How Sheed “knocked off the Nationals”



Vice president of the Rural Press Club of Victoria and journalist at The Hamilton Spectator. 

Independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed has given her explanation as to how she, as the locals say, was able to “knock off the Nationals” at last year’s State election.

Shepparton had been held by the National Party since 1967, but Ms Sheed won with a 32 per cent swing after a campaign lasting just 29 days.

Ms Sheed outlined her personal history and the background for her unlikely win at a Rural Press Club of Victoria function in Shepparton on March 25.

Along with independent MP Cathy McGowan, who won the federal seat of Indi from the Liberals in 2013, Ms Sheed has triggered a debate over whether more surprise victories can be won in so-called ‘safe seats’.

Ms Sheed was asked if her type of campaign could be replicated in other seats around Victoria.

“It’s only going to be in some electorates with that high level of discontent,” she said.

“Why would Ballarat or Bendigo or Geelong? They are seen as having the best of both worlds because they are marginal.

“There’s really general acceptance, although people don’t like to articulate it, that being a marginal seat is what gets you the attention.”

Shepparton was one of Victoria’s safest seats until late last year, so what made that regional seat a hotbed of rebellion against the political status quo?

One answer may be the local economy: like other regional centres it is a town of haves and have-nots.

Some shops appear to be thriving, others are just empty.

One of the local hotels had a cardboard box marked ‘resumes’, clearly half full with paper and in plain view from the front counter.

Apart from a constant theme of Government underinvestment compared to similar electorates, Ms Sheed also nominated high youth unemployment as an issue that energised Shepparton voters.

However, Ms Sheed’s personal motivation for putting her hand up to run was investment in local infrastructure.

“I’ve privately lamented the fact that our public transport, our roads, our hospitals, social services and education systems have, for years, not got the investment they needed,” she said.

“I knew there was deep discontent in the community and that people felt disillusioned with political party.

“People felt that the loyalty they had shown the National Party for years was not being repaid.”

Ms Sheed nominated Gippsland as a region that could have seen a strong independent stand a chance of victory.

The surge of media attention after the Shepparton win contained much speculation as to what external factors could have pushed the locals to change their voting patterns.

Ms Sheed believed that the biggest factor was wholly local.

“To get people who were Liberals to vote for me, to get people who were Labor to vote for me, and to get rusted-on Nationals to vote for me, meant that it was about us, about our electorate,” she said.

As a former family lawyer and a life-long Shepparton area local, Ms Sheed said that communities were sick of being offered candidates with little real world experience.

“There are a lot of people in Parliament now who are almost professional politicians who’ve come up through the unions or the party,” she said.

“People are starting to think that maybe that’s not a good thing.”

After the heady days of the campaign, Ms Sheed still wants to focus on the big picture.

“I can’t help but offend people by saying this, but I’m not interested in getting a few thousand dollars for the local hall or the small things,” she said.

“I want to spend my time focusing on the things that will make the big difference: good rail and health services.”

However, the mundane tasks involved in being a local MP, especially one without a party system for support, appear to be creeping up on Ms Sheed.

One question from the audience suggested that she had struggled to get coverage from the local media organisations, which Ms Sheed then attributed to a lack of resources and experience in media management on her part.

Independent State MP - Suzanna Sheed speaks at Shepparton lunch


Independent MP Suzanna Sheed addressed a Rural Press Club lunch at Parklake Function Centre in Shepparton.  Addressing a strong crowd of over 90, she delivered a frank account of what it is like to be an Independent in politics.


IFAJ webinar: Reporting in a digital world



2.30PM GMT


Cassie Hough and Peter Gunders
ABC Rural, Australia – Winners of 2014 IFAJ-Rabobank Digital Media Award

Madelon Kaspers
Global PR Manager, Rabobank, The Netherlands


In this free, one-hour webinar, learn about :

-       Approaching multi-media stories

-       Juggling interviews, photos and video shoots

-       Selecting angles for print, photo galleries and video

-         Digital media PR and informational campaigns


To register, click here. (Copy and paste this link if the hyperlink does not work:

ACAJ Star Awards now open


Star Prizes open to Victorian reporters 

The Australian Star Prize awards for Rural Writing, Broadcasting and Photography open on Wednesday, 4 March, and close on Wednesday, 25 March 2015.

Victorian journalists and photographers have the opportunity to showcase their talents to the world and gain international recognition for their work following the national launch of the Australian Star Prize awards on Wednesday.

Launched at a Rural Media South Australia (RMSA) event in Adelaide, South Australia, the awards support prize-winning writers and broadcasters with overseas travel to experience a World Congress with a focus on international agricultural journalism.

This year’s winners of the Star Prize for Rural Broadcasting, sponsored by global agribusiness bank, Rabobank, and the Star Prize for Rural Writing are set to attend the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) World Congress in Hamilton, New Zealand, from 14 to 18 October 2015.

Speaking at the national launch, Rabobank’s James Robertson said the $6000-travel prizes, including flights, accommodation and congress registration, help induct Australia’s rural reporters into the international media community, and provide them with new global insights, perspective and connections.

Categories for the Rabobank Star Prize for Rural Broadcasting include television, radio and online broadcasting. Entries in the online broadcasting category require a mix of at least three of the following content areas: video, audio, text and images.

Run by the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists (ACAJ), in partnership with the Rural Press Club of Victoria (RPCV) and other state media clubs, the awards also see the winner of the Australian Star Prize for Rural Photography receive a $1000 cash prize. Categories for the Star Prize for Rural Photography include people, production and nature/landscape.

