A scholar reflection from the Territory!

March 14, 2023

Our NT scholar Jane Ray (second from right) pictured with our inaugural international scholars, Theresa Wambon-Kambuy (left) and Merie Dada Unagi (right) from the Department of Agriculture & Livestock, Papua New Guinea pictured with Maddison Clonan and Helen Garner (Chair) from the NT Committee.

The Crawford Fund’s Annual Conference was held in August 2022. As well as bringing together the world’s leading experts in agricultural science, research, policy, development and industry to address the conference topic, the Crawford Fund is committed to encouraging the next generation in international agriculture for development to the event via scholarships awarded through our State and Territory committees and scholar supporters.

Our conference scholarship program started in 2010 in the hope that by experiencing the Crawford Fund conference and network, our special program of activities around the conference and being mentored by inspirational experienced researchers, young researchers would be inspired and energised to be more involved. The results have been fantastic, with a great mix of youth and experience at our flagship event each August and a growing and enthusiastic conference scholar alumni approaching 400.

Our competitive Conference Scholarships are offered to young people with a genuine interest in international agricultural research and development to attend the conference and a special set of activities that we have developed since the program commenced in 2010.

Our other activities to encourage university students and early career researcher include highlighting opportunities in volunteering for projects overseas through the Australian Volunteers Program;  our work with Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID), and our special student awards to enable students to be involved in overseas projects as part of their university study. Applications for these awards are now open!

Once again, we would like to thank our wonderful mentors, mentioned alongside the scholar they supported, who volunteer their time and offer valuable guidance, support and insights to the scholars throughout the conference.

One scholar from the Northern Territory attended the 2022 Crawford Fund conference supported by the NT Committee. One of the requirements of the scholarship is that each scholar provides us with a reflection on their experience. Her experience has been captured below:

Jane Ray, NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade
Mentor: Soytavanh Mienmany

The student award to attend the Crawford conference 2022 provided a terrific opportunity to learn about Australia’s overseas agricultural aid programmes and the Crawford fund’s role in agricultural development through collaboration and training. The topics covered at the conference were broad. They provided great insight into how agricultural aid programs fit within governmental policy, how programs are prioritised and the importance of soft diplomacy in the region. It was fantastic to attend a face-to-face event following the COVID years of zoom meetings, and the networking sessions were a highlight. Networking sessions were well structured and provided the opportunity to connect with a wide range of people in the overseas agricultural development community.

The Parliamentary conference program 2022 provided an excellent overview of the drivers and importance of aid in the region. The keynote address ‘Science for nourishing the world, sustainably’ given by Prof. Andrew Campbell, CEO of ACIAR, set the scene. The address noted that ACIAR has been delivering agricultural science to solve food security problems in developing countries through partnerships for 40 years. ACIAR’s research programmes have certainly made a positive difference to people’s livelihoods in many developing countries. Andrew also highlighted that we currently face three significant challenges to global food security, climate, COVID and conflict.

The conference session ‘Building agricultural and food innovation for the future’, chaired by Dr. Gabrielle Vivian-Smith, was particularly interesting. Dr Alison Bentley highlighted that wheat is pivotal to alleviating world hunger and that a multi-faceted and multi-layered response is required to stabilise the global wheat supply. Prof. Neena Mitter discussed the importance of research in developing sustainable agricultural solutions such as RNA-based biopesticides and BioClay technology.         

Attending the Sir John Crawford Memorial Address and networking dinner was a great privilege. This special event was held at the Great Hall, Parliament house. Dr Audrey Aumua’s speech was inspirational and provided great insight into the issues surrounding food and nutrition security in the Pacific islands. She pointed out that ‘it takes a village’ and that solutions must be about inclusive and comprehensive action. 

The scholars’ program was in addition to the Crawford conference and included a mentoring program. The RAID team did an excellent job running the additional events and networking sessions. The talks provided in the sessions were very informative. One of the take-home messages was the importance of developing personal relationships and learning to network effectively at such events. In addition, it was inspiring to hear from Australian volunteers about the program, their experience, what they got out of it, and where they are now.

Being paired with a mentor provided the opportunity to develop a professional relationship enabling knowledge transfer and enhanced networking opportunities. My mentor, Soy from Laos, is experienced working within ACIAR programs. She provided me with great insight into some of the agricultural challenges in Laos. In the future, we aim to develop a project working on banana diseases in the region, an area of mutual interest.