National Farmers' Federation

Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program

The Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program is a 5-month mentoring and networking opportunity for women involved in agriculture with a passion for the industry and it’s future.  

Designed to support the NFF’s goal to double the number of women in agriculture’s leadership ranks and to make agriculture an inclusive industry for all by 2030, the program offers unique opportunities and new experiences for women who are looking to take their leadership to the next level.  

A key component of the program is the mentoring opportunity. In the program, each participant is carefully matched with an industry leading mentor to explore leadership goals and strategies.  

In 2023, Participants will come together for a three-day leadership retreat in Canberra 20 – 22 June and again at the completion of the program for a graduation event, held alongside the NFF’s national conference in October. Participants will meet regularly with their mentor and take part in an online webinar series.  

Now in its sixth year, the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program, boasts an alumni of 52 graduates, who have gone on to pursue high profile and impactful leadership positions and to be change-makers within their community.  

The Program is supported by leading agriculture-focussed organisations who have joined with the NFF in committing to make meaningful change towards gender diversity in our sector. Partners report annually on their progress on gender equality. 

In the meantime connect with like-minded community on the Women in Agriculture Leadership Facebook group for leadership opportunities, live Masterclass Q&A sessions with accomplished women (& men!) stories, advice, lessons learned, and so much more. 

For more information contact Program Manager Kristy Barber: (e) kbarber@nff.org.au (p) 0499 183 171. 

Applications are now closed.

The NFF recognises that diversity is more than gender. Diversity includes ethnicity, cultural identity, religion, disability, gender expression and identity, sexual orientation, education, socioeconomic background and more. We encourage women of all backgrounds to apply for the program. Find out more about the program here.

2023 Partners

The NFF welcomes the support of the partners and their continued commitment to making meaningful change in the representation of women at a leadership level across Australian agriculture. To view the most recent pledges and progress reports from our partners, click here 

The Alumni

The NFF’s Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program is building an alumni of skilled female leaders from across the country. The alumni consists of individuals with diverse backgrounds and skills sets, all with one thing in common – a vision for agriculture and a commitment to being a part of the sector’s growth. Graduates of the program have called the experience ‘life changing’. 

“Taking part in the program was the professional highlight of my 2019, it was a unique and special opportunity to meet such an inspiring group of women, both the mentees and mentors.” 
Western Australian winemaker Cath Oates and 2019 DiALP graduate. 

“Through the program I had the opportunity to listen to and work with experienced, likeminded, passionate women from different sectors and from all over the country. The relationships developed during the program continue today. “I now have a heightened understanding of my strengths and have a clear plan forward –professionally and personally.” 
Broadacre farmer and agribusiness professional Leonie O’Driscoll, NSW and 2019 DiALP graduate. 

Learn more about the Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program Alumni below. 


Nicole Byrnes - Pooncarie NSW

Dr Nicole Byrnes brings to the agricultural community a wealth of expertise in research and capacity building projects across numerous agricultural sectors. Over the last 20 years, Nicole has been employed in the agricultural sector for state government, education sector and not-for-profit industry organisations in evolving roles leading projects and programs through working with industry stakeholders and producers to increase the adoption of sustainable and innovative farm practices including her passion of agtech.

Nicole Byrnes

Elke Cleverdon - Young, NSW

Elke is an experienced non-executive director in the agribusiness and customer-owned banking sector with a passion for member-centric organisations. She brings a grower perspective coupled with her genuine drive to elevate the industry through innovation Elke is also a joint owner & director of a broad acre family farm at Harden NSW. The business encompasses black Angus beef production and cereal crops. Elke is currently on the board of Hort Innovation Australia and Cattle Australia.

Elke Cleverdon

Michelle Lench - Wingield, SA

Michelle is the Customer Service and Shipping Manager for S&W Seed Company Australia Pty Ltd. She is responsible for managing the high paced Australian Customer Service Team and the International Shipping team. Michelle has a Masters in Logistics and Supply Chain from the Australian Institute of Business. She is now using these skills by volunteering as a committee member for the Industry Advisory Panel for Supply Chain – Australian Institute of Business, Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce (SA Chapter), and Australian Seed Federation Market Access Group.

