In response to Annabelle Cleeland’s article – “Dr Swan’s lucrative flight from AWI’s nest”, posted on Farmonline of the 26th of October 2017.
First, let’s correct the assertion that I am ‘raking in’ an estimated $3,000 per day as part of a ‘lucrative consulting contract’, as Annabelle reported. I’m sorry to disappoint, but I have charged for my time at the much less impressive average rate of $1,097 per day for my involvement in the 11 ‘Realising Performance Potential’ (RPP) workshops delivered since my departure from AWI in April 2017. This reflects the fact that each workshop I have delivered has involved 1 day in-the-field presenting (charged at $1,500 per day), and an average of 1.1 additional days spent preparing, travelling, analyzing results, and reporting back to AWI (at approximately $750 per day).
I have also sought reimbursement for an average of $1,045 in costs directly incurred in my attendance at each of these regional workshops (such as Virgin and REX flights, car rental, meals, accommodation etc.). These expenses, which make up 31% of what I’ve billed, were evidenced by receipt, in accordance with AWI policy.
This $1,097 per day average I have charged for my time in delivering 11 RPP workshops is superficially equivalent to the General Manager’s salary I received when working at AWI, although realistically somewhat lower since the overhead costs of consultant practice need to be deducted. It is also less than what Lifetime Ewe Management facilitators are paid per day of group facilitation, and many other AWI contractors and researchers charge.
Development and piloting of extension approaches to drive up the lifetime performance of Merino ewes was an investment focus and target in the 2016-17 AWI Operational Plan, and RPP was the outcome ‘product’ developed. I had primary responsibility for developing the workshop and all content and exercises, and had personally delivered the five initial pilot workshops and reported the results to the chief executive and Board in early 2017. Completion of the piloting aspects of the project (AWI project ON-00400)) was one activity I’d identified for the chief executive where, post departure, I could assist AWI at their discretion to complete an important operational task relating to Plan targets, in which I had been directly involved, and where there was no ready and experienced alternative deliverer.
The five initial Pilot workshops and the 11 subsequently conducted since 1 May 2017 have been a great success. 316 have attended the total of 16 days conducted across regional NSW, VIC, and SA, including 61 university Ag Science students. When surveyed, attendees report an 90 per cent average satisfaction rating (between ‘Very Good’ and ‘Excellent’), and 100pc rated the day as useful, beneficial, and were prepared to recommend the course to others.
It is a great product, and timely, and it is one of the legacy items I am most proud of from my time at AWI. My hope is that AWI will commit to a longer-term national, multi-year program of funding delivery of these workshops, including the needed train-the-trainer component - which was always the intent. My concern is that the destructive personality- and agri-politics we’ve recently seen will damage the prospects of this occurring.
Relatively few people in our industry have had the privilege to be an AWI employee, as I have. For that reason, I’d like to conclude with an observation – which is that wool industry agripolitics is always destructive to the operational staff of AWI – to their morale, their confidence, and their ability to deliver timely outcomes for growers. I’d ask that this be kept in mind when issues of AWI performance are in debate.