Catherine Chicken has worn many hats and embodies adaptability – the key to a bright future for agriculture

15.10.20

To celebrate International Day of Rural Women, we are shining a light on some of the incredible women from regional, rural and remote parts of Australia who we get to work with at AgriFutures Australia. One of these incredible women is Catherine Chicken.

Catherine is the Deputy Chair of our AgriFutures Thoroughbred Horses Advisory Panel. It was a winding path that led Catherine to this position, but in Catherine’s eyes, such adaptability is what makes women key to the future of agriculture.

Catherine was born and raised in suburbia, but a brief stint in country New Zealand as a child inspired her to pursue a rural lifestyle as a veterinarian. Her thirty plus year career as an equine clinician took her to Scone in the Hunter Valley, after time spent in mixed practice in rural NSW and equine practice in Newmarket, UK. More recently, Catherine has developed an appreciation for pathology and laboratory work, and a strong interest in facilitating equine research, even to the extent of attaining a PhD after many years as an equine clinician. It is this mixed background, adapting in industry and research, that makes Catherine such a valuable member of the Advisory Panel and wider industry.

“I, like most others in my industry, love working with horses. Spending time day-to-day in the presence of such majestic animals is a pure joy. I have always gained significant satisfaction in seeing problems addressed and solutions found. So, segueing into research that addresses issues of importance for the thoroughbred industry was not really surprising and continues to be rewarding and satisfying,” said Catherine.

Catherine Chicken

“Having had experience on both sides of the fence, I can see what the biggest issues are for the thoroughbred industry and through my work with the Advisory Panel, can connect the right researchers to problems they can solve. A lot of problems get resolved through relationships and connecting the right people,” continued Catherine.

Recognising how challenging the veterinary profession can be, Catherine is currently also working with the Australian Veterinary Association as a mentor for young veterinarians, adding to the list of accomplishments and adaptations over her career. Catherine believes that the array of opportunities she has had over her career have been shaped by her changing interests and that there are many opportunities for women in agriculture.

“Opportunities abound for women, and men for that matter, in agriculture at the moment with ag being one of the main pillars of the Australian economy. The changing face of ag in response to challenges brought about particularly by climate change mean the traditional model of ag will continue to adapt and, by doing so, provide previously unrecognised opportunities for women in the sector. A strong future for Australian ag and the changing world in which we live means there will be on-going roles in all sectors of ag for women who are driven to see a future that is sustainable and equitable,” said Catherine.

Catherine believes that the ability of women to adapt quickly is key to their future success in agriculture.

“Women are, and will continue to be, a big part of the horse industry and should aim high, to become leaders in their chosen fields. By doing so, they give confidence for others to follow. Women are well placed as lateral thinkers and problem solvers, given most have had to adapt to changing roles throughout their lives. Therefore, women are well suited to finding solutions to the large and difficult problems facing agriculture and humanity more broadly, by virtue of their ability to think outside the square.”

Catherine’s advice to women wanting to enter the horse industry is to just ask.

“If you feel strongly about wanting to work in the horse industry, or in ag more generally, there are ample opportunities to do so. In all facets of the industry from stud work to racing, as well as in RD&E, there are many opportunities for young people to get involved. Don’t be afraid to reach out to express your interest through industry bodies such as the Thoroughbred Breeders Association and even Agrifutures Australia – a phone call could change your future direction.

International Day of Rural Women

We have launched a hashtag #hatsofftoruralwomen across our social media channels and encourage you to use this hashtag and share the stories of the rural, regional and remote women you work with and the reasons why they inspire you.

For more information about the United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women, please visit: https://www.un.org/en/observances/rural-women-day