Partners progress report by Debbie Thiele, National Coordinator, Partners in Grain

The members of the national reference group for 'Partners in Grain': (from left) Marg Cover (Q), Betty Heitman (WA), Jeanette Long (SA), Nickie Berrisford (Vic), Debbie Thiele (National Coordinator), Pam Krieg (NSW), Jane Allwright (Tas), Anne Heazlewood (Tas), Di Bunnett (Vic), Janelle Watson (NSW), Merna Cumow (National Chairman), Annie Pfeffer (Q), Vicki McAllister (WA) and Judy Wilkinson (SA).

'NATIONAL PARTNERS in Grain' held a national reference group meeting at Gatton College in August, to review achievements and to map direction and actions for the future of the project.

The project, which is supported by growers and the Federal Government through the GRDC, is developing significant links with industry, and the meeting at Gatton, sponsored by AWB Ltd and attended by reference group members from every graingrowing state in Australia, is a reflection of these industry links.

The grains industry is an ever-changing environment for the group to work in, so the first activity at Gatton involved sharing research, with grain industry overviews from individual states, and a national perspective presented by Allen Winney.

As part of the changing needs of the industry, recent activities have included a state-focused, industry partnership in SA with the company UGH, to deliver 'Understanding your agricultural (grain) shares, and the roles and responsibilities of company directors'. About 150 farming families were represented at eight workshops held at different locations throughout SA. Also of considerable interest are practical financial skills workshops for farm or small business managers to be held in Victoria at St Arnaud on 12 November and Lilydale on 30-31 November.

"Farming partners expressed a need to understand the issues of share ownership and company structures and directors' roles and responsibilities, which are now such a part of their grains businesses, and 'Partners in Grain' is able to facilitate that understanding," Merna Curnow, chairman of the national reference group, commented.

As the meeting at Gatton progressed, it became increasingly evident how nationally interactive the project has become. From 'Farm machinery decision making' workshops, delivered in WA by presenters identified and based in SA, to 'Grain marketing and e-commerce' workshops coordinated from Victoria and presented across state borders to SA and NSW.

The flexibility of the project is supported by its grower-driven, state-based, reference groups, and each state has a part-time coordinator facilitating workshop activities. Membership of these reference groups constantly changes as activities of the group evolve.

In the year ahead the national reference group hopes to increase integration with current GRDC-supported activities, including encouraging a lot more women and young people to attend and to have the confidence to also be involved in _fi.~d and crop days, and farming systems groups across the grain states.

Considerable progress has been made, from encouraging women to learn crop agronomy and integrated financial and environmental management, to holding the highly successful 'Young Graingrowers Forums', developed and organised by Nickie Berrisford, to focus on the future needs of young graingrowers. These forums, built on previous Graingrowers Association conferences, will be rolled out nationally, with sessions planned for NSW and SA in early 2003.

Program 6 Contact: Ms Debbie Thiele 08 8584 6571 fax 08 8584 5410; email dathiele@sa.ozland.net.au