Monthly Archives: June 2012

Debate @ the Waite “Australian cities need Australian farmers”

For our next Debate @ the Waite on the Thursday 28th of June, we’ll be taking the debate to the city to discuss:

Australian cities need Australian farmers


Image courtesy of Lynne Strong, Clover Hill Dairies

Eighty nine per cent of Australia’s 23 million-strong population lives in urban areas. We are already one of the most urbanised countries in the world, and growing more so. As the link between city-dwellers and the countryside grows more tenuous, the understanding of the importance of farmers to everyday life in Australia is decreasing.

Our farmers produce some 93 per cent of Australia’s domestic food supply, which is competitively priced and safe – yet surveys indicate that many city people do not know (or care) where their food comes from. Is it conceivable that modern Australia no longer considers farmers important? Could large Australian cities survive without Australian farmers and sustain themselves with imported and urban community-grown food?

Australian farmers are under pressure as never before – externally from economic and environmental factors and internally from the exodus of their children, the next generation, to the cities. The average age of the Australian farmer is now 55. If Australian farmers really matter in this era of globalised trade and in the context of a mineral resources boom, how can we bridge the urban/rural and generation gaps, make farming a more attractive proposition and get city folk to recognise and value farmers?

While Australian agricultural export earnings make a significant $30 billion (3.8% of GDP) contribution to the economy annually, it is the mining (19% of GDP) and manufacturing (68% of GDP) sectors that are driving our competitiveness and underpinning our wealth. Are we better off focussing on these industrial strengths and using the wealth generated to source our food from other countries?

But farmers also have a stewardship role in maintaining the landscape. What would be lost if farmers no longer did this, and who else would do it? How would an abandoned countryside impact on the psyche of all Australians? And what would be the consequences in times of conflict if there was no domestically-grown food?

In the Australian Year of the Farmer, this debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, RiAus, will explore all these issues, as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.

Team for the Affirmative:
Prof Wayne Meyer, Chair of Natural Resource Science, University of Adelaide
Ms Deb Bain, CEO of FarmDay, Director of Australian Year of the Farmer, Farmer
Dr Doug Bardsley, Senior Lecturer, Geography, Environment and Population, University of Adelaide

Team for the Negative:
Prof Christopher Findlay, Executive Dean, Faculty of the Professions, University of Adelaide
Councillor David Plumridge AM, Deputy Lord Mayor, City of Adelaide
A Prof Wendy Umberger, School of Agriculture Food and Wine, University of Adelaide

Thursday 28th of June 2012
6:00pm – 8:30pm

When: Thursday 28 June 2012, 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm
Where: RiAus, Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide

Finger food provided. A cash bar will be open throughout the event.

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
To register to attend the event go to

In a first for the Debate @ the Waite series, we will also be livestreaming the debate courtesy of the RiAus via their website from 6.30 pm SA time. Information on how to view the event will be provided closer to the debate.

To join the debate on Twitter, follow @waiteresearch and use the hashtag #agchatoz

The Waite Research Institute is a proud supporter of the Australian Year of the Farmer