Meet the Berries Australia team

Here is the team of talented individuals who have been brought together to deliver the Industry Development and Communications project for the berry industries in Australia as a service delivery partner to Hort Innovation.


Celeste Cook – Rubus IDO


Melinda Simpson – Blueberry IDO


Suzette Argent – Strawberry IDO Qld


Angela Atkinson – Strawberry IDO Vic & SA


Helen Newman & Aileen Reid – Strawberry IDO Team WA


Berries Australia Head Office

<center>Rachel Mackenzie</center>

Rachel Mackenzie

Executive Director

Rachel Mackenzie was awarded the Women in Horticulture Award at the 2018 Horticulture Connections conference in recognition of her contribution to the sector and we are pleased that she will be able to apply her skills to the berry category.

Rachel was instrumental in establishing Growcom’s Fair Farms Initiative to improve workplace standards across Australian horticulture, has instigated and managed several key projects aimed at implementing Best Management Practices with respect to water quality and has been a strong voice for growers in relation to competition policy.

Rachel has shown herself to be a passionate supporter of growers through her sustained advocacy, including her tireless support for the strawberry industry during its challenges in the 2018 winter season.

<center>Jen Rowling</center>

Jen Rowling

Projects Manager

Originally from Cairns, Jen started her career in the non-profit sector with Care Australia in Cambodia for 18 months. It was an eye-opening experience to understand how other cultures and countries tackle daily life.

Returning to Queensland with a new appreciation for the privileged lives we lead in Australia, Jen continued her career with another incredibly worthwhile cause - the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. She spent fifteen years working for a range of cause-related organisations doing her bit to make the world a much better place.

After a two year break to start a family, Jen & her partner made a move to the Sunshine Coast where she discovered the joys of horticulture as the Industry Development Officer for Queensland Strawberries.

Jen was the face of the 2018 industry crisis and has gone on to work in the aftermath, with Strawberries Australia, to make the industry stronger and more resilient.

As the Projects Manager for Berries Australia, Jen now has the ability to make an impact nationally across all the berry industries.

<center>Wendy Morris</center>

Wendy Morris

Administration & Membership Officer

Wendy has joined Berries Australia as the new Membership and Administration Officer. Wendy has a strong background in Associations, in both paid and volunteer capacities, and several years’ experience as a cricket wicket curator.

She is passionate about streamlining processes and achieving optimal outcomes – in every field and role.

<center>Angela Atkinson</center>

Angela Atkinson

Industry Development Officer - Strawberries Vic/SA

Angela was born in Melbourne and has spent much of her life around the Victorian capital city except for two interesting escapades; firstly, her father took the whole family on a change-of-life journey to the Darling Downs in Queensland to be cattle farmers for five years when she was a small child, and secondly, Angela spent a few years as a ‘trailing spouse’ following her husband’s career which took them to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Angela has incredible experience both as an academic in her own right with a PhD from the University of Melbourne in plant molecular biology completed in 1992, and as a research scientist both at La Trobe University and Monash University. She fitted in three children as well during this time so Angela is someone who can juggle very diverse agendas and be successful.

Angela was teaching Horticulture at TAFE in Melbourne when someone suggested she apply for the Strawberry Industry Development role in Victoria. Despite her lengthy career, this was actually Angela’s first job interview ever and, luckily for us, she got the job three years ago as she will be a pivotal part of the project across the next 3 years.

<center>Suzette Argent</center>

Suzette Argent

Industry Development Officer - Strawberries Qld

Suzette has a passion for working with people and science communication - turning complex science into something that everyone can understand and most importantly apply practically.

She was born and raised on a strawberry farm in South East Queensland. Her first job was based in Bundaberg as a Natural Resource Officer working to help farmers develop Land and Water Management Plans compliant under the Water Act 2000 so they could use irrigation water. Pursuing her passion for extension and landholder engagement, she then went on an exciting adventure in the Northern grains growing region to work on projects covering topics including climate change, soil organic matter and carbon, pasture rundown and zero tillage. Covering numerous topics gave her the opportunity to really hone her extension skills, before an innovative Healthy Waterways project in South East Queensland brought her back to horticulture for a few years.

Following a move to Far North Queensland and the Wet Tropics region, Suzette worked with sugarcane and banana growers on water quality improvement for the Great Barrier Reef, learning more about farm design and working with the landscape/climate to improve the quality of the water leaving a property. This gave her a great appreciation for working with the land and using natural processes on farm.

Taking a whole farm systems approach to her work, Suzette’s background and experience has taught her to work with the land and the local community to keep agricultural production going today and into the future.

<center>Helen Newman</center>

Helen Newman

Industry Development Officer - Strawberries WA

Helen joined the Department of Agriculture and Food (now Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development) in 2001 after completing a degree in Environmental Science. Her roles included land-use planning officer, WaterWise on the farm irrigation management trainer, citrus industry development officer, vegetable industry research and development officer, and communications manager.

Her interesting and varied career with the Department ended in 2015 when she decided to spend more time with her son before he started full-time school. She also took this opportunity to pursue her interest in landscape design, and completed the Certificate IV and Diploma of Landscape Design, while working part-time with a landscape designer and at Dawson’s Garden World in Forrestfield.

She started part-time work at South Metropolitan TAFE (Murdoch Campus) in 2018, delivering Diploma units to landscape design, horticulture and conservation and land management students. In 2019, this role expanded, and she now also teaches Certificate IV students about soil and its importance to horticulture, landscape design and the environment.

Helen is also currently engaged as the WA Citrus Industry Biosecurity Representative, a role which she will maintain. The project team and the Australian Berry Industry will have the added advantage of another IDO with expertise in state and national biosecurity activity.

Celeste Cook

Industry Development Officer - Rubus

As well as her new role in the project as our Raspberry & Blackberry Industry Development Officer for Tasmania, Celeste will also provide support to other members of the Berries Australia team given she has some great experience in other areas. Celeste will also provide support to other berry growers in Tasmania, not just those who grow Rubus.

<center>Melinda Simpson</center>

Melinda Simpson

Industry Development Officer - Blueberries

In 1848, Pearson Simpson rowed up the Richmond river at Ballina in search of cedar wood. He ventured up a small stream that he subsequently named Duck Creek and became the first white settler at Uralba. Seven generations on and Melinda - a direct descendant of Pearson Simpson – is living and working where her ancestors have been for 170 years! The family have farmed bananas in Uralba for generations and are still actively growing, ripening and selling bananas today.

Melinda went away to Brisbane for university, spending time at both Queensland University of Technology as an undergrad and the University of Queensland where she completed a Masters of Agricultural Science majoring in Horticulture. She returned to Alstonville (formerly named Duck Creek Mountain by Pearson) and joined the Department of Primary Industries where she is now the Industry Development Officer for Blueberries with a tremendous passion for horticulture.

In fact, she loves it so much that her main hobby outside of her day job is actually as a grower herself. Melinda took a cutting from a family members’ red flesh dragon fruit a few years back and from that tiny start she has propagated an orchard of 72 dragon fruit plants.

<center>Jane Richter</center>

Jane Richter

Communications Manager

Jane is an independent consultant working in the horticulture industry. After a long professional career in FMCG marketing both here and in the UK, Jane and her husband made a tree change and became passionfruit farmers in 2014.

Within a few short years, she found herself leading the competitive pitch for the industry communication project on behalf of her fellow growers and she has been heavily involved in horticulture ever since, both as a communicator and a marketing consultant.

As a grower herself, Jane is passionate about ensuring that the statutory levy money invested by Hort Innovation on behalf of industries achieves the best possible outcomes and delivers real value for money.