Mentors make the difference for Zanda McDonald Award winners

Posted in Articles on Jun 26, 2018


Leading light: Emma Black, who grew up on a property north west of Longreach, was the inaugural award recipient, offered in memory of prominent Australian beef industry identity, Zanda McDonald, who died in April 2013 after a tragic accident on his north Queensland property. Photo supplied.

The guidance of mentors tailored to the needs of a particular research focus has been the stand-out benefit of being a Zanda McDonald Award winner, according to two of its previous recipients.

Both north Queenslander Emma Black, the inaugural winner, and 2017 recipient, Morgan Easton, from Canterbury in New Zealand, have spoken highly of how that aspect exposed them to ideas that work.

Applications for the 2019 Zanda McDonald Award open on July 2 and both Emma and Morgan encouraged fellow young agri-leaders from Australia and New Zealand to apply.

Focusing on intensive production, benchmarking, equity partnerships and new technologies, Emma went outside her familiar northern Australia beef industry to learn what other industries could offer her.

During her travels through Australia and New Zealand, she worked with 32 members of the Platinum Primary Producers group, a network of over 150 influential agribusiness men and women from across Australasia.

“One of the key things I learnt was that – I had a production background and I needed to study more of the business side,” she said.

“You’ve got to take a whole of business approach so you can see where you’re having an impact, and an understanding of all your business.

“The mentors have industry wisdom that helps apply what you’ve learnt – you could run your ideas past them.”

Morgan described his experience as “an excellent trans-Tasman experience”, taking him around Australia as he explored his topic of how family businesses could thrive intergenerationally and what they need to do to keep developing.

“We run an intensive dairy operation in New Zealand, with lots of animals on grass so it was good to see large scale operations,” he said. “The businesses were so different but I could relate that back.”

Morgan’s biggest learning was that most successful businesses have key people, whether that be a family member or someone else, driving it forward.

“The management program offered by Rabobank in Sydney also helped me build a framework of successful people and pick up gems I may not otherwise have been exposed to,” he said.

That included speaking with the Next Gen group at Beef Australia 2018, which he said he would never have had the opportunity to do if not for the award.

The prestigious award has an impressive prize package worth over $50,000 up for grabs, incorporating an all-expenses paid trans-Tasman mentoring trip, $1000 cash, a place on Rabobank’s Farm Managers Course, and access to the Platinum Primary Producers Group.

Richard Rains, chairman of the Zanda McDonald Award, said it provided a fantastic opportunity for young agricultural leaders to further their career and their personal development.

“The mentoring package is quite spectacular,” he said. “This delivers huge opportunities for the winner, and can really help take their career to the next level.”

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