Michelle Smith: connecting people through love of the land

Michelle Smith, Agri Labour Australia's recently appointed Goondiwindi Regional Manager.

Michelle Smith, Agri Labour Australia's recently appointed Goondiwindi Regional Manager.

When it comes to life on the land, only those who have lived in rural and regional Australia really understand the struggles, motivators and challenges faced by our farmers.

For Michelle Smith, Agri Labour Australia's recently appointed Goondiwindi Regional Manager, her connection with the land started in childhood and has continued to draw her back ever since.

Established in the Goondiwindi community since 1994, Michelle is the perfect fit for Australia's leading agriculture recruitment firm, Agri Labour Australia, which has a number of long-term clients and workers in the area.

"Growing up on a working broadacre and livestock property in BoggabriAnchor, in NSW, I have found myself coming back time and time again to the land and the people who make their living facing the sometimes harsh realities of Mother Nature," Michelle said.

"They know I understand the struggles they face. I have had first-hand experience of droughts and floods and this goes a long way in making genuine connections and really understanding what help they need - especially in these tough times.

"I have worked with kids growing up in the bush, from running a mobile preschool to operating training programs for teenagers to help them be job ready.

"I believe it's my experience across all these sectors that has really helped me to gain a deep insight into what is needed by those doing the hard yakka of feeding Australia on properties across Australia and, more specifically, the Goondiwindi region."

After a decade based at North Start running her mobile preschool, "driving a truck full of toys to local halls and farms in regional towns", she accepted the role of Get Set for Work Co Ordinator with the Goondiwindi Training and Technology Centre in 2004.

Central to her work was delivering agricultural training packages and youth programs for locals aged 15 to 18 who needed help to enter the workforce.

"I had 18 weeks with groups of 15 students to get them job ready," Michelle said. "The program gave them a great foundation for some basic life skills and getting work ready for a career in agriculture.

Having seen how these programs change lives, I'm still passionate about advocating for young and indigenous people in rural areas."

Michelle has worked in agricultural recruitment since 2011, as a regional manager covering the South East Coast of Australia.

She has in-depth knowledge of cotton, grain, livestock and horticulture operations and is dedicated to finding the right agricultural workers for her diverse and wide ranging client base.

"As is the case with all industries, the best staff are being chased by the same people so it is important to be building solid relationships with them at every opportunity," Michelle said.

"That means delivering on your promises, which also means not committing to what you can't deliver - being true to your word and listening to clients and candidates alike to understand their needs.

"If you can establish a strong and sustainable strategy for attracting and retaining the right staff, you are already leaps and bounds ahead of the competition."

Michelle remains connected to the land outside work, and can often be found pursuing her passion for polocrosse. She is Secretary of the Goondiwindi Polocrosse Club and has been awarded the Queensland Polocrosse Management Award for her contribution to the game.

Michelle now happily spends a great deal of each day on the road, notching up 2000km every week.

"I am committed to being able to deliver real solutions for clients and that means taking the time to sit down with them over a cuppa and actually talk," she said.

"Sure, there is Skype and the phone and all ways of communicating these days but for me and the people living in the communities I work with, nothing is as effective or as nice as speaking face-to-face."