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MLA’s on-farm R&D division rebranded in restructure

James Nason, March 18, 2015

The much-anticipated restructure of Meat & Livestock Australia’s key on-farm research and development division has been finalised, MLA staff were informed this week.

Changes outlined in an internal letter to staff from MLA general managing for On Farm Innovation and Adoption, Matthew McDonagh, on Monday include five new senior management positions that have been created to oversee different areas of on-farm R&D.

The trigger for the restructure was a critical assessment of MLA’s Livestock Production Innovation unit by a panel of six independent R&D experts, handed to MLA management in June 2013.

The independent reviewers identified “widespread and substantial dissatisfaction” with MLA’s processes for selecting, funding and managing on-farm projects within the R&D sector, and made 11 recommendations for change.

The report’s findings were only revealed publicly to MLA levy payers when they were reported by media. That it took MLA management at the time several months to formally report the review’s critical findings to peak industry councils and the Federal Government, and had still not acted on several recommendations 12 months later, was a major source of criticism for the organisation during last year’s Senate inquiry.

Since the LPI review was conducted in early 2013, a lot of water has passed under the bridge.

MLA has since appointed a new chair, Dr Michelle Allan, and new managing director, Richard Norton; the Senate Inquiry into grassfed levies has taken place and a major internal restructure of MLA has been carried out.

Dr Allan acknowledged during the Senate Inquiry last August that MLA had failed to act upon the criticisms outlined in the LPI review in “an appropriate timely fashion”, and pledged that a hard hitting review and restructure of its on-farm RD&E processes would take place.

MLA would “look completely different in six months time”, she said.

The restructure announced by senior MLA manager Matt McDonagh in a letter to MLA staff on Monday outlines where that restructure process has landed.

On-farm R&D is now managed under the “On Farm Innovation and Adoption (OIA)” unit.

Mr McDonagh, general manager of OIA, said the chosen structure reflected MLA’s new approach to R&D which was outlined last year by MD Richard Norton, and is based around “identifying large, longer term bodies of work” and “developing strategic partnerships with world leading providers”.

The senior leadership group overseeing on-farm R&D has been expanded to include five senior leadership positions, as the below diagram shows.

MLA on farm R&D restructure

Three of the five senior management positions have been confirmed:

Health, Welfare and Biosecurity Program Manager Jim Rothwell (previously MLA Manager Sustainability R&D);

Sustainable Feedbase Resources Program Manager Cameron Allen (Previously MLA Environment & NRM project manager); and

Grassfed Productivity Program Management Wayne Hall (previously MLA Manager, On Farm Production).

The senior management positions of Consultation Strategy Manager and Grainfed, Livex and Goat Program Manager are yet to be appointed.

Mr McDonagh said the vacant roles, which also include the position of Innovation &Adoption project manager within the Health, Welfare and Biosecurity Division, will be advertised internally.

Mr McDonagh said the five senior management “will be externally focussed on demonstrating the value of industry’s investment in R&D outcomes driving industry success through the national RD&A consultation strategy”.

In other associated personnel changes:

  • Mr McDonagh’s letter stated that Terry Longhurst who was formerly MLA’s Manager of Strategic Science has accepted a new opportunity within the Corporate Services Team as the MLA Evaluation Manager.
  • Renelle Jeffrey will move into the Livestock Productivity (LP) team as Innovation and Adoption Manager for Sheep Productivity. Mr McDonagh said this reflected the location of the sheep pillar as part of the Livestock Production team due to its close linkages with the Sheep CRC program.

Mr McDonagh said he was confident MLA had developed a structure “that will change the way we approach R&D in our business and will enable us to deliver and demonstrate stronger benefits for levy payers.”

He also acknowledged the patience that staff had shown as they waited for the restructure to be announced.

“The Board and MLT (management leadership team) recognise how difficult it has been to wait from August until now for certainty as to what the new structure would look like.  We appreciate the way the team has continued to get on with things and ensured programs kept being delivered.”

 

 

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