In 2018 Catherine became a household name after she submitted a confidential sexual harassment complaint about the then-Agricultural Minister, Barnaby Joyce. Her name was leaked to the press and her life was sent into turmoil.
Two years later, Catherine is stronger than ever. She is keen to help other women develop their leadership skills as well as coming up with solutions and “filling the gaps” in her community and the agriculture industry.
Women’s Agenda recently sat down with Catherine to ask her some questions
What needs to happen in agriculture in order to encourage gender equity?
Fundamentally we need to continue to build confidence and capacity in women. It’s going to take two things. It’s going to take men to step up and support [women], but it will also take rural women to step up and own their own space. You can’t in life, continue to expect people to do things for you. Enabling and giving confidence to women, and acknowledging that their skills are relevant, that they’re valued, will allow women to stand with their whole self and present themselves to the world.
So, having the confidence to put yourself forward, as a woman, for these positions plays an important role in increasing the participation of women in leadership roles?
Absolutely. The Diversity in Leadership program that the NFF, the Agrifutures Rural Women awards are huge – all of those things invest in the future of ag and rural women’s leadership development.
Mentoring is hugely important. I am such a big fan of promoting other women. Of reaching out and pulling people along with me. We need to start promoting other women. For example, when I get a public speaking gig and they ask for suggestions – I will always suggest another woman. Three or four options. We also need other types of diversity: do we have an indigenous person, do we have someone from another culture, a disabled person…the list goes on.
What has been the best thing in your career, so far?
That is a really interesting question. I have never been asked that. I love seeing other people achieve goals. I love it when someone gets celebrated and they have no idea how awesome they were. It inspires me when people overcome a challenge…I have been there.
What kept you going when you went through really challenging times?
My sister came to me and said: “Missy, I know this is really horrible and awful, but it won’t last forever.” I thought: OK I need to be really grounded and present in how absolutely awful this is right now, but I never let go of the fact that it would get better. It does get better. I never lost that vision that things would improve, and they did.
What are you passionate about?
Age has given me experience and helped me to work out what I am good at. I’m a gap filler. I am passionate about rural and regional Australia. I’m also passionate about people. I have a knack for seeking out a gap that is going to make a difference for an industry or a community and filling that gap. At the moment, my little community of Tumbarumba [in between Albury and Wagga] has been totally annihilated by the fires. There’s a quagmire of services and support and misinformation and information – everyone is doing a fantastic job but nobody has an over-arching leadership role. That is probably something I will do.
Where is there space for innovation in Ag?
On a broader scale, I think there is space for commercialisation of ecosystem services. Instead of relying on government to pay for it, I think that government resources are going to be constantly diminished, and we need to think outside the box, and stop relying on government.