When the GRDC’s doors opened 23 years ago, Cathy Stewart was one of the first to join the fledgling organisation. Now, after a distinguished career and many wonderful experiences working for the grains research community, Ms Stewart is retiring.
“I have been with the GRDC since its inception,” Ms Stewart says. “Prior to its establishment, I had worked for the Barley Research Council and Wheat Research. I was persuaded to join the new corporation rather than return to the (former) Department of Primary Industry. I had grown up on a wheat farm in New South Wales so I always felt a close connection to the work we do,” she says.
Ms Stewart is currently manager of investment cycle and business improvement, and over the years has held roles including Board Secretary, administration coordinator, panel coordinator, contracts coordinator, and was responsible for business processes and procurement.
Ms Stewart has watched the organisation grow in response to the increasing need for grains research, development and extension, and seen significant changes also in the way the GRDC does business: “Technology now plays a far greater role in helping manage the complex administration of business within the corporation.
“We now target specific investment areas for research rather than casting a broad net and seeing what comes up. There is a much greater emphasis in pursuing adoption of the products of the research and development work sponsored by the corporation. This includes things such as new varieties, decision-support apps and targeted alerts.”
Ms Stewart says there have been many highlights of her time with the GRDC.
“Meeting so many wonderful people in a broad range of roles in the grains industry is certainly one. I have travelled extensively throughout rural Australia, particularly during the period when I was the Western Panel coordinator, and met researchers and growers undertaking very innovative projects.
“I have also been involved in some unusual work-related activities that were a lot of fun, including sailing on a yacht among the dolphins off Esperance and abseiling down a rock face in the Blue Mountains on a team-building day.”
Ms Stewart and her husband now plan to travel, as well as devote more time to a local soccer club with which they are involved.
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