Sometimes things happen in small, incremental steps; sometimes with a resounding crash. For Lorraine Gordon’s career, it was a combination of both.
The experience taught her four things: women are highly resilient, they are constantly exercising transferrable skills, they often underestimate themselves and their capabilities, and they need to support each other more in the workplace.
Named Rural Community Leader in the 2018 Farmer of the Year awards and a former NSW ABC Rural Woman of the Year, Lorraine’s journey started when, aged 14, she visited a property at Coonamble in north-west NSW. From that moment she wanted to be a farmer.
After completing agricultural college, a series of family tragedies found her in charge of an unfenced 3000ha New England Tablelands beef property. She lived in a small timber mill hut with no electricity or water while she developed the property from scratch. She built a beef business (co-founding the successful Ebor Beef Co-operative), supported by a successful tourism and later a health business covering northern NSW.
Alongside this career was Lorraine’s work in agri-finance as an agribanker for Westpac; serving as executive director of Economic Security for Women; CEO of Regional Development Australia; and presiding on the Small Business Review Panel of the Reserve Bank of Australia. All these steps shaped her future and equipped her with the necessary tools to be a leader.
Those capabilities – both at the desk and in the paddock – merged when she was appointed director of the federally-funded Farming Together program, a national initiative hosted by Southern Cross University to help farmers form co-operatives or collaborations. The team (incidentally mostly women) was handed a KPI of 2000 farmer engagements; they created a powerful 28,500 engagements. The work they undertook underscored the power that collaboration can bring to social movements.
Now the team is turning that dynamism to a new challenge that will require solid doses of both collaboration and skill: the regeneration of Australian farmland. Southern Cross University has committed itself to this with the formation of the Regenerative Agricultural Alliance, a collaboration of Australia’s leading practitioners and researchers. Remediating our landscape requires more than a change of agricultural practice. It necessitates attitudinal change … a script custom-written for the women now taking the reins of Australian agriculture.
International Women’s Day 2019
Ms Gordon will be presenting two Southern Cross University Coffs Coast International Women’s Day Scholarships at an International Women’s Day event to the C.ex Coffs on Friday March 8. The scholarships will be awarded to outstanding Coffs Harbour students: one to undergraduate midwifery student and Chinese national Weiming Wang; the other to PhD candidate and USA national Kay Davis who is currently conducting research at Lord Howe Island and will accept her award via video.