Dr. Anne Astin

My role in the industry

I am currently the Chair of Safefish, a partnership of seafood experts who assist our industry to resolve technical trade impediments, especially in relation to food safety and hygiene. Industry, government and researchers work together to provide technical advice that supports Australia’s seafood trade and market access negotiations as well as protecting public health and safety.

I am a very recent entrant to the seafood industry (2014) but have had an extensive career working with Australia’s primary industries sectors with a particular focus on food safety and public health. This experience has also taken me to international destinations involving many of Australia’s export partners.

What I find the most rewarding about my work with the industry

One of the increasing trends we’re seeing in food and agriculture/agribusiness is consumer desires and expectations to know more about their food and where and how it’s grown and what’s in it. Provenance, authenticity and ethical food production as well as healthy and nutritional benefits are essential in building consumer confidence in their food and food supply chains. Food safety awareness is at an all time high, new and emerging threats to the food supply are being recognised, and food security and supply is a global challenge. The result is that consumers are demanding greater transparency from the boat to the restaurant and it’s not going to stop.

I am proud to be part of an industry that enjoys such a rewarding and exciting reputation and is appreciated for its value, quality, safety and reliability of its products and their supply chains. We must preserve and protect this as our competitive edge to ensure the sustainability of our Australian seafood industries. We need to remain proactive, innovative and ahead of our competitors and not become complacent. We all know it takes decades to establish a reputation and seconds to destroy it!

The importance of women leaders in the industry

I’d like to suggest there is a problem with our current leadership models across all aspects of business in Australia. Despite nearly 2000 years of trying, we still don’t fully understand what leadership is and despite ongoing fascination and attention, there is little consensus about what it actually is. What there is agreement about is that both leaders, inclusive of all genders and diversity, and leadership are essential if ours and other industries and organisations are to succeed.

Women are essential to the equation that will provide success to the industry. Industry dynamics in my experience are better balanced and decisions are improved by broader representation at decision making forums, including but not only, at Board level. We need to engage women at every level in industry influence and decision making and encourage them to participate. This may involve a need to fundamentally change the traditional “business as usual” model to a transformational model that incorporates contemporary and future engagement including for example, digital technologies.

I have learnt that leaders, particularly women, need courage and encouragement to shoulder the risks involved in taking on leadership roles. However, I always encourage them to do this because my experience has been that the greatest opportunities have come about from the greatest risk taking and have helped me think about the kind of leader I aspired to be and continue to aspire to. You can’t just decide to be a leader – you need to earn the respect that comes with the responsibilities associated with leadership. This needs emotional resilience which means a strong sense of self awareness and emotional intelligence.

I am so inspired by the women I meet who are engaged at all levels in Australia’s primary industry sectors. In 1998, I was privileged to lead the Victorian women’s delegation to the 3rdInternational Rural Women’s Congress in Spain. I was inspired by the leadership shown by the women leaders who attended from Australia – they clearly showed we are global leaders, and we need to continue to encourage this level of participation and leadership. This is my commitment to support women and women’s leadership.

In closing, I remain inspired by simple messages – Dr Seuss and Seuss-isms are often my inspirational texts!

Be True to Yourself “You have brains in your head you have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own.

And you know what you know.

And YOU! Are the gal/guy who’ll decide where to go” (Oh the Places You’ll Go!)