Women in sugar say they have a lot more to offer the industry in 2016.
Delegates from cane growing regions across Queensland have arrived for the 15th annual Women in Sugar Australia Conference.
About 70 women have gathered in Mackay to take the time to recognise the contribution they make to the sugar cane industry and discuss a range of issues, from growing to milling and marketing.
Rita Neilson was the founder of the Mackay Canegrowers Network and said the group — which was initially formed through drought in 1993 — plays an important support and information role for women.
“The needs now are even greater, probably, than when were all involved back then in the drought of 1993,” Ms Neilson said.
“From my point of view the support that we gain form each other, the information and knowledge that we gain and share …. that information is very crucial and beneficial [to the industry].”
Jill Fox is also a member of the group, and works beside her husband on their cane farm outside Mackay.
She said the contributions women made to family operations and the broader cane industry were invaluable.
“A lot of the women are the business managers, they are the bankers, budgeters [and] they are the people who keep everything going behind [the scenes],” Ms Fox said.
“A lot won’t acknowledged themselves as farmers but they do play a crucial role.
“We also see it [farming] in terms of relationships … the farmer can get very focused on growing the crop, harvesting the crop, fixing the machinery.
“A woman can often look at what impact this is having on your family, your neighbours, the district and eventually the whole sugar industry.”
More women need to be involved in agri-politics
However, Ms Neilson said there still were not enough women involved in leadership roles within the cane industry’s peak lobby groups.
“We have been challenged for the last 20 odd years to put more women forward on boards,” she said.
“We are an unknown resource as far as women’s skills [are concerned] in the industry and so it is a challenge but I don’t know how you are going to change that.”
Ms Neilson put some of the reason down to busy lifestyles and child rearing, but Ms Fox remained optimistic about the future of younger women involved in the industry.
“It is something we are aware of in the industry, but I am reasonably hopeful that there is a new generation of women coming through the schools and with a farming background that can do it.”
Source – ABC