Eliza grew up on a mixed enterprise farm near the town of Carrathool, in NSW, and says the lack of female role models in the male-dominated field of agriculture initially put her off a career in the industry.
But Year 10 work experience with a well-respected female agronomist helped to persuade her otherwise and in 2014 she is studying the third year of Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Charles Sturt University.
Being awarded a Horizon Scholarship, sponsored by the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA), has given Eliza a boost financially and in terms of her own personal development. She receives a bursary of $5000 a year through the scholarship and participates in development events with other young agricultural enthusiasts.
‘I have been involved in many activities stemming directly from the scholarship, including participating in various workshops and conferences,’she said. At the annual Horizon workshop held in Canberra she joined other scholars to discuss industry issues and how the scholars might become leaders.
‘We even went to the ABC’s Country Hour to build our profile and public speaking ability. I attended various RGA meetings and events ranging from SunRice and RGA annual general meetings, to grower discussion groups and social events.’
When in need of advice Eliza has mentors organised through the Horizon program she can call upon, including two from RGA. ‘I have received a lot of help from my mentors. They help organise tasks and help me to go beyond my boundaries. Having contact with people heavily involved in the industry gives you inspiration and that extra drive.’
The program also helps to coordinate work placements, which provide valuable industry exposure and also count towards university requirements. For Eliza, this is expected to include some time working with rice researchers.
Although leaning towards agronomy, Eliza says there are so many places her agricultural degree could take her—teaching, agronomy,spatial analysis, animal nutrition, agribusiness and the list goes on. She says the support gained through the Horizon program has given her greater confidence in herself and challenged her to expand her boundaries. It has helped her to develop new skills and to consider the image of agriculture that, as young leaders in the industry, the Horizon scholars present to the public.
‘It’s the best thing I have ever been involved in and I encourage anyone about to start their studies to give it a shot.’
The Horizon Scholarship is open to students entering their first year of university and studying a degree related to agriculture, such as agricultural science, rural science, livestock/animal science, veterinary science or agribusiness.
For more information or to apply for a Horizon scholarship see: www.rirdc.gov.au or call 02 6271 4100.