As featured in issue 60 of The Country Web – Young Women of Influence.
Women in Dairy is a new not-for-profit group that has been developed by local women Ali Duckworth and Nicole Nicholls. They represent a dynamic group of women who are committed to supporting and networking dairy farming families across Australia. They aim to provide the facilities to bring people together, educate and generally provide assistance to dairy families who need a helping hand.
We spoke to Ali about her journey so far… her involvement with the dairy industry and setting up the new Women in Dairy group.
Tell us about your childhood? How has this shaped your passions?
I grew up on the banks of the Clarence River in Grafton. One of my earliest memories is learning to ‘ride’ our beautiful Friesian house cow, Sookie. I was fortunate to be surrounded by animals and always had a passion to care for them. My grandparents were dairy farmers and, though they had stopped before I was born, visiting their old dairy was one of my favourite pastimes.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up? What things/people have influenced this path?
I wanted to be a vet but eventually realised I wouldn’t be able to handle the heartache that comes with that occupation. I love people and I love animals so ideally I wanted something that would combine the two. I come from a line of strong, working women so not pursuing a career was never an option!
What are you working on at the moment?
From living in country Grafton, to working in the corporate environment in cities in other countries, then back to country Grafton, I have gone full circle and I am once again surrounded by animals. I’m a dairy farmer and currently working on ‘Women in Dairy – The New Generation’ together with Nicole Nicholls. This is a project I’ve wanted to begin since marrying into the dairy industry seven years ago.
What inspired you to follow your dream?
Dairying women are incredible. In the course of a single day they can be mothers, wives, career people, workers, vets, nurses, accountants, chefs, housekeepers, taxi drivers and many more. They need support and have so much knowledge to share with us all. I’m motivated by the desire to link all these women together and find inspiration to continue in each and every one of them.
What steps have you taken to get to this point?
Initially the idea was born from my need (I felt pretty isolated when I first started dairying) but as time progressed I’ve discovered that isolation and lack of support is common among dairy farming families. I needed an extra shove though and a fairly random conversation with Nicole got the idea off the ground. My corporate career/training has been very useful in establishing the media needed to get our message across.
Have you faced any hurdles along the way? How have you addressed them?
Absolutely – and we’ve only been going a few months! The only thing to remember with hurdles is that they only make the journey harder (or more interesting) – they don’t change the destination. We stay focused on what we want to achieve and will do whatever it takes to achieve it.
Who has been the most influential woman (women) in your life and why?
As with many daughters, my mother is the most influential person in my life. She has faced a lot of setbacks and opposition and yet has soldiered on with determination. She has always taught me I can do anything and has led by example. Her mother was also an incredible inspiration to me. What she achieved she did so at a cost so this has taught me to be balanced. Finally, my sister – being 11 years older than me she naturally fell into the ‘heroine’ category. She has achieved so much in such a short period of time and has remained the most giving, caring and kind person I know.
What is the greatest piece of advice you have learnt from these women?
You can achieve anything you set your mind to.
What advice you would pass on to other young women?
Don’t let other people’s negativity and lack of vision affect your positivity. Remember, it’s not what happens that matters – it’s how you react. Stay focused and don’t lose sight of your goal.
What is your favourite inspirational quote?
‘In life there are always good things and bad things. The good things may not take away the bad things but the bad things don’t take away the good things either.’
As a young woman working and living in rural NSW you are playing a very important role in helping to build a thriving, sustainable agriculture for tomorrow’s communities. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? What is your vision for rural Australia?
I hope that as more and more people recognise the role and importance of rural Australia, small family farms like ours will start to increase rather than decline. I hope that the industry is still strong enough for my family to continue dairying. Of equal importance though, I hope that WIDA has done its job and has given the support, education and networking needed to keep our dairy farming women strong.