Our Ambassadors have joined us to share their story from their experience in a highly successful ten year long youth leadership and schools engagement program which has resulted in world class leaders, public speakers and greater education and awareness about sustainability, and food and fibre production.
The Young Sustainability Ambassador Program builds on the success of these programs.
“Its mentors gave me the voice to portray the work those on the land do, and to promote the opportunities it holds.”
It’s a 34 degree day in Cambodia with 70% humidity. Anika Molesworth is doubled over a large heap of biochar and cattle manure, shovelling it into worn-out sacks, and her Cambodian colleague asks: “Anika, why are you here? You could be anywhere you want, but you are here”. Here is a large open-air shed decorated with cobwebs, a few dozen empty sacks and a breeze blowing dust into eyes. Anika pulls away her cotton face mask and replies: “I’m here because it’s too important not to be.”
Anika has devoted her career to agriculture and the natural sciences. Growing up in Melbourne she came to the land when her family purchased Rupee Station near Broken Hill in 2000 and she was tipped head-first into Australia’s drought-riddled agricultural industry. But instead of driving her away life on the land, even at its harshest, drew her in.
She has transitioned from mustering sheep and fixing fences to completing a Bachelor of Science (Agribusiness) and a Masters of Sustainable Agriculture. She attended the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris in 2015, and her efforts to promote sustainable farming were recognised when she was awarded the 2015 Young Farmer of the Year. In 2017 she was a NSW finalist for Young Australian of the Year.
Anika is now undertaking a PhD comparing Australian agricultural conditions to those in Laos and Cambodia. “I’m investigating ways to improve water management and soil fertility for some of the world’s poorest farmers,” she says. “I have somehow stumbled onto a path where I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I work with the most humbling and brilliant people, in locations that don’t feature on many maps, and with under-resourced teams committed to move mountains despite the odds against them.”
In 2014 Anika was selected as a Young Farming Champion, which paved her way as a global communicator. “The YFC program connected me to people who share my passion. Its mentors gave me the voice to portray the work those on the land do, and to promote the opportunities it holds. It re-affirmed to me the importance of our labour of love – and gave me the courage to speak up about the issues I care so deeply for because I know there is an amazing group of people standing at my side,” she says.
These skills have been employed as she has made major presentations to ATSE Agribusiness 2030, the AFIA Fodder Conference, the Environment of Change Seminar, the Biological Farming Conference and the Pastoralists of the West Darling AGM; and given her confidence on televised programs such as Channel 10’s The Project and on SBS where she spoke passionately about young farmers.
Anika’s work centres on a love of agriculture, a thirst for new knowledge and a real impatience to tackle the big problems such as climate change and food security. She encourages others to follow their passions by becoming involved with programs that come under the Art4Agriculture umbrella. “These programs recognise young people in agriculture come from a myriad of backgrounds and geographic locations and bring with them unique perspectives and tools to shape this industry,” she says. “The programs help us build strengths in the areas needed and connect us with individuals and organisations who help us flourish.”
Eco-warrior Erin Lake stumbled through her first public speaking engagement but through programs such as Young Farming Champions and Young Eco Champions she now has the skills and confidence to thrive in her job as an adviser to Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner in Canberra.
Erin has TAFE qualifications in Conservation and Land Management and a Double Degree in Arts and Environmental Science. “For my Honours thesis I looked at the way landholders in my region were managing the rainforest on their properties and what it meant to them to live in an area of high conservation value,” she says.
One of those landholders was Art4Agriculture Director Lynne Strong and when Lynne launched the Young Farming Champions Program in 2010 Erin was one of the first people involved and in 2011 she went on to become a Young Eco Champion. “My story was a little different to the other YFCs but I really enjoyed learning about the wool, grains and beef industries and chatting with them about my work as an ecologist,” Erin says. “Working alongside them in schools gave the students an even broader perspective of what goes on beyond the farm gate. Private land in Australia, including farms, provides refuge for some of Australia’s most threatened plants and animals, so farmers are very important stewards. And there is some incredible work being done across Australia by landholders and communities to protect our native wildlife.”
Erin spent many years with her hands in the dirt running ventures such as the Fountaindale Dam Project and Dune Day, and as a bush regeneration team leader for a local council, before her enquiring mind drove her to question how environmental decisions were made higher up. This in turn led to her career in government. “Working with the Threatened Species Commissioner is highly rewarding. I am part of a team that is focused on engaging with communities right across Australia and globally, to encourage them to get involved and rally behind Australia’s amazing wildlife,” she says.
Being part of the Art4Agriculture programs has given Erin the opportunity to consolidate her own messaging, and she has since used clear, targeted and effective words to present to schools, government departments and National Landcare consultations.
Erin believes when it comes to developing media, presentation and communication skills you can’t go past the programs offered by Art4Agriculture. “Being a Young Eco Champion provided me with a toolkit of tips and ideas to meaningfully convey what I want to say in a voice that will be heard. Australia’s wildlife is my passion and working in a team that shares this passion to deliver real results for our threatened plants and animals is where I have found my voice is most effective.”
She also wants to use her experience to help others learn about issues and empower them to be able to see and understand the issues without bias or persuasion. “I don’t aspire to be a leader, but to have leadership skills. I want to be able to help others to learn, understand and make the choices that they feel are the right choices. I don’t want to tell people how they should be living, or what they should be eating. I want them to have the knowledge to be able to choose for themselves, and the information to be able to understand why.”
