Building resilience and skills for drought affected farming and rural families

The workshop was designed to help families negotiate succession for their farms and other rural family businesses

Fifty-three people from 36 families attended a one-day workshop in the North West NSW town of Walgett where they were given insights and practical skills about succession planning for their farms and other rural family businesses.

The North West Plains Sustainability Group (NWPSG) conducted the workshop funded by Link Group, a Landcare Australia partner.

From a member survey of the NWPSG, succession planning was identified as the highest priority for their Strategic and Business Plan 2016 – 2020. Over 60% of respondents were over the age of 50 and of those aged over 50, more than half identified that they had little or no succession planning in place.

Critically, succession planning (or lack thereof) was identified as more limiting to the family business than climate variability; weed and pest animal pressures; road and rail conditions and inadequate telecommunication networks.

Held at the Walgett Sporting Club the workshop was well received by participants and local resident Allan observed, “The number of people in attendance for such a (small) area is outstanding. There is an obvious interest in the group; a real thirst for this information. I am impressed by the number of participants.”

The community leadership seminar targeted multi-generation, mixed-sex, people from family run and corporate farms and industry personnel with an aim to provide them with skills to help mitigate drought impact on family and business life.

One of the key highlights of the workshop was information on personal and professional skills given to facilitate succession planning.

Workshop speakers with a few of the participants

The seminar also had an emphasis on personal development with the viewpoint that as skills and support in this area are further developed it will enable more effective leadership and resilience within the family and business environments.

Walgett families listened to a key note presentation from Allan Parker a micro-behavioural scientist, as he described the nuances of succession planning and its deep connection to communication, body language and compassion.

“Overall, the day was designed to help families negotiate succession planning with increased clarity, calm and consideration, with the necessary management of emotions, resulting in more harmonious and more productive family business.

As pressures of drought conditions continue in the region, it is more important than ever to build understanding and resilience within families and community leaders to ensure they stay in the area and continue to prosper.” said Allan.

Following his lead presentation there was a series of rotating group workshops enabling attendees to hear about practical examples of succession planning. These groups were assisted by James Hamilton from Cultivate Advisory and Claire Booth from Duffy Elliot Lawyers.

Topics included family constitution, breaking down assumptions, understanding human characteristics, “me” vs “we”, gut vs emotion, relationship building, boundaries, decisions making, fear, non-verbal communication.

Delivered on the day was a clear framework to help each generation develop their thinking around the issue of succession planning and what it really means. “This has lessened a lot of anxieties. We’ve gathered the tools we need to keep this process moving; we feel safe and happy.” said an attendee of the workshop.

It also offered the opportunity to hone participants’ decision making and business skills, and improve their communication, so that business can grow and improve. All the while, making it clear that succession planning is about transferring skill and knowledge not just assets.

Many Walgett locals support opportunities to be part of programs that can help with challenges in the area with a resident saying, “Today took me out of my comfort zone but I will reflect back and think about this day and how it’s been a bloody good thing.”

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