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Speech to officially open the 2007 National Young Farmers Forum.

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23 July 2007

To officially open the 2007 National Young Farmers Forum

Thank you Colin and Richard (NCYF Members) for your kind introduction.

Good morning everyone and welcome to the 2007 National Young Farmers Forum here in Griffith.

It’s great to be here to open this second national forum.

It’s also good to see so many familiar faces — members of the National Council of Young Farmers who have been instrumental in arranging this forum and also several participants of the various courses that the Australian Government delivers for young people in primary industries.

I’m always impressed by the calibre of Australia’s rural and regional youth. You all have so much drive, energy and enthusiasm. It’s fantastic to see and its also particularly to see how much people learn and take away from opportunities like this.

It gives me great confidence that the future of Australian agriculture is in good hands.

I’m here today in my capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran.

Many of you may also be aware that I am the Member for Farrer, a rural electorate covering 200,000 square kilometres of NSW.

As such, I feel very fortunate to have held the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry since January 2006.

In this role, I get to exercise my passion for Australian agriculture on a daily basis.

Prior to going into politics in 2001, my previous jobs have included being an aerial stock musterer in outback NSW and Queensland, a shearer's cook in wool sheds throughout New South Wales and Victoria, and I was also a wool and beef farmer at one stage.

The reason you are here is because you are leaders in your own way - in your industry or community.

You are aware of the importance of being involved if you want to encourage change.

This Forum is an opportunity for the Government to hear your views and a youth

perspective on the critical issue of water management and policy.

GRIFFITH In many ways, Griffith is the perfect location for this event.

Griffith has long been a centre for agriculture and diversity.

But it wasn’t always so.

The 19th century explorer, John Oxley, described this region as a “howling wilderness” that was “uninhabitable and useless to civilised man.”

Despite Mr Oxley’s rather bold description, settlers began to arrive to try their luck, building sheep stations and other ventures throughout the region.

But the region didn’t reach its full potential, until Sir Samuel McCaughey, battled fierce opposition and legal issues, in realising his vision for widespread intensive irrigation.

It was 100 years ago, in 1907, when construction commenced on the Burrinjuck Dam and the many kilometres of irrigation channels.

Sir McCaughey's vision and motivation transformed this once arid area into today’s agricultural heartland.

A century later, the severe and devastating effects of this prolonged drought, have forced a permanent shift in the way we view water and irrigation.

Once again, we need to innovate, in both farming practices and waterinfrastructure.

And we can no longer view water to be a low cost commodity.

THE FORUM This forum is a chance for you to voice your views to the Government and industry leaders, on how you think we should tackle the current and future water challenges.

We recognise that younger people often have the best innovative ideas and are more open to change and see things in a different light.

There’s something that I would like you to consider throughout this Forum, that is:

Change will happen, so how can you manage it effectively? The effective management of change is usually left to those with the vision, passion and willingness to motivate and work with others.

Each of you has the skills and abilities to manage change.

You are willing to get involved in your industries and communities.

This is why you have been selected to be here today.

But you also have a role to play in encouraging others to get involved.

For example, one of the key initiatives borne out of the first the National Young Farmers Forum in 2005, was the establishment of the inaugural National Council of

Young Farmers.

The first council was instrumental in providing advice to the Government on a range of rural issues, and water was one issue that the Council spent a lot of time exploring.

Indeed, it was the National Council of Young Farmers report Water: Decisions made today are vital to our future that noted the under-representation of young people in our rural decision making bodies.

And it was their report, that led to the decision to hold this second Forum.

I hope this Forum will provide an opportunity for further discussion of young peoples’ role in decision making, particularly with regard to the use of water.

Today, you will here from industry organisations and farmers about water use, management and policy in their industries. It will be a chance for you to ask questions and offer your opinion.

The forum will also consider how to get younger people involved.

For its part, the Australian Government has agreed to continue the good work of the National Council of Young Farmers, with a new, renamed Rural Industries Youth Advisory Group.

With a quarter of all farmers are over the age of 55 years, it’s encouraging that the Advisory Group will continue to represent young rural people across Australia,

We are in the last stages of choosing the new members.

I know many of the short-listed candidates are with us today, and I’d like to wish them the best of luck in the process.

CONCLUSION I realise that time is precious, but by becoming involved in activities beyond your farm gate.

You can make an enormous difference to your businesses, your industries and your communities.

But please remember, it’s not the talking at meetings that changes things.

It’s what you do when you go back to your homes, your farms, your industries and your communities.

We have to measure ourselves by the impact we have after the event.

The Government can provide information and opportunities.

What comes out of it?

Well, that’s up to you.

I urge you to use this Forum to create your own networks across Australia and to keep

in touch with each other afterwards.

Meet with others, give people a call or send them an email.

You don’t know where these small gestures can lead.

One thing I would really encourage is using YARN website.

The YARN website is an example of an opportunity that is quite literally at your fingertips.

On the website you can share ideas and discuss issues with other enthusiastic, like-minded people across Australia.

I hope that many of you were able to take part in the online discussions prior to this event.

And if you feel that your ideas are not being heard - try harder, make your voices louder.

As I mentioned earlier, Sir Samuel McCaughey faced enormous opposition from people who did not share his vision for innovation and prosperity through irrigation.

Yet, with determination and sound thinking, he transformed this region into the centre of agriculture that it is today.

You will one day be the elder statesmen and women of your industries.

I urge you - get involved now, on your own terms.

In closing, I wish you the best of luck over the next couple days.

I now declare the 2007 National Young Farmers Forum open.

Thank you.

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