a range of social, geographical and cultural backgrounds, and their unique perspectives help us as a nation re-focus on what’s really important and where our priorities should lie.

For me, this is what Australia Day’s all about, celebrating who we are and what we stand for, on whatever date we may choose in the future. It gives us an opportunity each year to pause and acknowledge the nation we live in, the unique qualities of our people, and for everyone to have the chance to celebrate in their own way.

Receiving an AM today, for services to agriculture, is as surprising as it is humbling, and I’m so honoured to be recognised alongside so many inspiring Australians.  Anyone who receives something like this will say they didn’t expect it, and I certainly didn’t. You don’t do what you do for recognition – I know that’s what everyone says, but it’s true – you do it because you love it and you’re passionate about it and if you can achieve even one small win for your community, then that’s the greatest reward.

For much of my life, I’ve called rural and regional Australia home, running with my husband, Alistair, farm businesses in WA and NSW, and operating my own rural, regional and agricultural communications business for many years, so I come at agriculture from the point of view of not only a business person, but also a farmer.  When I sit around board tables and government offices, I’m listening for producers, for farm workers, for suppliers, for everyone in the sector, and advocating for initiatives and opportunities that will progress the industry and help secure its future.

The people who work in agriculture inspire me every day and the innovation and enthusiasm within the industry continues to impress. In the years I’ve been involved, there’s been so many changes which have been exciting to watch and in some cases, I’ve been proud to be a part of.

It’s also the future that continues to keep me interested and engaged, because despite how far we’ve come, there’s still opportunities to become more productive and efficient as an industry and really cement our place on an increasingly-competitive global stage. For me, the key to this is leadership – dynamic and enthusiastic leaders with the courage and vision to try new things and take new paths.

And those of us in leadership positions now in the industry – small or large roles – need to be part of this ongoing evolution of agriculture, being accountable for our decisions and actions, and understanding the impacts on the communities we serve. Moving forward collectively, and collaboratively, and encouraging alternative views – not shying away from them – requires committed and courageous leadership at every level of our industry, creating an environment where people are encouraged to ask the big questions – where do we want to be and how do we get there?

They’re questions for us, as a nation too, because our national day should be an opportunity to reflect not only on our successes, but also the challenges, and consider how we can continue to grow and evolve, for the benefit of all Australians.


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