This fortnight marks a decade since northern Australia was thrown into turmoil with the airing of A Bloody Business, showing the atrocious handling of Australian cattle in Indonesian facilities.
A time I remember all too well for the massive mix of emotions it evoked. My husband and I had only stepped out into our own livestock agency, heavily reliant on live export four months prior, and we were still finding our feet.
I was a bit of a shy little mouse*; I couldn't say boo to a goose. But the days that followed awoke something in me. I walked around the Charters Towers sale the morning following Joe Ludwig's suspension on live export into Indonesia, and I remember the shellshock of the people there. Agriculture in the north is always uncertain due to the climate, but to be so blatantly disregarded on a whim by the federal government was something else.
As I reflect on what's happened over those ten years, I've pondered on what I've learnt as an individual and what we've learnt collectively as a broad community and an industry. I think one of the biggest lessons, although one that is still often disregarded is that apathy is our biggest enemy. This time ten years ago, there was an air of desperation to share what we did well, to connect, to talk, to communicate.
While that pace we ran at during that frenzied time couldn't be sustained for an extended period, for a lot of the part, we've seemed to slip off the other end of the scale again and have gone to ground and just talk among ourselves.
Ten years on, we still have the catch cry of "telling our story" and more should do it. That we should be proactive rather than reactive. In some instances, it seems that we've fallen back into waiting for that horse to bolt before we do anything about the dodgy stable door. It's certainly not a cycle that I want to spiral into.
But by golly, there have been many positives coming out of that time, on many different levels. I learnt to be the mouse* who roared. And I discovered that there were all of these other people who also found their voice.
And as we found our voices, we found each other, and we learnt what we could achieve as one single voice, all singing from the same hymn sheet. And these lessons have reached far beyond live export and spilled over into other areas of our lives and businesses.
We've learnt the power of social media, of connectedness and open communication with those not familiar to our lifestyles.
I've seen more and more farmers doing a fantastic job of telling our story, and some parts of the media and industry bodies supporting them. There have been some terrific advocacy initiatives born since and bit by bit, we're changing the face of rural Australia. So it turns out there really are silver linings to every cloud.
*my apologies to southern readers who are sick of mice...
- Charters Towers grazier Kylie Stretton