Considering how unique our bubbles are, the commonalities between us were uncanny.
Here I was in Europe, where 150 cows and a generational farming family cohabit 15 hectares. I remember looking at my New Zealand peer with wide eyes as we toured the large shed. But then we sat down to lunch and next to our German host was a journalist from Rwanda, who explained that the average farm in his world was less than 1 hectare! And yet our motley crew from across Europe, Africa, America, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada are reporting on exactly the same issues in different pockets of the world. During our week of animated discussion, I gained new insight into climate change, rural decline, government policy, innovation, technology and the place of agricultural journalism in society.
I sat through a panel discussion about sustainability in German agriculture – if it wasn’t for the German language, we could have been having exactly the same discussion in Australia. My ‘Young Leader’ peers also share a frustration at how undervalued both agriculture and agricultural journalism is in our respective countries.
Many of them were concerned about job security and spoke of national publications’ resistance to publish stories about agriculture and rural life. They were an outstanding group of journalists, but also just wonderful human beings: Although the duration of the congress was spent in Germany, I took home tid bits of culture from a long list of countries.
One of the strongest messages I packed in my luggage relates to my function as a rural journalist in Australia – I am not working to serve farmers, nor the greater agricultural community. My job is to engage every Australian in the dairy crisis and the philosophical debate behind genetically modified crops, because consumers are key to shaping the policies around primary production and the future of our nation.
Also reinforced was how unique and undervalued the IFAJ network is.
We, like farmers, are a global community and the decisions made on that 15-hectare farm just outside of Bonn, are as relevant to an Australian audience as they are to the people of Germany. The plight of farmer Jorg Rossenbach is, sadly, one most Victorian dairy farmers relate to: a milk cheque that covers just 70 per cent of his productions costs.
But how do Government subsidies play a part? And how are consumers supporting farmers? What are farmers saying about quota restrictions?
I now have invaluable contacts willing to answer questions like these, so I too can better comprehend and report on the market forces that impact farmers and consumers alike. It is difficult for an outsider to observe how the IFAJ congress has shaped my career, back in my regional corner of Victoria.
It gave me something I’d already been faking since starting with ABC Rural – a confidence and belief that my work is meaningful, that the life path I’ve chosen in some way matters. It is a gift that drives me forward every day and one I highly recommend any regional Australian journalist consider chasing to Africa next year, for the 2017 IFAJ congress.
The Weekly Times has been named Media Outlet of the Year at the Rural Press Club of Victoria’s Journalism & Photography Awards, held at South Wharf in Melbourne on Friday, August 26.
The newspaper claimed the prestigious title, ahead of three other finalists - the Latrobe Valley Express, the Bendigo Advertiser and the Geelong Advertiser.
The Weekly Times editor, Ed Gannon, accepted the award on the night.
Rural Press Club of Victoria President, Rex Martinich, said:
"On behalf of the Rural Press Club of Victoria, I congratulate the Weekly Times and every other award winner, as well as all who entered their work." "The difficulty our judges had in ranking the top awards entries in each category was a testament to the quality of journalism being produced in regional Victoria."
The Geelong Advertiser’s Mandy Squires was named Journalist of the Year, an award she also received last year. Mandy received the award ahead of Simone Smith, from The Weekly Times, and Melissa Cunningham from the Ballarat Courier.
The panel of judges said Mandy’s body of work had sheer impact resulting from doggedness, courage and her clear sense of purpose as a journalist.
Glenn Daniels of the Bendigo Advertiser was named Photographer of the Year, edging out Mike Moores of the Meander Valley Gazette, and Dale Webster, of The Weekly Times.
A highly competitive field in the Ray Frawley Young Journalist of the Year showed that the future is in good hands.
The award was presented to Bridget Judd, ahead of Christopher Testa from the Sunraysia Daily, and Bethany Tyler from the Geelong Advertiser.
Chair of the judging panel, Anne Burgi, said this year’s entries proved rural and regional journalism is alive and well.
“This year’s awards showed thoughtful, expressive writing on a myriad of topics, that probe diverse issues directly affecting rural and regional audiences.
“The photography entries demonstrate clearly that good photography in newspapers is not an optional extra but adds immeasurably to the life of the product.
“This year’s entries across the board were of a particularly high caliber, making each decision for the judges difficult.”
The awards took place on Friday 26 August in front of 125 people, including 110 of Victoria’s leading rural and regional media.
Click here to see the full list of winners
Below are links to media coverage of the event from Nine News Melbourne and Crikey.
From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Ricky Muir: I’m not going anywhere. Accidental Senator Ricky Muir gave perhaps one of his last addresses as an elected official yesterday, telling the Victorian Rural Press Club that he wants to stay in politics in some way or another after this Saturday’s election. He delivered a rambling speech that showed that three years in Canberra hadn’t scrubbed the Gippsland boy out of him. Muir said he hadn’t written a speech, because it was too obvious when his fellow politicians hadn’t written their own speeches and didn’t know which words were coming next.
Video of Mr Muir's interview with Nine News Melbourne for the 6pm TV bulletin
Author and writer Rosalie Ham challenged the audience at the Rural Press Club of Victoria’s May lunch, to tell diverse stories about rural people and rural communities.
Ham’s novel The Dressmaker, first published in 2000, was adapted to film last year to huge success. The award winning film adaptation, produced and directed by Sue Maslin and Jocelyn Moorhouse, has taken Ham’s characters of Tilly, Teddy and Molly, in the small country town of Dungatar, to the world. Many of the characters played on some of the stereotypes about small town living. It’s these stereotypes that Ham will work to debunk in her fourth novel, that she’s currently working on. Set in a rural environment, with a focus on irrigation water, Ham’s fourth novel will feature well accomplished, sophisticated, intelligent people that are also hard working, that just happen to live in the country.
A landmark discussion paper authored by the Australian Farm Institute says plant biosecurity RD&E that underpins Australian agriculture and its access to international markets must be prioritised and is best served by the establishment of a new research corporation. Watch or listen to the author of the Paper, AFI Director Mick Keogh, join with Tanya Pittard from Grain Producers Australia, and Tania Chapman from Voice of Horticulture to discuss the options of a plant biosecurity model that grows markets together. Recorded in Melbourne on April 20, 2016.
ABC Rural - Growing pressure on Australia's biosecurity system leads to calls for reform
Weekly Times - Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh to address Rural Press Club of Victoria
This year Emergency Management Victoria is once again the State Convenor for the Resilient Australia Awards, which was launched in March.
The national awards are now in their 17th year and recognise and promote initiatives that help make our communities safer, stronger and better prepared to manage natural disasters.
They are open to all Victorians, including individuals, not for profit organisations, small and large businesses, local and state government, schools, education institutions, research bodies and emergency service agencies.
The Resilient Australia Photography Award is open to individual photographers and copyright holders are eligible.
Last year, Victorian Rebecca Hosking’s photograph 'Helmet of Leadership Values' was the People’s Choice Winner (main photo). The photo depicts Anglesea CFA Captain Andy Rankin passing on the helmet of leadership to his son Elliot.
We encourage you to consider entering the Awards and have your project recognised.
The 2016 Resilient Australia Awards are now open for entries, until 9 June 2016. To apply, go online: https://resilient.awardsplatform.com
Congratulations to RPCV member Mandy Squires from the Geelong Advertiser for her award for Best Regional or Rural Affairs Report in any Medium.
Other finalists: Stephanie Corsetti (ABC Radio, PM); Chris McLennon (The Weekly Times); Brigid Donovan, Heather Ewart, Ron Ekkel & Tony Kuric (Backroads, ABC TV).