Rural Asset - Annette Smith

Queensland Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award for 2012

A sincere wish to leave something for the next generation has driven Annette ‘Netty’ Smith to career excellence and professional recognition, after recently being named winner of the Queensland Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award for 2012.

RIRDC, a statutory authority established to work with industry to invest in research and development for a more profitable, sustainable and dynamic rural sector, awarded the Emerald-based Taylor Byrne property valuer a $10,000 Bursary to achieve her ambition of building capacity to negotiate better outcomes for agricultural landholders, mining companies and regional communities from the resources boom. The idea of the award is to identify emerging leaders within the rural communities and provide training and support, as well as guidance from a variety of past winners and members. The award includes public speaking training and participation in the AIDC Company Directors Course in Canberra, where participants are shown how to lobby and access ministers and senior public servants.

Ms Smith (Associate Australian Property Institute (AAPI)), was the youngest and only female ever appointed to a senior valuers role within the Department of Natural Resources and was Vice-Chair of the Emerald Pastoral College Board, prior to the amalgamation of Queensland’s four agricultural colleges.

Ms Smith said she was both honoured and humbled to win the award.

“When I was nominated and read about all the fantastic work these women do for our rural industries and communities, I was somewhat in awe,” Ms Smith said.

“I have been lucky to work alongside experienced valuers who have taken their time to teach me and impart their knowledge and expertise. And then to win… it’s just such an honour.

“It has been one of the most fantastic things I have ever done. I sincerely thank RIRDC and the major sponsor, Westpac.”

Achievements & plans

Despite Ms Smith’s modesty, a quick look over her considerable achievements and obvious commitment shows why her work was recognised. In addition to her valuation career, she currently chairs the Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning Cooperative Ltd (CHRRUP), the local Natural Resource Management Group. CHRRUP is a community-owned organisation that focuses on improving natural resource management practices and building sustainable communities across the Central Highlands. It undertakes sustainable natural resource projects in the Nogoa Catchment, through partnerships with Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) and NQ Dry Tropics, utilising federal and state funding.

Currently 10% of the Fitzroy River Catchment is under a Mineral Development Licence with an additional 88% under an Exploration Permit for Coal. The rapid expansion in coal and mineral production conflicts with traditional land uses and has ignited strong emotions and heated debate across the region. While legislation and regulation sets out the requirements of all parties, to land under exploration and mining tenure, Ms Smith believes better outcomes can be achieved by increasing understanding of the requirements, culture and demands of all parties and by supporting agreement by all parties. She plans to develop and deliver a series of workshops, offered to both landholders and mining staff and contractors, to increase the level of understanding of the businesses and environment of both parties, to improve relationships and ensure better outcomes for all parties and the broader community.

“The project that I put forward for the RIRDC Awards, in simple terms, is providing training/up-skilling to the resource sector in relations to weeds, washing down vehicles, biosecurity issues and erosion.

“Though CHRRUP we have written and had accredited a training package called ‘My Tracks’, which can be taken from this area and used anywhere in Australia.

“One of the major weeds in this area is parthenium, and it spreads so easily. So making the resource industry aware of the potential impacts of their tracks is important. If they enter a property with a large weed infestation, knowing to clean their vehicles down correctly before they enter another property, getting them to understand there is a reason the land holder is asking them not to use certain roads to access or create roads under a ‘roads for erosion’ method.

The resource sector has a ‘social license’ to operate and we now have support from them as well – they too see the benefit.
“The rural sector is in full support as this has a huge impact on them. The resource sector has a ‘social license’ to operate and we now have support from them as well – they too see the benefit. The major triumph is getting the resource sector and rural sector to work together for a dual benefit.”

Ms Smith added that one of the most satisfying aspects about winning the award was that she had been given an opportunity to highlight the need for sustainability.

“I enjoy being a valuer and have been extremely lucky to see some amazing country, farming and industrial enterprises. However, the reason I am involved in CHRRUP is that I want leave something for the next generation. I have a belief that we need to approach our industry expansions with sustainability in mind. Ensuring that sustainable natural and human resources should be at the forefront of all decisions, and we need to protect them.

Ms Smith was also recently involved in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland’s white paper into Mining and Agriculture: working together to increase food production, which was undertaken from LNP Government Agriculture Strategy to double food production in Queensland by 2040.

“Queensland does not have a great deal of prime agricultural land – I think it was last calculated at about 2.5%. Processes like this start the change process which is so important, and with industries working together from the start you get co ownership of the ideas.

Added bonuses of Ms Smith’s busy year included a barbecue at Longreach, which was attended by their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles and wife, Camilla), Federal and State governors and the Queensland Premier. She also enjoyed a dinner in the Great Hall at Parliament House, lunch with the US Consular General and meetings with several Federal ministers.

Major challenges

Ms Smith’s achievements have not been without their challenges, which include juggling responsibility for her two young daughters, running a building business with her husband and her work with Taylor Byrne.

“Copelan is 7 and Isabelle is 5. Peter (her husband) and I run a building business (Peter Smith Builder Pty Ltd) and my major challenge in the past year has been to keep everything going. I have had an enormous amount of support from Peter, my family and friends, and Pat Lyons and the staff at Taylor Byrne,” she said.

“Career wise that’s a hard one – we all face challenges in the work place and within the industry, however I don’t think I have faced any more or less than anyone else. There were a few funny instances when I was in my early 20s, working for the Lands Department, in relation to older rural gentlemen being somewhat shocked when a young female turned up to do their valuation or tree clearing permit. I remember one gentleman who had had a lot to do with lands valuers through the ‘Brigalow Scheme’ blurted out, ‘I didn’t think they let women become valuers’. You just have to laugh."

API membership

"Being an API member gives you a level of professional standing which is accepted by industry. Valuers are expected to have a high level of expertise and product and the API definitely helps with this. One of the best things I the API offers is the Risk Management Modules, which provide the opportunity to see what we should not do, and improve the image/quality/product etc produced by valuers."

(NOTE: National winner of the 2012 Australian RIRDC Rural Women's Award was South Australian and third generation viticulturist Mary Retallack. For the past 17 years, Mary has worked in vineyard management, technical, research, consultancy, training and extension roles in Australia and overseas and now runs her own business, Retallack Viticulture. She is establishing a website for 'Women in Wine' to provide support and skills development opportunities for women in the viticulture sector.)

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Risk Management Module (RMM)