Blighty dairy farmer Lachlan Marshall has been elected chair of the Speak Up Campaign.
Shelley Scoullar, who has held the chair’s position since the advocacy organisation started five years ago, did not seek re-election at the annual general meeting on Friday, November 13. However, Mrs Scoullar committed to remaining actively involved with Speak Up.
Water advocate Lloyd Polkinghorne, who is currently walking from Barham to Albury to raise awareness of inequities in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the damage it is doing to communities and the environment, was elected deputy chair.
In her outgoing chair’s report, Mrs Scoullar said it had been an extremely busy year despite the limitations in the past six months from COVID-19. It included playing a key role in supporting the Canberra protest rally in December and travelling to Sydney for the parliamentary debate on water transparency and a host of other meetings.
“Through hours of research and a media strategy we challenged (former Water Minister) Littleproud and the National Farmers’ Federation over their claims there was no need to panic buy at the start of the pandemic because we are totally self-sufficient food producers. A lot of over-paid bureaucrats were kept busy counter-attacking our arguments, because in reality the government’s failed water policy has had a big impact on our nation’s ability to grow food,” Mrs Scoullar said.
Over the past year Speak Up has also participated in many hours of Zoom meetings with various politicians, government representatives and farming organisations in the Southern Basin. Many letters and submissions have been written and Mrs Scoullar said they had worked strategically with various organisations to advocate for improved water management and policy.
“We have also been active in the media, with our media consultant working with Speak Up and supporting other organisations to highlight issues around water. I would like to take this opportunity to thank media outlets for the tremendous support they have provided since the inception of Speak Up, and especially in the past year,” Mrs Scoullar said.
Speak Up is also very active on social media, with nearly 14,000 followers on its Facebook page.
“We have built a reputation for challenging bureaucracy, and this must happen to bring about change. We will never falter from our core value of representing the grassroots – standing up for farmers and rural businesses,” Mrs Scoullar said.
“When recently asked about my greatest achievement with Speak Up I answered … ‘that we have educated our own people so they can help carry the load and advocate for their communities about the injustices of water policy’. I stand by that,” she added.
A highlight of the annual meeting was the presentation of Speak Up’s inaugural Certificate of Recognition, awarded to Vicki Meyer from Deniliquin Freighters. Ms Meyer was instrumental in helping establish Speak Up and encouraging Shelley Scoullar to get involved and lead the organisation in 2015, and Deniliquin Freighters has been a major supporter since Speak Up was formed.
Also elected at the AGM were secretary Linda Fawns, treasurer Sue Braybon and committee members Laurie Beer, Kathy Smits from Deniliquin, along with Mark and Shane Bugge from Cobram.