Influencing positive change in rural Australia through greater innovation, inclusion of gender and age, and respect for diverse backgrounds.
Some 180 kilometres north of Adelaide, lies the town of Spalding, bordering Nukunu and Ngadjuri country. Not far south of Spalding on Ngadjuri country is where you’ll find Natalie Sommerville, farmer, grazier, business owner and manager, mother and proud Torres Strait Islander, runs Windjara Ag and Euromina Holdings with her husband Dane.
Natalie’s own quest is one which drives her businesses and which has the potential to influence positive change in rural Australia when it comes to greater innovation, inclusion of gender and age, and respect for diverse backgrounds.
As the co-owner of livestock, broadacre dryland cropping and hay production enterprises, she is an advocate for sustainable agriculture and improved environmental landscape function for long-term production and biodiversity.
“I am passionate about sharing my farming, cultural and social knowledge and experiences to improve outcomes for both current and future generations. Volunteering on many community, industry and government boards including Grain Producers SA (GPSA) sub-committees, Ag Excellence Alliance and sharing my cultural background at schools, hopefully all helps to continue building a more resilient, diverse and sustainable future for us all,” Natalie explained.
Though Natalie is a very successful and well-known woman, this success didn’t come without its challenges along the way.
“Starting a farming business from scratch 15 years ago was risky and certainly came with its challenges, and still does with plenty of dry years. However, prejudice and racism challenges never go away. Sometimes more evident, other times more subtle - the later of course no better,” said Natalie.
Dealing with racism throughout her life, Natalie added that it’s the resilience of the strong men and women in and around her life that has given her the opportunities.
“I was taught from a young age about the importance of culture, tradition and a strong work ethic. I am so thankful to the men and women in my life whose resilience helped to shape me and my future. Family have played a big part in influencing my work ethic and values and love of agriculture. My grandparents on both sides were strong, caring and respectful of country. And all the elders that paved the way to make life easier for my journey and the future of First Nations peoples,” said Natalie.
When Natalie started farming, it was a unique prospect being a female farm manager, with only a handful in the district who called themselves farmers.
"It's a different story now, with many females in visible leadership positions and thankfully we as an industry are recognising this more.
“Boards function best with different perspectives and experiences brought to the table and it’s great to see more females in these advocacy positions,” Natalie said.
Natalie ends with some advice for women working in the same field as her:
“My advice for women is to never forget your ‘why’ and if you change direction that's okay.”
What’s next for Natalie?
“I'm keen to explore ways to increase employment opportunities in agriculture especially youth and others struggling to find work. There is plenty of work for skilled, trained, experienced workers especially in the grains industry but sometimes it’s difficult to gain experience if you don't have the door open for you. I am also working on an exciting bushfood business - watch this space!”
We hope the ‘Natalie’ shirt story will encourage you to influence positive change in rural Australia never forget your ‘why’.