New generation changing the face of agriculture
11 October 2023
A new generation is changing the face of Australia’s agriculture industry with a growing number of young women and people from diverse cultural backgrounds entering the industry.
Westpac’s Regional Champions and Changemakers Report 2023 highlights the generational change that has seen a 30 per cent increase in people aged 25 to 29 in the industry since 2006.
Westpac analysis of ABS Census data shows the number of young females working in agriculture has significantly increased, up 42 per cent compared to 15 years ago, in the 25 to 34 year age group. They also make up nearly half of bachelor degree qualified workers, despite only representing one third of this age group.
This generation is also more culturally diverse with over half of agriculture workers aged 20 to 39 with one or more parents born overseas, compared to only 20 per cent for 60 to 69 year old workers.
Westpac National General Manager, Regional Commercial & Agribusiness, Peta Ward, said it was exciting to see the generational change taking place.
“Agriculture is a significant contributor to our national economy and it is vital that we continue to grow and attract a pipeline of talent to this important industry.
“The jobs available in agriculture today have never been more interesting or more diverse, with broader appeal to a younger generation who are drawn by the increasing role of technology and innovation, a greater focus on sustainability, new scientific advancements and more,” she said.
“This is an exciting time for the industry and it’s important that we continue the momentum to fully realise this opportunity. Agriculture related degrees and skills-based training courses provide an essential avenue to engage with young people and set them up for a long and successful career in the industry, along with industry-based programs,” Ms Ward said.
In collaboration with AgriFutures, Westpac surveyed a group of more than 30 past and present participants in the Horizon Scholars Program to better understand the current opportunities and challenges from the industry’s emerging leaders.
Many of the Scholars highlighted the need for more opportunities to expand their networks and relationships and help them move towards industry and community leadership roles. In response, Westpac will be organising events in regional NSW to give emerging leaders the opportunity to meet and engage with existing industry and community leaders.
“The diversity of skills, values, interests and ideas this new generation of people is bringing to the industry is invaluable,” Ms Ward said.
Ms Ward said that succession planning is critical to the sector’s future growth and sustainability. Westpac’s report highlights that the direct effects of a lack of young people entering the industry previously has led to far fewer workers aged 35 to 59 remaining in the industry now than in 2006.
“Navigating succession remains a challenge for many farming businesses but is vital for future growth and prosperity. Encouragingly, we are seeing some new and innovative ways that families are approaching this challenge which allows them great flexibility while investing in the productivity of their farms and vitality of their communities,” she said.
 Westpac analysed and compared data from both the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2006 and 2021 Census of Population and Housing that provides a comprehensive picture of how the shape and profile of the agriculture workforce has changed over the past 15 years including attributes such as workers’ age, gender, ethnicity, education, labour force status, income and occupation.