As an idealistic graduate of a Bachelor of Ecological Agricultural Systems from Charles Sturt University, Angus Dunne fell into the trap of believing that university had equipped him with all he needed to contribute to the world.
Fortunately, this notion met reality when he got out in the field as a project officer with Resource Consulting Services (RCS) through the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program in 2019.
Angus did not grow up on an agricultural property, although he worked on vineyards and vegetable farms while at university.
“What bought me to agriculture was my love of food, people and the environment,” Angus said.
“My first day with RCS was attending a soil conservation course run by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and facilitated by Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA). It took me all of 30 minutes to realise how little I knew, and what was this thing called extension?”
In the first two months Angus took part in three seven-day Grazing for Profit schools run by RCS, which provided a deep dive into business skills, principle-based management, ecology, grazing management, soils, communication, goal setting and more.
“The passion, determination and vulnerability of the producers at these schools had me hooked, as did the devotion and passion of RCS Chairman David Mclean and Director Terry McCosker who led the schools.”
“From the beginning, Adam Curcio, General Manager for RCS, threw me in the deep end (with a watchful eye). I was charged with leading the day to day activities for Project Pioneer, a two-year practice change project working with 50 producers in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) regions, which aims to reduce nutrient and sediment entering the GBR lagoon.”
“Working with producers is the highlight of my year. The producers we are lucky to work with are excited to be regenerating their country, which has flow on effects for the reef.”
Another project Angus was involved with was measuring overland flow and in-stream water quality on regeneratively and conventionally managed grazing properties, which may be an Australian first.
“The project is an RCS led partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and CQUniversity (CQU). I worked closely with Evan Chua, PhD, a research officer with CQU and Leanne Sommer, WWF’s project manager for sustainable agriculture.
“The project drove home the power of principle-based management in the landscape and how it makes a difference in water quality.”
The graduate program provided training in GIS, facilitation skills and agricultural extension professional development modules offered in partnership with the University of Melbourne. Angus’ learning was supported by his fellow program participants and Australian-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) mentor Adrian Englefield, who provided guidance and ideas.
“Not to be outdone, RCS put me through a host of training from mental health first aid, Allan Parker’s Peak Performance training, Farmmap4D mapping database training, ExecutiveLink program involvement and Toastmasters.”
Now a graduate of the program, Angus has earned an ongoing position with RCS and is looking forward to taking on further project management within Project Pioneer.
“I am excited to be staying with RCS and immensely grateful for the experiences and learnings from the last year and wish to pay them forward.
“Agriculture, grazing and extension continue to open new doors to ideas, information and experiences. Whatever our post-COVID19 world brings, I know the QFF program and RCS have helped me build the skills to thrive in it.”
The Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program is delivered by the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance (led by QFF) and funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.