Michelle Lench

Rachel Palumbo - West Melbourne, VIC

Rachel has been working in the agricultural sector in Australia and globally for over 14 years, having held senior leadership roles within Monsanto, Bayer and Nuseed. Rachel holds a degree in business majoring in business law and marketing, a graduate diploma in public relations, a masters in communication, and completed an Executive MBA through Melbourne Business School, where she was awarded the Egon Zehnder Leadership Prize.

Rachel Palumbo

Mary Raynes - Perth, WA

Mary is an Australian grains industry specialist recognised in international markets as a leading expert in Australian barley and pulses with over 20 years' experience working across local, national and international markets in a range of functions including market development and trade, industry support, commercialisation and research and innovation.

Mary Raynes

Skye Ward - Bungendore, NSW

Skye has had a lifelong involvement in the agricultural and is now running a grazing operation with her young family near Bungendore, NSW. This love of the land led Skye to study a Bachelor of Agricultural Economics at the University of New England and then pursue a career in the ag sector. Over the past decade, Skye has recently set up her own freelance PR, media and communications business, Courtyard PR, which specialises in disseminating economic material to a wide audience through media

Skye Ward

Simone Cameron - Katherine, NT

Armed with Agricultural Science and Agricultural Education degrees, Simone’s spent over 20 years as an agriculture and science secondary teacher, before moving into the private industry as a regional agronomist and plant-based industry advocate. She lives on a rural property north of Katherine with her family and works as the Director of Regions and Projects for the NT Farmers Association. Simone’s dedication and enthusiasm for working alongside producers and industry members are evident in her effortless ability to articulate issues impacting the NT Farming sector.

Simone Cameron

Olivia Lawson - Clarkes Hill, VIC

Olivia grew up in South Gippsland Victoria and completed a degree in Agricultural Science at university. For the last 20+ years, Olivia operated a beef seed stock and grazing enterprise alongside husband Tom based in central Victoria. Her role at Paringa broadly includes business management, marketing, working with beef producer clients, and developing on farm projects. She has extensive experience in national cattle advocacy organisations.

Olivia Lawson

Sophie Lountain - Orange, NSW

Sophie Lountain has a Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security and a Masters by Research (Applied Economics). She is currently completing her PhD at the University of South Australia, focusing on Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture in South Asia: Improving Measurement to Raise Welfare, supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Her work has been published as a book chapter and in several highly-ranked journals, and she has won prizes for her research and has a successful track record in obtaining funding and personal awards.

Sophie Lountain

Anna Playfair-Hannay - Forbes, NSW

Anna was born on a sheep and beef farm in  Scotland and is now based on a sheep and cropping farm in Forbes, NSW with her partner. Anna is the Woolworths Group Sustainable Protein & Animal Welfare Manager. She uses her sustainability expertise to deliver successful sustainability, ethical trade programmes and projects across animal proteins. With a passion for agriculture from her youth, Anna is driven to influence and effect change in agricultural food supply chains to ensure agricultural and food sustainability across all sectors for future generations.

Anna Playfair-Hannay

Leanne Rudd - Bundaberg, QLD

Leanne is a Non-Executive Director and financial professional with over two decades of board level experience across the private and not-for-profit sectors with experience in taxation, business advisory, wealth advisory, leadership, governance, management consulting and financial management. Leanne has a Bachelor of Business (Accounting), is a Fellow of CPA Australia, a Financial Planner and AICD Graduate

Leanne Rudd

Sarah Woolford - York, WA

With over 12 years of experience working in agriculture and completing her Master in Finance, Sarah is the National Business Development Manager for the Farmers Business Network which has given her the opportunity to understand Australia's diverse agricultural landscape, meet amazing colourful individuals that are innovative and humble and to be truly inspired by the resilience of farming communities.

Sarah Woolford

2021 Alumni

2020 Alumni

2019 Alumni

2018 Alumni