EACH Australian producer feeds around 600 people, we grow 93 per cent of own food supply, export two thirds of our produce and farmers manage close to half of the nation’s land mass.
Astounding statistics surround agriculture’s contribution and the big ones are now well known.
However, it’s perhaps the lesser known facts and figures ticking away in the background that speak the loudest about the value of the sector to the Australian way of life.
Like the fact agriculture is the largest employer in many rural and remote communities with 26 per cent of its employees being indigenous.
For the country’s largest privately-owned beef producer, Consolidated Pastoral Company, contributing to the career development of indigenous people is not a formal policy pinned on the wall but rather an intrinsic value that has grown organically with the business.
CPC runs 15 stations across 5.5 million hectares of property, the vast majority in the north which interact with indigenous communities.
Chief executive officer Troy Setter said there was recognition within CPC that often people living in remote communities had not had the training opportunities or access to work experience that allowed them to be as work-ready as others.
Partnering with training organisations to bridge that gap was a way an agriculture business like CPC could give people an opportunity to catch up, he said.
CPC is a participant in the Real Jobs program run by the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association.
It’s progressive and innovative and up to 30 young indigenous people are recruited, trained and placed in pastoral jobs annually.
“They identify potential traditional Australians for station work and we take several each year,” Mr Setter explained.
“There is training, getting job fit, ensuring people have the right tools and experiences and simple things - like having a bank account set up for pay - but also it’s about ensuring people know what they are getting into with this work.
“That sort of preparation increases the rate of success enormously.”
CPC, which employs 180 full time workers during the dry season, also works with local communities in other like-minded employment programs but Mr Setter said there was even more to do in this area.
“We’d like to employ more locals and have more return each year. Ongoing employment from year to year, across all our employees, is very much our goal,” he said.
From stock work, to grader driving, maintenance, livestock care - Indigenous people at CPC are involved in all of the jobs available on a station.
Some have worked their way into management and supervisory roles and others have gone on to other companies to move up the ladder.
These are jobs in hot demand. CPC had several hundred applicants for its last round of 20 ringer jobs on offer.
So why invest in developing indigenous workers?
“Diversity in the workplace is important to us,” Mr Setter said.
“The whole team benefits from diversity, not just those getting the opportunity - whether it’s the fact we have close to 50 per cent female employees or our Indonesian or indigenous teams members.
“It’s also the right thing to do for the local communities our stations are so closely involved with.
“We lease several properties from traditional owners - that’s on commercial terms but we see it as a natural extension to employ local people.”