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April 2019

It’s well into Autumn and here in Toowoomba we were heartened by some Autumn rain.  I am not sure how effective this has been for producers on the Downs, but it has greened up our lawns – certainly good for the psyche.We had the opportunity to visit Spain, Morocco and Portugal over the last month. It’s always good to experience other places and be challenged to reflect on our own circumstances. We have our ancient culture in Australia although we lack the older architecture and modern history evident in many other countries.

As someone who likes to sketch, I found something new around every corner – and each house and street is shrouded in history.  I was also privileged to observe 35,000 year old rock drawings/carvings in Portugal which was profound and reflected the feelings we have when seeing similar ancient rock art in Australia from our oldest inhabitants.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of our very ancient natural gems and continues to be in the spotlight. Our company was fortunate in having the opportunity to recently complete a review of the Reef Alliance program. This was a remarkable coming together of NRM Bodies and rural industry to work collaboratively and assist producers in reef regions to continue to reduce any negative impacts on water quality.

Meanwhile new graduates are being placed in the regions across a range of organisations to increase extension and education capacity in these regions – and a coordinated training effort is gathering momentum.  There is also an upcoming Extension ‘Think Tank’ in Townsville to explore what we have learned and to spark new ideas in our extension approaches. This is a long term effort and we need to maintain the strategic support to ensure that agriculture and grazing continue to move towards a fully reef-friendly future.

The APEN Extension Conference is coming up in Darwin in September!  This is always a highlight in my calendar.  It’s where those who are passionate about making a difference through extension gather to share and learn from each other.  It’s also a great networking and social bonding opportunity. Extension has developed a lot over the decades and has certainly gone beyond the notion of ‘experts telling farmers how to farm’.  There is a recognition that we are all part of a learning and innovation system each with different skills and experiences to add to improve the whole system.

Easter is now behind us and the year is racing towards Christmas – but there is a lot to address in the meantime.  We will need to assess the landscape after the elections and policy implications and continue efforts towards dealing with economic, social and environmental challenges. One of the reasons we are passionate about evaluation is because we can learn from what has been done before and continue to improve.