What can rural and regional Australians do in the face of such enormous challenges?
Former Independent Member of Parliament, Cathy McGowan, and President of the National Farmers Federation, Fiona Simson will discuss the future of regional Australia and how it can achieve its full potential.
The discussion will be moderated by journalist, farmer and author, Gabby Chan.
Regional Australia is responsible for about 40 percent of the nation’s economic output and provides jobs for around one third of Australia’s workforce. It is the backbone of Australian agriculture, which seeks to grow from a value of around $60 billion to $100 billion over the next decade.
Over the past few years regional communities have been hit hard first by ongoing drought, bushfires and now the COVID recession. Climate change, urbanisation and the changing nature of work poses both challenges and opportunities for regional Australia.
Join us to hear Cathy McGowan, Fiona Simson and Gabby Chan outline their visions for how to create change in communities across regional Australia.
Cathy McGowan came to national attention when she won the seat of Indi as an independent in 2013, becoming the first female independent to sit on the crossbench. Winning the seat of Indi, after the Coalition had held the seat for 34 years, was a watershed moment. Indi became ‘Exhibit A’ for future political campaigns – from Kerryn Phelps as the Member for Wentworth to Zali Steggall in Warringah. The community backed McGowan again in 2016 for a second term, including during the minority government of Scott Morrison where, together with the cross bench, she held the balance of power. In 2019 she was thrilled to be part of the campaign that saw Dr Helen Haines elected as Indi’s second female independent, a win that made Australian political history.
During her time as a politician Cathy actively worked in Parliament to develop policy around regional development, a national integrity commission, a code of conduct for politicians, as well as drought policy. In 2019 she was awarded The Accountability Round Table award for political integrity. She is an Officer of the Order of Australia, a Churchill fellow and lives very happily on her farm in the Indigo Valley in north-eastern Victoria.
President of the National Farmers Federation, Fiona Simson is a farmer from the Liverpool Plains in NSW where she, husband Ed and family run a mixed farming enterprise including broad acre farming and breeding commercial poll Hereford cattle. With tertiary qualifications in business and education, Fiona’s passion for local food production and the growth and sustainability of rural and regional Australia led to a career in local government as an elected Councillor in Liverpool Plains Shire Council and an elected representative of NSW Farmers’ Association.
In 2011, she became the first woman President of the Association retaining that position for a full four year term. Passionate about the power of a unified voice for agriculture, Fiona also believes in its role in a strong and vibrant future for regional Australia. Fiona sits on the Board of NRMA (NSW), the Australian Made Campaign Ltd, AgStewardship Australia and the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund. Fiona was elected President of the National Farmers’ Federation in November 2016
Gabrielle has been a journalist for more than 30 years. She began covering politics in the 1990s for The Australian in NSW parliament and the Canberra press gallery. Since 2013, she has worked for Guardian Australia as a political correspondent and Politics Live blogger. Gabrielle has also worked for ABC radio, the Daily Telegraph, in local newspapers and politics. She has written and edited histories and biographies.
The city-born daughter of a Singaporean migrant, Gabrielle moved to a sheep and wheat farm near Harden Murrumburrah in 1996. She noticed the economic and cultural divide between city and country and the yawning gap between parliament and small town life. As a result, she wrote Rusted Off: Why Country Australia is Fed Up, released in 2018 by Penguin Random House.