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Ag identities recognised in 2023 Australia Day Awards

James Nason, 26/01/2023

VETERINARIAN and livestock business consultant Phil Holmes, rural communications specialist Robbie Sefton, organic beef industry leader Dalene Wray and a high country cattleman, parliamentarian and ‘crack rider’ who featured in the Man from Snowy River films are among a number of Australian agricultural identities to have been recognised with 2023 Australia Day Awards, announced today.

Phil Holmes AM, Holmes and Company

Phil Holmes started his professional career as a veterinarian in New South Wales but a continual and unswerving search for knowledge and understanding of the drivers of farm enterprise profitability led him on a journey to become a respected source of business improvement advice across the Australian sheep and cattle industries.

Phil Holmes addressing a Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association conference in Alice Springs.

Through his own consulting businesses, and in partnership with David Sackett as co-founders of Holmes and Sackett through the 1990s and 2000s, Dr Holmes has helped family and corporate livestock business across Australia to improve their understanding of the importance of production measurement, profit drivers and whole farm business performance.

Developing farm management and decision support tools and training packages, and fostering the creation of producer groups to harness the benefits of benchmarking and collective wisdom to provide constructive insights and advice, along the way equipping individual producers with the skills needed to independently understand and solve production and business issues for themselves, has been a hallmark of Dr Holmes’ contribution to the Australian ag sector.

Also highly regarded as a gifted communicator able to “cut through” and explain complex concepts in a straight-forward, easy-to-absorb manner, Dr Holmes has helped farming businesses across southern and eastern Australia throughout his entire career, and for the past 20 years has also worked closely with cattle enterprises across the northern rangelands of Australia.

Along with Toowoomba-based agricultural business consultant Ian McLean, Dr Holmes is the co-author of the Australian Beef Report.

Dr Holmes has been awarded a medal in the Order of Australia in the General Division (AM) for service to the livestock industry.

A far more detailed overview of Dr Holmes’ career, which also details the valuable role he attributes to mentors and practical insights gained throughout his career, can be found in this self-authored reflection from a previous edition of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Veterinary Education newsletter.

Dalene Wray AM, Obe Organic

OBE Organic managing director and the pioneering organic beef producing company’s longest-serving employee, Dalene Wray, has been named as a member in the General Division of the Order Australia (AM), recognising significant service to the organic beef industry, and to professional organisations.

Raised in the channel country on her family’s large-scale cattle properties based around Birdsville, Dalene began her career with OBE Organic in 2004, working along the way in practically every role, including a number of years overseeing production at the processing facility.

She also lived with her husband and three children in Hong Kong for five years until 2015 helping to grow the OBE Organic export business throughout Asia and into the Middle East.

Dalene is chair of Organic Industries of Australia, a former member of the Meat Business Women Committee and former chair of the Australian Meat Industry Council’s Communications and Advocacy Industry Reference Committee, and has served on a range of Government advisory committees and not-for-profit boards.

Robbie Sefton AM, Seftons

Prominent rural communications specialist and agricultural advocate Robbie Sefton has been named as a member in the General Division of the Order Australia (AM) for significant service to agribusiness and to the community in a range of roles.

Based in Tamworth, NSW, Robbie is a livestock and grain producer and the managing director of rural and strategic communications agency Seftons, formed in 1990.

She is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, was named the 2002 RIRDC NSW Rural Woman of the Year and recognised on Westpac’s 2015 Women of Influence list.

Current roles include serving as a board member on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Smarter Regions CRC, CRC for High Performance Soils, since 2017, Watertrust Australia and Headspace.

Previous roles have included board director of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation from 2000-2007, deputy chair of the National Australia Day Council from 2014-2021 and board director of Prime Media Group, 2019-2020.

Dr Michele Allan (AO)

Former Meat & Livestock chair Dr Michele Allan has been named as an officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the agricultural, food production and business sectors, and to tertiary education.

Dr Allan chairs Apple and Pear Australia Limited, Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre – Food Innovation Australia, and is a director of the CSIRO, Cooperative Research Centre for Food Agility, and Dairy Food Safety Victoria.

She was named in 2014 as Charles Sturt University (CSU)’s third Chancellor.

