CANBERRA-BASED communications and policy consultant Angela Byron has been appointed to the board of the Australian Wool Growers Association.
AWGA chief executive officer Sam Stephens said Ms Byron will bring a unique perspective to the work of AWGA through her extensive Australian Government experience in agriculture and health portfolios and understanding of policy development in Canberra.
Ms Byron is also a part-owner of a south-west slopes livestock contracting business, White Dog Livestock Services, and is working for AWGA director Chick Olsson in his campaign to be elected to the Australian Wool Innovation board. Ms Byron said she is working with Mr Olsson in an administrative capacity in her role as the principal consultant and owner of Lumin8 Solutions.
Mr Stephens said AWGA is proud to appoint Angela as its first ever female director.
“We hope that this sends a strong message that AWGA is a contemporary organisation which is committed to gender equality within our industry.”
Ms Byron fills the board vacancy provided by the resignation of former AWGA director Martin Oppenheimer.
As a former wool grower and owner of an agriculture-focused communications agency in western Victoria and part-owner of White Dog Livestock Services she said she has a long-standing involvement in the wool industry.
She said she was looking forward to bringing her public and private sector experience to AWGA, and working with co-directors “to effect real change.”
“I really think there are debates that have been dragging and obviously mulesing is a critical one and I think that overall industry governance needs a re-think and a freshening up.
“And I also think that the labour force shortage is a really critical issue and it personally impacts on my business on a daily basis.”
Ms Byron said there hasn’t been “the right voices in the ear of the European wool industry” on animal welfare and mulesing.
“I think the voice that they have been hearing is obviously that of the animal welfare bodies and they just haven’t been getting the right messages and information.”
She said the scientific evidence in support of mulesing with pain management is not reaching the European wool industry “and I really think that needs to change.”
Ms Byron said Australian Wool Innovation also had “some movement to make” on governance.
“I really think that AWI is not working and I think that growers aren’t happy with the way levy dollars are spent and there are some adjustments that would be very easy to make within AWI that would really make a difference to growers.
“I would like to see stronger engagement with its grower base.”
She does not believe that AWI’s role should stop with research into mulesing.
“I agree that they are there to perform that role and to provide information to growers so that they can make the best possible decisions for their flock, but on the other hand if they are not representing wool growers internationally and Australian wool in European markets, then who is?
“I really think that their role needs to go beyond research and marketing, and I don’t agree with (AWI chair) Jock Laurie’s recent commentary that mulesing is agri-political, it is a very real management issue that is faced by wool growers on daily basis.”
Ms Byron said here primarily role on AWGA will be to utilise her ability to engage with government and take forward any issues of priority to the association.
“I see myself more as a bridge between AWGA and the Australian Government and any other industry bodies based on my proven experience in public policy and my ability to engage.”
She said AWGA has a longstanding reputation for being independent and fearless when it comes to advocating for the real issues at the heart of the wool industry.
“While I don’t get into the yards as often as I would like these days, I haven’t lost my connection with, or love of the wool industry.
“I understand the issues it faces and look forward to working collaboratively with government to bring these to the table,” she said.
“I am honoured to be the first female AWGA director.
“Some of Australia’s most impactful agricultural organisations have already committed to achieving gender diversity within their leadership and I am proud to see AWGA join them in championing female representation in our industry.”