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NFF wins two ‘Awards for Excellence’

16 September 2007

ON FRIDAY night the National Farmers’ Federation’s (NFF’s) Public Affairs team of Brett Heffernan and Emma Keogh won two prestigious Awards at the 2007 ACT Public Relations Institute of Australia’s (PRIA’s) ‘State Awards for Excellence’, presented during a gala ceremony at the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra.

Farmers: Australia’s Environmental Stewards’ won the Gold Award in the Public Affairs category for the NFF’s campaign to see government and the community formally recognise farmers in going ‘over and above their normal duty of care’ in delivering environmental outcomes. Environmental Stewardship has been an NFF policy priority since 1998, but only secured widespread support over 2006-07 to be funded as a world-first under this year’s Federal Budget.

The NFF also took out the Highly Commended Award under the Community Relations category for ‘Campaign for Australian Agriculture’ – the NFF’s community awareness program to positively reposition agriculture in the mindset of the broader community, especially among metropolitan Australians.

“Over the past 12-18 months, NFF’s communications have been overhauled, developing new positive messages with contemporary relevance to resonate with the broader community and reassert the important contribution farmers make today,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“We’ve been proactive in advancing modern farming – it is innovative, ultra- efficient and competitive, vital to the Australian economy and, just as importantly, environmentally-responsible and sustainable... issues that go to the very heart of the national interest.”

NFF’s General Manager – Public Affairs Brett Heffernan noted: “Somewhere along the way the sector simply forgot to tell the story of what farmers do... why they are important... especially in terms the rest of the community can accept and value. It’s no surprise, in that vacuum, that farming lost contemporary relevance and antiquated stereotypes lingered in many people’s minds.

“We’re turning that around – the job’s not done yet, but we’ve certainly captured greater public and key decision-maker acceptance of modern farming’s value. Awareness and recognition of the sector, and support for where it’s headed, are growing.

“Overcoming common, often ingrained, misconceptions isn’t easy, but when you can demonstrate that one-in-six Australian jobs hinges on farming, it contributes massively to the national economy ($103 billion-a-year – underpinning 12% of GDP), Australia’s farmers supply the majority of our daily food and account for 20% of our total exports... people begin to see farming in a different light and the upshot, that without our farmers we’d be buggered on several levels, starts to take root.”

NFF Public Affairs Officer Emma Keogh added: “With drought, climate change and the environment huge national issues – and farmers able to demonstrate they play a vital positive role – people are very interested in, and want to know more about, farming’s modern sustainable practices.

“People are often amazed and impressed to learn that Australian farmers plant over 20 million trees-a-year just for conservation purposes, 92% of them practise natural resource management as a matter-of-course and our farmers lead the way in primary industries reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a massive 40% over the past 15 years.

“That’s a far cry from the out-dated image of farmers tearing down trees. In fact, today’s farmers are Australia’s frontline environmental managers and are now being recognised as such.”

NFF CEO Ben Fargher said: “Despite drought, climate change and water issues dominating 2006-07, farmers have emerged stronger and better positioned in the community’s judgement – no longer economic albatrosses or environmental vandals, but deserving of recognition and support for the important modern contribution they make.

“That’s no mean feat given how the sector was perceived at the beginning of 2006 – especially on the back of the public relations hammering farming took during, and after, the 2002-03 drought.

“Our Communications Strategy, launched in March 2006, is delivering tangible, measurable outcomes, which PRIA’s 2007 ‘State Awards for Excellence’ recognise.

“Emma has her first and second industry Awards in one hit, and we couldn’t be more pleased for her. She has been an invaluable member of the NFF team for three years, has really established herself as a Public Affairs practitioner over the past 12 months, and her professional recognition is well-earned.

“Meanwhile, Brett’s tally of PRIA Awards is now eight. Before joining the NFF in February 2006, he won State and national PRIA Awards in 2002, 2003 and 2006, developing and implementing highly successful national campaigns on behalf industry and government organisations.

“That’s an impressive record, achieving consistent peer-recognised excellence over a long period. We’re certainly pleased farming and the NFF are making up lost ground with the help of his insight and experience.

“The NFF’s former Manager – Natural Resources, Dr Vanessa Findlay, was a driving force behind the stewardship concept. She deserves a big share of the recognition for the ultimate success of our Environmental Stewardship initiative.

“Regardless of the outcome of the national Awards next month, the NFF’s communications have been revolutionised and continue to evolve in advancing the modern contribution and relevance of farming – economically, environmentally and socially – to all Australians.

“Brett and Emma are to be congratulated, not only for their Awards, but for their uncompromising professionalism and focus on results in pursuing these renewed NFF imperatives in the interests of Australia’s farmers.”

The PRIA national Golden Target Awards will be announced in Sydney on 15 October 2007.

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250

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