TULLY girl Nicola MacKay is following in her family's footsteps after being awarded a scholarship to pursue her passion for the banana industry.
Ms MacKay, 20, has been awarded the Mort Johnston Scholarship for 2018, which will provide her with the opportunity to work on a commercial banana farm and financial assistance of $5000.
The University of Queensland student, who comes from comes from the largest banana farming family in Australia, said the Panama detection in Tully cemented her interest in the industry.
“Growing up I’ve always loved working on the banana farm, I’ve always loved coming home during the holidays,” Ms MacKay said.
“It’s always been a passion of mine, the bananas and the banana industry.
“When Panama TR4 hit our Tully region, I felt like it hit quite close to home.
“I think that’s where the turning point was, where I thought, yes, I really would like to work in the banana industry.”
Ms MacKay is studying a Bachelor of Business Management and Science majoring in Plant Science and Economics, to learn more about banana research and the future of the industry.
She also works as a casual research assistant under Professor Elizabeth Aitken and has undertaken work experience with Scientific Advisory Services.
Ms MacKay said while her father Barrie had told her to pursue whatever career made her happy, she believed he was pleased she had decided to stick with the family business.
“He always tells me I can do whatever I want, but I think he is secretly happy that I do want to work in the banana industry,” she said.
The scholarship was created to honour Mort Johnston, who passed away in 2006, and was widely regarded as a great innovator and a strong advocate for growers working together to better the banana industry.
His son Paul said that while the MacKay name was synonymous with bananas in North Queensland, he had no doubt Nicola would do the industry proud in her own right.
“Her family’s background, her degree and dedication – as well as the experience the Mort Johnson scholarship will provide - should set her up for an exciting future in horticulture,” Mr Johnston said.
“My father was passionate about the banana industry. It is a passion I inherited, and I know just how valuable a chance like this can be for someone starting out.
“If we can help people like Nicola to begin their careers, and keep building their love of the industry, we can be confident the future is in safe hands.”
Head of The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Professor Neal Menzies, congratulated Nicola and thanked the Australian Banana Growers’ Council for supporting future industry leaders through this scholarship.
“Nicola is a deserving, hard-working and high-achieving student, and we hope this opportunity will allow her to contribute to the Australian banana industry,” Prof Menzies said.
The scholarship was established in 2016 and is maintained by an annual donation from the ABGC.