Laura Phelps is a political AgWoman, working with the Australian Federal Government in Canberra, yet experience has taught her the opportunities for a career within agriculture are endless. She has worked with farming organisations and producer groups and gained valuable skills and insights from developing nations, all of which aid her job as a non-tariff measures project manager with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Laura believes she was born to work in agriculture as her father is a vet and an agronomy consultant and her mother an animal scientist who has been championing Climate Change since the late 1980s. From her early years on the rolling plains around Moree in northern New South Wales, to a quarantine station near Melbourne, Laura stayed true to her connection with agriculture. She topped the state for the subject while at high school and went on to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at university.
While at university Laura had the opportunity to travel to Indonesia and Laos where she worked with local farmers on pesticide use and management. She visited subsistence and community farming operations and came to understand agriculture has the power to transcend language and cultural barriers.
Back in Australia Laura began her political journey by interning with NSW Farmers, a state farmer representative body, and she now sits on the board of the NSW Young Farmers Council as Deputy Chair. She also found work with Australian Pork Limited, which gave her experience in talking to producers and through this was sponsored to become a Young Farming Champion with Art4Agriculture. The Young Farming Champion’s Program enlists potential agricultural leaders and gives them the skills needed to share their story with the public. As part of the program Laura went into schools and spoke to students about her role within the pork industry.
The communication and presentation techniques she learnt from the Young Farming Champions Program, combined with her various roles with producer and representative bodies, made Laura’s next step into politics a smooth one, when she moved to Canberra to take up a position with animal exports for the Department of Agriculture.
Laura is now part of a team developing policies for trade between Australia and other nations and she appreciates her office work as an AgWoman. “I was never going to be an in-field agronomist. I kill plants. But what really excites me is the stakeholder and communication side of agriculture and to be able get out and talk to farmers. I love it because I get to work across different issues and commodities to identify trade barriers and most importantly I love it because I get to work with different industries.”
Laura, it sounds like you have gleaned a wealth of knowledge from many angles of the Industry, something that is super important for those in leadership and advocacy roles. The primary industries is lucky to have leaders such as you!