Getting to know ADF Director, Simone Jolliffe
Posted on Monday, December 01, 2014 - Category: In the News
Simone Jolliffe joined the Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) Board in January 2014. Simone’s passion for agriculture was fostered by her family and a childhood spent on a cattle farm. Her interest in agriculture was further developed through her studies at the University of New England in Armidale, where she completed her Bachelor of Rural Science.
Raised on a beef property, Simone has embraced the commitment, intensity and challenges of dairy since joining her husband, Neil, on the Jolliffe farm in 2000. Situated on the Murrumbidgee River, near Wagga Wagga, NSW, Neil and Simone purchased the property in 2008. Farming with her husband and young family, Simone is involved in all aspects of the business from livestock and pastures, through to finances and human resource management.
Simone has been on the board of Dairy NSW since 2010, and became Deputy Chair in 2013. She is also the current Chair for the Inland Elite Dairy Network, and a mother to three school-aged children.
What challenges did you overcome shifting from beef farming to dairy farming when you married Neil?
The biggest challenge was the everyday commitment to dairy farming, most certainly the early morning starts! In terms of nutrition and livestock management, I was able to transfer these skills over quickly, however the human resource side has definitely been a challenge as the business has grown and we have engaged more staff.
Why is it important for you to be involved in all aspects of your dairy farm?
Neil and I are definitely a package deal, meaning that right from the outset we have always participated in joint decision-making. We also bring unique skills to the partnership.
After school I went on to further my studies at university, so I bring a different aspect when we’re reviewing decisions. Neil on the other hand, went straight from school to the farm. As a result, he has always had the hands-on experience and skills that I didn’t necessarily have when I began dairy farming.
This approach enables us to bring different perspectives to decision-making, contributing towards robust debate and ultimately, a business we are both proud of.
Since elected to the ADF Board in January this year, what has your experience been like?
It has definitely been a challenge. As I had not been previously directly involved with ADF, I had a lot of homework to do at the beginning! I have certainly found the experience very engaging and I continue to enjoy the different aspects and approaches to policy-making which complements the work I’ve previously done with Dairy Australia and DairyNSW in the R,D&E (research, development and extension) space.
You have been an active member on the DairyNSW Board over the past four years, what leadership skills do you believe you bring to the ADF Board?
I consider myself to be inclusive, a broad-thinker and encompassing of all aspects of thinking in decision-making. I certainly take all my board roles very seriously and would like to think that I am a well-considered and an active participant, regardless of what board I’m sitting on.
DairyNSW’s Board is different from other Regional Development Program (RDP) Boards as we have Regional Development Groups that sit under us – similar to ADF’s Board and National Council. From this experience, I believe I bring the importance of understanding the structure of member groups to ADF’s Board.
How important is grassroots support to ADF and the broader industry?
It’s the silver bullet! I ultimately think most things are grassroots driven – decisions don’t get made top-down without support from the grassroots level. That’s because ideas and original concepts are usually driven from a grassroots level, which are then refined through the process and improved upon, to ultimately be endorsed and implemented at a national level. We can’t lose that. It doesn’t matter wherever you are in agriculture, you cannot remove that grassroots culture and approach of individual thoughts, concepts and ideas.
You have previously described yourself as someone who is always prepared to “roll up your sleeves”, what does this mean and how do you think you apply this approach to your leadership role at ADF?
Once I’ve committed to something, I will do whatever it is that needs to be done. Developing DairyNSW’s Strategic Plan was an example of this, where I attended workshops in multiple NSW regions with an open ear to hearing the good and the bad from our stakeholders. Whilst there were many difficult conversations to be had, the most important part was being receptive to hearing the ugly truth – which I certainly did plenty of.
These awkward situations often take guts, yet they are so important to understanding and being able to address the real issues our farmers are faced with everyday. In this particular example, from the feedback I gathered, the DairyNSW Board felt positive that we were driving a strategic plan which encapsulated what our stakeholders wanted and we also had the right tools in place to accurately measure on delivering these outcomes.
What are some of the most important policy issues for ADF to focus on in 2015?
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) restructure is going to be really critical for us as an organisation, and it will be essential that we maintain engagement with NFF through this process. We need to have a clear understanding about what is imperative to our organisation and how this can be aligned with NFF.
In addition, we need to ensure there is effective consolidation of the last 12 month’s successful work, particularly around the China FTA outcome and ensuring it comes into fruition soon.
Being a busy mum, wife, dairy farmer and dedicated industry leader, how do you manage your time?
I am really well supported at home, with a very understanding husband and three very independent and capable children, who are very accepting of what mum does. I am also a ‘list girl’ who is meticulously organised knowing when things have to be done!
If you could impart a single line of advice onto Australian women working in dairy, what would it be?
Stand up and be counted.
It’s so important to ensure woman feel counted and not afraid to have an opinion or to speak up. Real results are achieved when different perspectives are considered – each of us has value to give.
I think dairy tends to be more accepting of the skills and knowledge women bring to the table than other commodities, and this has resulted in better gender balance representation at all levels from local discussion groups; to state and national levels.
We only have to look at DairyNSW’s 50/50 male and female split Board and two out of five of ADF’s Board Directors being female to see there is a huge amount of opportunity for women in dairy leadership roles.