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Dominique Hinchliffe's success story

Dominique and her team leader heard about Dairy Australia’s DairySage program through the local Young Dairy Network; “I thought, there’s not going to be many chances in life where I'm going to be offered a mentor. I should do this while I can.”

Twenty four-year-old, Dominique Hinchliffe, grew up on a sugar cane farm. Her family also had beef cattle, a stud, and grew crops. When Dominque was fifteen, she started helping on her neighbour’s dairy during the school holidays and on weekends.

Dominque took six months off between finishing school and starting university and worked full time on the dairy. She started studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science at Gatton University and continued to work during the holidays.

Dominque’s resume fell into the hands of the team leader of the university’s onsite Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) dairy. In April 2016, she was asked to work with DAF, part-time, as a development officer; “it was a role between research and extension,” she said, “so I put information together for the extension officers based on research.”

Dominque started working full time with DAF when she finished the degree. She ran farm focus groups and became the facilitator of the Lockyer and Brisbane Valley group.

Dominique and her team leader heard about Dairy Australia’s DairySage program through the local Young Dairy Network; “I thought, there’s not going to be many chances in life where I’m going to be offered a mentor. I should do this while I can.”

DairySage establishes mentoring relationships by matching experienced mentors with individuals from all sectors of the dairy industry. Through the workshop, mentors and mentees connect to establish a personal development plan for the mentee, allowing them to learn directly from the experiences of their mentor.

Dominique was matched with mentor, Mal Maroske. Now retired, Mal has spent forty-five years working in the dairy industry with thirty-five of those years in extension roles.

“The industry has been good to me,” Mal said, “I felt it was my opportunity to give back to the industry. I’m pleased I took on the mentor role.”

Mal’s experience was perfect to help Dominique reach her career goals. He had also completed post-graduate study on how to run effective discussion groups, and at one stage was running up to six groups a month.

“My goal was to build confidence in facilitating discussion groups, speaking with farmers, presenting in front of an audience, and to fit better as a professional in my career,” Dominique said. “Mal really helped me, he came to all my discussion groups and we spent a lot of time on the phone planning and talking. I’d give my ideas and he’d give feedback.”

Dominique and Mal travelled together to the discussion groups. On the way they discussed what approach Dominique would use as the facilitator. While on the way home, they would evaluate what worked well, what could be improved, and what techniques could be used next time.

“Dominique showed passion for the industry,” Mal said. “Each skill I asked Dominique to try, she carried out extremely well. It was interesting to see the concept each time we went to a discussion. I think having a mentor there, watching over her shoulder, probably put pressure on her to give it her best shot.”

Mal felt that he too had benefited from DairySage; “It was good for me because I’ve been retired from the industry for nearly three years, it put me back in touch with the industry again and I had skills which I was able to pass on.”

Dominque recently accepted a job in Bundaberg with Burnett Mary Regional Group as an agricultural extension trainee; “On the way home from my interview, and when I got the job, I was on the phone to Mal telling him all about it,” she said.

The role is part of a pilot program, the Reef Extension Workplace Initiative, which is funded by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and coordinated by Queensland Farmer’s Federation. Through the program six graduates work for different organisations throughout the Great Barrier Reef catchment area. Dominique is placed with Burnett Mary Regional Group to do extension work within grazing, to improve the impact on the Reef.

“A lot of the keys things I learned with Mal – communicating with farmers and putting information together – is all very applicable,” she said.

Dominique has kept in touch with Mal since DairySage finished, and she highly values the relationship they have developed. “Being young, it can be very daunting starting out, but Mal has helped me. I’ll still call him and let him know how I’m going or get some advice. I know that if I call him, he’ll always answer,” she said.

And Mal agreed: “I really enjoyed working with Dominique. I have a friend for life and I expect her to ring me for advice,” he said. “I’d definitely put my hand up again for DairySage in the future.”

Dominique’s tip for starting a career in ag:

If there’s an opportunity to study ag at school, do it. If you don’t come from an agricultural background that doesn’t mean you won’t fit into the industry. Everyone starts somewhere and there’s lots of information from different organisations and websites. There’s many land-holders who would be willing to have you do work experience and learn on the job.

Mal’s tip:

Get an education first because agriculture is a highly skilled industry. You need to know the science behind what happens on a farm. There are many different jobs and roles – on a farm you milk, feed cows, provide nutrition, go into calf, produce calves, etc – it’s highly skilled.

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