Dr Allan has previously served as a director on a wide range of agricultural companies, organisations and committees including Grain Growers (2013-2019), Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council (2009-2016), Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (2011-2014), Wheat Export Advisory Task Force (2013-2014), Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (2005-2014), Dairy Research and Development Corporation (1999-2003), Wine Australia, Patties Foods, Nuffield Australia, and Ruralco Holding Limited.

Dr Theresa Craig AM

Federal National Party treasurer Dr Theresa Craig from Maleny in Queensland has been named as a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to politics, and to the agriculture industry.

Dr Craig has a PhD in nutrition across all species and has specialised in cattle and sheep. For the past 14 years she has owned and operated her Australian based research and consulting firm TARA – Technical Assistance and Research Analysis, providing consultancy services to feedlots, dairies, pastoral companies, feed mills and abattoirs throughout Australia.

In partnership with her husband, Dr Craig owns and manages a purebred Charolais and commercial red Brahman operation in Queensland called “Aserlay Farms”.

She has also been a key lecturer for the University of New England CRC Feedlot Course.

She has previously held roles including chair of the Sunshine Coast Region for the Liberal National Party of Queensland, Federal Nationals Women’s Council President and LNP Women, and she was a Senate Candidate for the Queensland Liberal National Party from 2012-2013.

Dr Craig has been a member/vice chair of the Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee for seven years.

Dr John Angus AM, CSIRO

Former CSIRO plant industry division chief research scientist Dr John Angus has been named a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the agricultural sector through research roles, and to education.

Dr John Angus. Image: Charles Sturt University

Dr Angus retired as a CSIRO Chief Research Scientist in 2010 after working in the Plant Industry and Land Divisions since 1973.

He also worked in visiting scientist positions at the International Rice Research Institute and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He retains research interests at CSIRO, Charles Sturt University and the Graham Centre, and operates a crop and livestock farm at Stockinbingal.

His research career involved experimental and simulation studies about phasic development and the nitrogen and water productivity of dryland crops, the effects of crop and pasture sequences and the agronomy of irrigated rice.

In 2019 Dr Angus was awarded the CM Donald Medal for Agronomy by the Australian Society of Agronomy, and was a 2006 recipient of the Australian Medal of Agriculture from the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology.

Graeme Stoney AM – Vic Parliamentarian, Man from Snowy River ‘crack rider’

High-country cattle and sheep producer, long-serving member of the Victorian Parliament, former Mansfield newspaper owner, alpine tourism operator, Mountain Cattlemen’s Association president, author, and “crack rider” from the Man from Snowy River films, Graeme Stoney, has been named a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the community, and to the Parliament of Victoria.

Mr Stoney has been member of many Mansfield community groups including Mansfield SES search and rescue mounted group, Boorolite CFA, VFF, Apex, Bindaree Retirement Village and Mansfield Autistic Centre.

His diverse business interests included a role as marketing manager for Mansfield Seeds which traded small seeds throughout Australia and grew seed in Mansfield for growers in Oregon USA.

Mr Stoney was heavily involved in the fight to retain Alpine grazing and during the 1980’s organized several large protests and rallies. His Wikipedia profile notes that one such event which turned political was the Nunawading by election in 1985. “The bitter fall out from that event culminated in him being summoned to the Bar of the Legislative Council to explain the Cattlemen’s involvement in the Byelection. In a tumultuous day the numbers to actually invite him to appear the bar were lost and he was left standing in Queens Hall.”

In 1992 Graeme was elected to the Victorian Legislative Council as the Liberal member for Central Highlands Province. He remained in Parliament until 2006.

The late Colin Bell OAM, Bell Potter and Australian Food and Agriculture

The late Colin Bell, founder and former managing director and group chairman of Bell Potter Securities Limited, was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division (OAM) for service to the financial services sector. Bell Potter Securities Limited • Group Chairman, 2010s. • Director, 2001-2020.

Mr Bell, who died last year, held several premier agricultural holdings in New South Wales through his company Australian Food and Agriculture, including one of Australia’s Australia’s biggest Merino operations, FS Falkiner and Sons Pty Ltd encompassing the Boonoke, Wanganella and Peppinella stations near Deniliquin. Mr Bell was also a non-executive board member of Australian Wool Innovation in the 2010s.

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