Supporting emerging leaders in ag

27.09.17

When AgriFutures Australia sponsored one of the youngest recipients of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) we knew there was a trailblazer in the making.

Rebecca Milliken, 29, was chosen along with 32 others from more than 350 applicants to participate in the iconic 15-month program, which takes place over five sessions across Australia and Indonesia.

The program traditionally selects people in their 30s to 50s, however Bec represents our focus on emerging leaders and demonstrates the leadership qualities we are hoping to foster in young people across Australian agriculture.

Bec is also the first ever next-generation participant of the ARLP program. Her father Peter was a participant in Course 6.

“Bec had participated in AgriFutures Australia programs such as GrowAg and the Regional Innovation Conversations series. We had seen her leadership skills and she was the right match for us to sponsor,” said John Harvey, AgriFutures Australia Managing Director.

She recently returned from the first session of the program, which was based in the Kimberley where the group had no phones, emails or contact with loved ones.

“The remoteness of the Kimberley removes the participants from the distractions of modern day life. This enabled them to focus on their contribution as leaders in their community, industry and workplace,” said Matt Linnegar, Chief Executive of the Australia Rural Leadership Foundation.

Bec said the group was then broken into smaller groups of seven.

“We were put in environments where we were put under pressure and had to respond to situations whilst fatigued, stressed and working with people who were mere strangers,” she said

“It was through these learning experiences that trust and bonds quickly developed.

“We went from being strangers to people we would trust with our lives.”

The program pushes participants outside of their comfort zones, both physically and mentally.

‘I wasn’t too concerned about my fitness going into the Kimberley, as I play plenty of sport and I run, however when you add in fatigue, stress and mental exhaustion you really have to push yourself to get through challenges,” said Bec.

“Allowing yourself to be supported by your team and working for the good of the team was essential.

‘The remoteness of the Kimberley, while not being distracted by the everyday hustle and bustle of a mobile phone and email really allowed me to step back from my everyday thinking and focus on the impact I want to make as a leader.’

This open-style experiential learning is a skill she has integrated into her position as Group Human Resources Coordinator for Delta Agribusiness, which employees more than 200 people across 25 plus locations.

Another poignant part of the session was the group’s exposure to indigenous Australians.

“To be taken to sacred sites and hear first-hand from indigenous leaders about their family history and the history of the Kimberley was a truly special experience,” said Bec

She called it an eye-opening experience and made her want to learn more about the indigenous people around her hometown of Wagga Wagga. The experience also made her more determined to stand up to racial misconceptions that still exist today in Australia.

Bec grew up on a sheep and cattle property outside Hay, which is now run by her twin brother Nick.

“I remember working in the paddocks as a little kid and taking days off school for shearing and lamb marking,” she said.

These formative years shaped Bec’s love for agriculture, which is an area she is passionate about.

It was also during her school years in Hay that Bec’s leadership skills began to shine. As a senior high school and then university student, she taught swimming at the Hay pool because the closest swim teachers were in Griffith, 134km away.

After a gap year working at a winery and then travelling around Western Europe and the United Kingdom, she studied Commerce and Asian studies at the Australian National University in Canberra.

“I wanted to be in business, and this is why I chose to study Asian Studies and Bahasa Indonesian” she said.

After university, Bec went travelling around Australia, working on cattle stations in southwest Queensland and the Northern Territory before teaching swimming and working as a life guard in Darwin.

Wanting to escape outdoors work during the wet season, she applied for a temporary administration position, but the recruiting agency, Hays Specialist Recruitment, identified her potential and coaxed her to work for them.

Fast forward seven years and Bec’s role at Delta Ag brings together her love of agriculture and passion for helping people. This role spans recruitment, learning and development, employee and workplace relations, talent management, organisation development, leadership and coaching, to injury management and workplace health and safety.

“I love helping people realise their potential. I’m passionate about creating environments where people can grow and develop and in turn create a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration for the ag sector, through challenging people and the status quo,” she said.

“I enjoy working with teams of people, capacity building and getting the most out of people.”

The second ARLP Course 24 session will be held in Toowoomba in November.