2024 FFN Board reflects dynamic shift in Australian agriculture

Just as each new year brings with it opportunity to reflect and renew, 2024 has brought some big changes to Future Farmers Network (FFN) - though importantly, our values and mission remain unchanged.

At the FFN AGM held online on 23rd November 2023, we farewelled the following directors from the Board:

- Amelia Shaw (NSW) (Vice-Chair)

- Sally Judson (NSW) (Secretary)

- Will Bourke (VIC)

- Angus Stevenson (ACT)

Ongoing directors Majella Nolan (QLD), Will Atkinson (QLD), Jarrod Koch (VIC), Jessica Loughland (VIC), and Benam Underwood (QLD) are rejoined by Caitlin McConnel (QLD) and Lauren Roellgen (QLD) who were re-appointed to the Board, and are delighted to welcome the following new directors:

- Libbe Patton (VIC)

- Laura Cala (WA)

- Kelly Seagrave (NSW)

- Claudia Mitchell (NSW)

We also announced the following directors who were elected as our the 2024 FFN Executive Committee:

- Chair: Caitlin McConnel (re-elected for a further term)

- Vice Chair: Lauren Roellgen (transitioning from FFN Treasurer)

- Secretary: Majella Nolan

- Treasurer: Will Atkinson

On behalf of the ongoing directors, I would like to thank Amelia, Sally, Will B, and Angus their invaluable contributions to FFN during their respective tenures. I would also like to congratulate Libbe, Laura, Kelly & Claudia on your appointment to the Board, and to Lauren, Majella, & Will A on your election to the executive committee. I am honoured to be re-elected as FFN Chair and look forward to working closely with - and continuing to learn from - my fellow directors, as we strive to deliver positive outcomes for our members.

FFN remains the only national network supporting young people in Australian agriculture across all commodities, therefore we consider it vital that the FFN Board reflects the demographics we are starting to see within the industry. As a result, there are two unique composition outcomes in the make-up of the 2024 FFN Board.

The first is that for the third consecutive year, we retain a female-majority in not only our Board, but also our Executive Committee. This statistic reflects the increase in the employment participation of women in agriculture to 33% in 2021 (ABARES Insights: Snapshot of Australia's Agricultural Workforce 2023) and satisfies longstanding calls across the agricultural industry to strengthen the representation of women in executive roles.

The second - and most significant - is that over half of our Board are 'first generation aggies'. This is an extraordinary statistic, and demonstrative of the shift we are seeing in the sector generally - whereby individuals who have not grown-up on farm, or otherwise had exposure to agriculture, are seeing it as an attractive career option, and are now making invaluable contributions to the industry.

In the circumstances, our board appears well placed to represent young people in agriculture, who now make up 25% of the Australian agricultural workforce (ABARES). We look forward to continuing our work alongside key industry partners to connect, empower, and inspire future leaders in agriculture, and to seeing many of you at our events throughout 2024.

Author: Caitlin McConnel, FFN Chair