RPCV president Stephen Cooke said the runner-up in the 2014 Australian Star Prize for Rural Writing, Melbourne-based Sue Neales, testified to the calibre of rural reporting entries in this state.

Neales’s article published inThe Weekend Australian newspaper, titled “Going, going, gone: death of the saleyard” highlighted the importance of livestock saleyards in Australia’s rural areas when the RSPCA proposed a ban.

Adding to this Victorian accolade, Melbourne-based freelance journalist, Nathan Dyer, won the 2013 Australian Star Prize for Rural Writing with a feature article published in R.M.Williams Outback magazine. This piece titled “Scheme of Dreams” examined the Kimberley’s Ord River Irrigation Scheme.

Work entered in the awards must cover a rural or regional subject, and must have been published in 2014.

For Victorian reporters, award entries open on Wednesday, 4 March and entries close on Wednesday, 25 March 2015.

The RPCV, and other state clubs, announce state winners for the Rural Writing, Broadcasting and Photography categories, before they are entered in the national Star Prize competition.

National winners are selected to compete at an international level in the IFAJ Star Prize awards. The IFAJ announces the world Star Prize winners at its congress in New Zealand in October, 2015.

Enter the awards here

More information: 

IFAJ Alltech Young Leader in Agricultural Journalism


Young Leader awards open global doors

South Australia-based writer and Rural Press Club of Victoria committee member, Rebecca Jennings, packed her bags for Scotland last September after being recognised internationally as a ‘Young Leader’ in agricultural journalism.

Rebecca, a specialist writer for Australian R&D journalism and communications company Coretext, was named the Australian winner of the 2014 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ)-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism award.

After being selected as the national winner by the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists (ACAJ), Rebecca went on to be selected as one of 10 international winners.

These global Young Leaders were invited to attend a professional development program as part of the IFAJ annual congress in Aberdeen, Scotland, in September. This ‘Boot Camp’ were joined by the IFAJ ‘Master Class’ of journalists from Africa, South and Central America.

The Congress served up everything from Highland cattle to whisky – with plenty of Scottish charm – but Rebecca said the people she met were the highlight.

“The opportunity to meet agricultural journalists from countries as diverse as South Africa, Nicaragua, Nepal, Sweden, Belgium and Canada as part of the joint Boot Camp and Master Class was an amazing experience,” Rebecca said.

“As a regionally-based writer, it can be difficult at times to build professional networks but the IFAJ Congress opened the gate to a fascinating group of colleagues from around the world.”

“Although we face similar issues, such as telling the ‘paddock to plate’ story, many of these journalists also face challenges such as government persecution, which is a foreign concept for a country such as Australia that enjoys freedom of the press.”

Read more about Rebecca’s Scottish experience here.

The experience has already paid off, with Rebecca recently asked to write an article on the Australian drought for the Irish Farmers Journals  as well as sharing contacts with a Scottish journalist reporting on bushfires in South Australian.

Rebecca entered the awards with a series of articles exploring how Australian grain growers are embracing electronic technology in their farm businesses. The articles were published in GroundCover magazine, which Coretext produces for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Rebecca was raised on a commercial beef property in Queensland, and currently lives on a cropping and sheep farm in the mid-north of SA with her husband Dave.

She is past secretary of the Rural Press Club of Queensland and now a non-executive committee member for the Rural Press Club of Victoria, and one of Victoria’s representative on the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists. page1image23848 page1image24008

Demonstrating her ongoing professional commitment to agricultural journalism and rural Australia, Rebecca’s previous roles include: Livestock editor for Queensland Country Life; Media manager at AgForce Queensland; and Communication Advisor with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). 



Entries are now being accepted for the 2015 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism Award for journalists and communicators working in the rural sector. 

If you are 35-years-old or younger and would relish the opportunity to travel to New Zealand in October 2015 and meet your peers from around the world at the annual International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) congress, then this professional development award is for you.

Full details about the award and the IFAJ are available at

Entry form for Australian candidates are

Further information is also available by contacting Australian award coordinator Liz Harfull on 0409 674 941 or

Entries must be sent by email to ACAJ secretary Clarisa Collis at by 5pm on February 16, 2015. 

Please note:  Australian applicants must apply through the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists (ACAJ), using the attached entry form. A candidate to represent our country in the final international selection process will be chosen by the ACAJ. Final award recipients will then be selected by the IFAJ. Australian entries close on February 16, 2015, to allow time for the ACAJ to select the national candidate. The closing date on the IFAJ website is for national organisations only.

D.C. Blood Oration & Foot-and-Mouth Disease Workshop presented by Professor Alan Olmstead


Managing Highly Infectious Diseases: Developing the Science and Policies to Arrest Contagions

Guest Speaker: Professor Alan Olmstead, Distinguished Research Professor University of California, Davis

On Thursday 5 February 2015, the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences and the Gardiner Foundation, will co-host a half-day workshop titled ‘Foot-and-mouth disease: Outbreak response and decision making in an Australian context’ followed by the D.C. Blood Oration ‘Arresting Contagion - Easier Said Than Done’ to be delivered by Professor Alan Olmstead. Dr Olmstead’s recent book with Paul W. Rhode, Creating Abundance: Biological Innovation and American Agricultural Development, examines three centuries of technological advance in American agriculture. Professor Olmstead’s research has appeared in leading economics and history journals and he currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

Thursday 5 February - For more details see flyer



RPCV Committee - new office bearers elected 

The Rural Press Club of Victoria's AGM was held on Wednesday 26th of November.