One young Graeme Acton Beef Connections member’s journey towards Beef 2024

Beef Central, 07/07/2023

THE Graeme Acton Beef Connections mentoring project being held in the lead-up to Beef 2024 in Rockhampton next May is underway, and as part of that process, Beef Central is following the journey of one of the ten talented young industry stakeholders taking part.


Using a monthly diary format, South Australia’s Phoebe Eckerman will outline her experiences and learnings as part of the mentoring program.

As a research officer with the University of Adelaide, Phoebe’s project vision is to create a web-based resource where people can explore the endless career pathways available in the modern beef industry.

She has been engaged with the beef industry since her early teen years, having established her own Limousin stud and shown cattle, winning championships at the Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne Royal Shows.

With so many possible pathways ahead of her, Phoebe is most looking forward to working through goal setting and career planning for the next five years and beyond.

Over the next eight months, she will outline her journey towards executing her chosen Beef Connections project, culminating with a presentation in Rockhampton along with her mentee cohort.   Phoebe and the other nine mentees will meet their industry mentors for the first time in coming weeks.

Here’s Phoebe’s first diary entry…..


The First Meeting: 30 May 2023

As the sunset on the Brissy horizon I was excited and a little nervous for the first meeting of the Beef Connections mentees. But my nerves quickly disappeared as I met my fellow mentees and started learning about their various roles in the beef industry.

Nothing beats having a yarn over a steak dinner to learn more about a person! I was inspired meeting this impressive group of people and getting to know them more. After this first meeting, I struggled to sleep, full of energy and excitement about the three days that lay ahead.

Thinking of the Future

Day two began with a challenge to think about the future and I jumped at this chance to imagine what my life will look life in 10 to 20 years.

Our first speaker of the day Bryce Camm Chair of Beef Australia was also a “big believer” in the 10-to-20-year vision. I loved his idea of choosing a goal far on the horizon and sticking with it to guide our leadership journeys. He also shared his thoughts on the opportunities the beef industry has in the areas of consumption, community and capital and challenged my thoughts on the future discussions of carbon. Excited I chose this industry!

David Foote, Chair of Cattle Australia shared his thoughts on the opportunities and challenges as well. I was particularly inspired by his thoughts on the importance of genetic improvement and the reminder if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

I thought it was interesting that both David and Bryce highlighted the importance of looking outside of our industry to overcome the challenges and opportunities our sector will face. These discussions continued over morning tea where we were joined by Westpac’s Agribusiness Relationships Director John Bourke.

A Challenge Set

The day ended just as it had begun – with a challenge of course! A group challenge to gain consumer perceptions on the beef industry. At first, my team felt daunted by the thought of approaching random people on the street.

However, together we were able to lead the challenge. We thought of a unique approach to gain consumer insights. We chose to use Facebook Groups to gain the thoughts of busy mums on beef. Yes we hit social media platforms! We posted our questions to the Brisbane Mums Facebook page and watched and waited as some interesting comments appeared (more on this to come!)

Beyond Beef

Onto day 3. We did just as Bryce and David had encouraged earlier in the week, we went beyond beef to learn from property developer Michael Malouf. Michael was an inspiring leader who continued to challenge the norm whilst developing the James St Market and the Calile Hotel.

I loved the investment in sustainability with a garden, solar panels, and beehives all on the rooftop of the Calile Hotel. He stressed the importance of knowing your consumer, to question everything and the idea of knowledge-based growth. He took us for a tour of the precinct. I was inspired to see the great aesthetic and welcoming atmosphere he’d created in his developments. Amazing.

Back to Beef

Then it was back to beef to beef processor Australian Country Choice where we met CEO Anthony Lee and Communications Specialist Sue Webster.

Anthony’s passion for what he does, for the people he employees and food and fibre education was particularly inspiring. We toured through the ACC facilities, and it was great to see their value of cleanliness being in the heart of Brisbane.

Anthony’s passion for training people and looking after his workforce also shone through.

A Dinner party to remember

My final stop: the Beef Connections Launch Dinner. An incredible way to end the day. Hosted by Beef Australia Chair Bryce Camm at The Queensland Club, we were joined by a star-studded list of leaders. I had some great conversations about my project with Emily Pullen, CEO of Jim’s Jerky and Anthony Lee. Another highlight of my night was meeting Deb Frecklington, state Member for Nanango, and I was left feeling empowered from our conversation.

I enjoyed the group discussions facilitated by Bryce about sustainability and attracting new minds to our industry. As we’d learned earlier in the week from our facilitators, Jo Eady and Wendy Agar from RuralScope, a change of mindset can change the world.

Setting the Scene

The following day, we finished our first gathering with a bang! It was time to share those consumer perspectives we’d gained.

My group had a ball presenting by setting the scene with an opening skit acted out by us on the conversation of two mums at the supermarket. These mothers found they couldn’t go past chicken as it was the most affordable, convenient protein though both admitted they preferred the taste of beef. I was proud of how our group really stepped up to the challenge and presented our findings in a creative way.

An Inspired Finish

I loved our closing session from Andrea Crothers from the Today Show. She lived the message she preached about taking a chance as you never know where it will take you (Beyonce’s Afterparty in Andrea’s case!). She also provided some handy presentation tips on the importance of preparation and having the story you want to tell front of mind as we begin sharing about our Projects with others.

Wow! what an amazing opening to the Beef Connections program. I’ve left the four days feeling inspired, empowered, and ready to take on the joys and challenges that await me on the horizon.


See you next month!







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