“You have to deal with people both within and outside your chosen industry to be successful. Art4Agriculture gives you the skills and the networks to make this happen.”
Deep in dreaming country, at Wadeye in the Northern Territory, Josh Gilbert is researching the Kakadu Plum. The fruit from this tree, which has one of the highest known concentrations of Vitamin C, is wild harvested by Indigenous woman, and forms part of Josh’s work with PwC’s Indigenous Consulting into the development of a native food strategy in Australia. This alone may seem a worthy career path, but for Josh it represents a mere fraction of his work and advocacy. Marrying agriculture, Indigenous and environmental issues has led Josh to a career as a global communicator.
Australian Geographic’s 2016 Young Conservationist of the Year, Young Farming Champion, 2016 ACT Young Indigenous Person of the Year, past Chair of NSW Young Farmers, one of three Australians in Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, participant in the 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris and one of 360 youth from across the globe selected to attend New York to discuss sustainable development goals, are some of the goals Josh has kicked in his short but stellar career.
He describes his career as three encompassing circles of passion. “In the environmental circle I am trying to ensure we have something left for the future, by protecting the wildlife and environment we have,” he says. “In the Indigenous circle I want to create opportunities so that we are seen on par with our white friends and are recognised for the skills and cultural traits we have; and in the agricultural circle I want to connect with consumers in a real and meaningful way, to communicate what is truly happening in agriculture and to understand what the consumer wants.”
Guiding all his work is Josh’s desire to incorporate Indigenous song lines and principles into modern society, and as a result he is well represented in the media. He has appeared on ABC’s The Drum and on a Stan Grant’s The Point panel with David Suzuki, presented to organisations such as TedX and Earth Hour, and been a mentor to many. Yet these great achievements have not come by chance and Josh recognises the benefits he has derived from programs such as the Young Farming Champions. “The program provides basic tips and tools to allow you to convincingly communicate messages by providing real-life practical examples,” he says “and the mentors used are a diverse group of people who expose you to different thought processes and conversations, and that equips you to deal with people both within and outside your chosen industry.”
As for mentoring the next generation Josh is happy to help. “I was lucky when I was born to have my great-grandparents around and they inspired me to keep going forward and to keep being positive,” he says, “and I have always been inspired by my parents who taught me to respect who is around you. For young people it’s all about finding personal drivers and motivation. It doesn’t matter how long the path may initially seem, it’s important to start somewhere. And that start may just be talking to someone like me who has completed one of the Art4Agriculture programs.”
“This program really gave me the communication skills and confidence I needed to craft my vision and message for the future. It played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development.”
Speaking to crowd-filled rooms, hundreds of people deep about her passion for the environment, the future of the planet, and how young people play a pivotal role in sustainability on a global scale, was something young environmental leader, Megan Rowlatt would never would have dreamed possible a few years ago. But today, this is her world.
Working in the environmental conservation space, co-founder of a national organisation in Australia called Intrepid Landcare [link insert: www.intrepidlandcare.org]. Megan and the Intrepid Landcare tribe focus on leadership development in young people who have a passion for the environment.
“It’s my life’s work, my passion, and my purpose, Megan says.
“We design and deliver leadership programs which inspire and build the capacity of young people to step out into the community and drive change from the grassroots level. It’s environmental conservation meets outdoor adventure, adventure meets purpose, and it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.”
A late bloomer to the leadership space, her path has been quite a gentle meandering of self discovery through little trip ups and hidden lessons..
“I had no idea I was as passionate about the environment as what I am, or what role I wanted to play in the world, or that I was even capable of the things that I am today. But my connection to nature and deep sense of responsibility to look after it, entwined with a series of serendipitous travel and volunteer experiences has guided me to where I am today,” she explains.
As a support officer working with people in the Landcare movement who genuinely care about the land, in 2008 Megan had landed her dream job. But she soon noticed a gaping hole where young people just did not exist in the movement, and took on creating opportunities in her own community in the Illawarra, NSW. The rest is history.
“It wasn’t until I recognised I was actually a changemaker and started investing in myself, that I started to gain real momentum in my impact. And one of those investments was the ‘Art4Agriculture Young Eco Champions’ program.
This program really gave me the communication skills and confidence I needed to craft my vision and message for the future. It played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development.”
Megan has since gone on to speak at regional, state and national conferences on natural resource management, youth leadership, and conservation. She has appeared on local, state and national radio and television programs, been keynote speaker at environmental film festivals, facilitated countless forums and events, and her work in this space has even taken her to Bhutan to join a team of global changemakers discovering different models of sustainable development.
“All of what I step into aims to raise the bar on the way we speak about sustainability in Australia and on a global scale, and at the forefront of this conversation is young people and the role they play in future of our planet. So it has been critical for me to get the skills down, to be able to communicate in a way that resonates with the diverse audiences I want to reach”.
A state and national award winner, Megan continues to communicate on a global scale through her creative blogging, writing resources and articles for numerous organisations and publications on youth leadership, nature and conservation, and through personal one-on-one mentorship roles with young people across the world. And while she’s constantly on the road creating change in communities all over Australia, it’s not unusual to see her hiking through our rich and diverse Australian bush, swimming in a secret water hole, or getting her hands dirty pulling weeds and planting trees on an epic Intrepid Landcare adventure with a tribe of other like-minded young people.