Nuff Blog 2: Ain’t you got ‘Nuff on your plate already?

On the feminist scale, I’m more on the Annabelle Crabbe end of the spectrum than Germaine Greer, so with that disclosure out of the way, I decided it was important to write a blog early on about what it means and feels like to be a woman in the Nuffield journey. I feel Jim Geltch, Jodie Dean, their team and the Nuffield Australia Board have quietly tried to encourage more women to apply in what has historically been a very prestigious, white, and male experience.

In September 2016 when the announcement was made as to who were the lucky recipients of the 2017 Nuffield Scholarships, I was overwhelmingly confronted with looks ranging from bewilderment to celebration to scorn.

Without a doubt the good ol’ Australian Tall Poppy Syndrome was alive and well. I was told with earnest warning that it would lead to imminent divorce and that our farm business would suffer and we would join ‘the queue of ex-Nuffield Scholars who sold their farms’ on completion of their studies.

I was quietly warned it would cost me $100,000 in addition to the generous bursary Rabobank had invested in my scholarship.

My law colleagues raised eyebrows and asked if I had left the legal profession to become a professional farmers’ wife, complete with late model Toyota Landcruiser, to refine my Victoria Sponge baking skills and ‘help out’ in the house and farm office.

A few people asked me how I could possibly leave my young son behind whilst I was jetting around the world on what they considered a junket trip.

Personally, I was shocked I had succeeded in jumping the 3 stage interview process (8 penetrating person panels). My gorgeous husband was not surprised at all – apparently I present more confidently than I feel on the inside. However, when the reality of 16 weeks of travel really began to sink in, my husband concluded we were both slightly mad to have even contemplated this journey, but now we were here, all he asked was I return with more confidence and if possible deliver a financial return to our farm business from any additional costs, lost income and time away from home, him and Lachlan. I promised that our business would never look the same again…

My gorgeous husband Brendan & son Lachlan

My gorgeous husband Brendan & son Lachlan

The truth is, it had been a bucket list item for me. Some people dream of bungee jumping or climbing Mount Everest, but for me, a Nuffield Scholarship was a vaguely unattainable title, reserved for the very best of farmers.

My old tennis buddy from my Goondiwindi days, Nigel Corish, was a 2014 scholar and I had quietly watched as a junior lawyer (before we bought our farm), how Nigel quietly transformed after his Nuffield journey. He was always a well respected operator, but now he is a leader in his community and industry. Humble, quietly spoken and chasing excellence in his field. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I thought I should apply. Lachlan was 12 weeks old when I applied. I knew he would be 1 when I left, and would be 16 months old by the time I finished. The child psychology text books told me he wouldn’t notice I was gone so long as we had consistent people in his life who he knew well. Enter side left Catherine, our Nanny. Together with my parents and Brendan’s mum, we created a spreadsheet for Lachlan’s wellbeing which would make an accountant smile. Seriously organised, groceries pre-ordered, babyfood for months stored in the freezer, a gardener and extra help on the farm and a community of supportive neighbours and friends, I felt we had it covered. In fact, when I got back after 26 nights away in Brazil, Brendan and ‘team Lachlan’ had done such a great job I was bloody redundant! Their new routines worked much better than mine and everyone was happy. Lachlan had stopped saying ‘mumma’ and ‘dada’ was everything, but after a week things returned to normal and it was as if I had never left.

For me, as a new mum, business woman and lawyer – I feel the greatest gift I can give our son is the best education money can buy, and a business which in 30 years time creates options. An option for our children to either continue in primary production, or passively invest in real estate. To ensure in 2047, our farming assets were of a size, type and quality which corporates, hedge funds or super funds would pay a premium should none of our children wish to continue in agriculture.

This is my vision: to look at the businesses and meet their people from around the world, and find out how we can transform our business from a typical ordinary Australian farm business to an extraordinary enterprise which creates options (code for seriously profitable), a happy, healthy family and employees, a sustainable environment and the ability to contribute to our local community.

I’m particular interested in the role that financial literacy plays in the transformation process of the typical Australian farm business (and this is the tangible direct focus of my research). Whilst I’m looking at balance sheets, business strategy and talking profit, I’m also keeping a close eye on succession, estate planning and the transfer of knowledge between the generations. As a lawyer working with a lot of farming families and their succession challenges and joys, the profitability of the farming enterprise is without doubt the key to a successful transition from one generation to the next.

Strategically placed Rabobank branding!

Strategically placed Rabobank branding!

Rabobank were interested in this vision and funded my Nuffield scholarship. Rabobank are not our bankers, but the Dutch multinational banking and financial services cooperative has always interested me in their pursuit of R&D, integration of succession with financial management and flexible banking products for the volatile farm business model.

I am extremely grateful that Rabobank supported not only my scholarship, but also Nuffield Australia as our lead sponsor.

So together Rabobank, my beautiful husband Brendan, Catherine, my parents, Brendans’ mum, our farm team, friends and neighbours have made this journey possible. It is absolutely the case that a village raises a child, and in this case it has also enabled a woman with a young son to tread where few have gone before.

The law firm in Dubbo is patiently waiting my return on 17 July 2017. In a world where female lawyers have ‘career slowdowns’ during their child-bearing years, actions speak louder than words: I’m extremely thankful when I asked to extend my maternity leave from 12 to 18 months, they didn’t throw my computer through a window!

In my next article/blog we get down to business: Blog 3: Singapore – leaving Nuffin’ to chance.

One thought on “Nuff Blog 2: Ain’t you got ‘Nuff on your plate already?

  1. Claire – this is a fantastic post!! Congratulations to you and Brendan and your team for taking the leap forward with the Nuffield journey. I am loving following your journey! Hope the GFP is going well for you! Jess


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