There are 3 Industry Development Officer roles working across the major growing regions for Strawberries
Dr Angela Atkinson is based in Victoria just outside of Melbourne and looks after South Australia and Victoria, Suzette Argent is near the Caboolture growing region in Queensland, and a combined team of Industry veteran Aileen Reid and new IDO Helen Newman are there to service the needs of berry growers in Western Australia.
Although these IDO’s have a primary responsibility for Strawberries, they are also responsible for providing support to all berry growers in their regions and to Strawberry growers in other areas of the country.
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 also 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.
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.
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.