Last chance to apply for leadership program

Last chance for Victorian dairy farmers to apply for Australian Rural Leadership Program

Australian Dairyfarmer News
NEW DIRECTION: Ronnie Hibma learned how to reflect and analyse better through the Australian Leadership Program.

NEW DIRECTION: Ronnie Hibma learned how to reflect and analyse better through the Australian Leadership Program.

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Victorian dairy farmers who aspire to be industry and community leaders can now apply for a scholarship to enter the prestigious 2020 Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP).

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Victorian dairy farmers who aspire to be industry and community leaders can now apply for a scholarship to enter the prestigious 2020 Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP).

"The ARLP scholarship gives aspiring dairy leaders an opportunity to apply for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that immerses participants in a series of unique experiences to develop their leadership capabilities," Gardiner Dairy Foundation chief executive officer Dr Clive Noble said.

The scholarship is part of Gardiner Dairy Foundation's continued support for the development of people and communities by investing in leadership programs that strengthen the dairy industry.

Gardiner Dairy Foundation invests $55,000 each year to fund a Victorian dairy applicant to participate in the ARLP program alongside about 30 successful applicants from diverse backgrounds, industries and communities.

Denison, Vic, dairy farmer Ronnie Hibma, also funded by Gardiner, described the program as "inspiring" and said it would create life-time friendships and benefits.

"It's very in-depth, experiential learning, very high calibre and diverse," he said.

"I'd encourage anyone in the dairy industry to try it."

Twelve years ago, Mr Hibma started his Nexus Herd Development business; six years ago he bought a dairy farm at Denison and last year he added a nearby cropping farm to his portfolio.

This year has been one of reinvention and life-changing experiences.

He and his wife Julia have welcomed their first child, daughter Esme, and he has taken the next step in his personal development by completing the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP), supported by the Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

Mr Hibma admits he's not averse to risk and hoped the leadership program would help him to be prepared for what lies ahead.

"I've got a real passion for that type of education, though my goals have changed a bit in the past year," he said.

"At the time I put my name forward I was quite focused on governance but that's now on the backburner a bit.

"We have a three-month old baby and have branched out into crop farming so what I thought would be a five to 10-year goal is now probably 20-30 years.

"A baby changes your focus a bit, and the program helped me to re-focus by learning techniques around reflection and working out my priorities.

"I'm now more aware of what I want to do and where I'm at."

The Hibmas live in Melbourne but maintain close ties to Gippsland.

They oversee their 400-cow dairy farm, which is operated by sharefarmers; Mr Hibma works with older brother John on their joint cropping farm and the herd development business crosses the region.

He describes the leadership program as "inspiring" and expects it to create life-time friendships and benefits.

"It's very in-depth, experiential learning, very high calibre and diverse," he said.

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The ARLP brings together a group of about 30 people each year and aims to develop stronger leadership within the communities and industries of rural, regional and remote Australia.

It takes place over 15 months and includes five sessions across Australia and Asia.

"We started with a two-week session in the Kimberley Ranges with a focus on developing self-awareness and branching out from that to family and community," Mr Hibma said.

"I'm a big believer in preparing yourself for opportunities, without necessarily knowing what they'll be.

"After the leadership program, I feel I can position myself to take any opportunity that comes up."

While developing his leadership skills, Mr Hibma also knows the value of listening and ensures his farms and business are supported by "great people and structures", which has led him to create advisory boards for his dairy farm and herd development business.

"The board brings together a combination of skills to oversee the business. I can get their opinions and insights without any obligations. I'm very comfortable with risk but the advisory board has some more conservative minds that hold me accountable.

"There's real value in putting the information together for quarterly meetings and calling on the experience and diversity of members."

One of Mr Hibma's ARLP alumni is on the board and he works with another on the East Gippsland Food Cluster.

"The main changes I've felt from doing the program are my self-awareness and understanding, but I've also made life-long friends," Mr Hibma said.

"Everyone is from different industries but we have so much in common and the program breaks down walls, so you feel comfortable speaking to them about things."

Mr Hibma praised the Gardiner Dairy Foundation, which sponsors a Victorian dairy applicant each year, for supporting industry people to improve their skills.

"It is very valuable and I'd encourage anyone in the dairy industry thinking about it to try it," he said.

Dr Noble said Gardiner's sponsorship provided a pathway for Mr Hibma to develop his natural leadership skills.

"Supporting dairy farmers like Ronnie has always been a high focus area for the Gardiner Dairy Foundation. We know that with his training through the ARLP, he will continue to make a positive contribution to the industry," Dr Noble said.

Dr Noble said applicants must be willing to use their leadership skills for the benefit of the dairy industry after completing the program.

Applications for the 2020 ARLP scholarship are now open and will close on August 30.

Victorian dairy farmers interested in applying can visit https://rural-leaders.org.au/our-programs/arlp/ to submit their application.

This story first appeared on Australian Dairyfarmer

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