From all accounts early May rains have resulted in a good start for crop across the Shire.

RAIN held a few events late April.

Lunch & Learn – Managing Farm Labour with Tara Vermeersch of Practical Employee Solutions

A group of growers met on April 26th at the Ravensthorpe Entertainment Centre to hear Tara Veermeersch of Practical Employee Solutions speak on understanding contracts of employment, compliance and modern awards, how to avoid unfair dismissal and other relevant workplace law issues. Tara outlined the risks of the ‘hand shake’ contract when it comes to employment.

Tara began the day by outlining the 2 different types of awards farming businesses fall under - most people fall under the Pastoral (Federal) Award system which is very different to the State Award. It was recommended that businesses familiarise themselves with their relevant award – for State Award visit www.wairc.wa.gov.au and for Pastoral Award details visit www.fairwork.gov.au/awards . There have been some significant changes to the Pastoral Award in recent times which affect the everyday interaction between employers and employees.

No matter what your agreement, it is imperative businesses establish a written agreement regarding employment. This should be signed by both parties and should be as detailed as possible. References to farm policies or clauses relating to farm vehicles & housing should be covered. It was also recommended businesses establish policies in terms of farm machinery and safety amongst other things. It all comes down to the level of risk your business is willing to take.

Unfair dismissal and managing poor performers was covered - there was a recommendation to stipulate business procedures for poor performers in the original Letters of Offer. It was also recommended to develop a feedback culture on the farm – it’s a good way to gauge both party’s situation and overall feelings about the arrangement they have. It’s also good practice to remember to have encouraging and positive conversations.

The group left feeling inspired but also perhaps somewhat daunted by the lack of support to farming enterprises in terms of their employment contracts and issues. Every business faces these same issues yet there’s nowhere to get detailed templates or guides to assist. Practical Employee Solutions offers a consultancy for farming businesses in the Esperance/ Goldfields Region – Tara may be contacted ontara.vermeersch@practicalemployeerelations.com.au should you be interested in advice for your business.

There is a group based in Lake King called WIFE (Women in Farming Enterprises.) They are a not for profit network of like minded women committed to improving their knowledge, decision making skills, and management of their complex farm businesses. If you would like to find out more about WIFE or attend one of their meetings please either jump on their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WomenInFarmingEnterprises or contact Anna-Lisa Newman on annalisa@karradale.com

Other issues touched on included fringe benefits tax and farm safety issues – two topics we will look at in depth at future events. Thanks to Tara for making the effort to travel to Ravensthorpe and for educating us on Managing Farm Labour.

Small Landholders Workshop – An Introduction to Small Landholdings

The RAIN group has been successful in securing some Caring for our Country funding for a series of Small Landholder Workshops to run throughout the year. The first of these workshops was held at Sue Leighton and Colin Hughes beautiful Blue Vista property on Saturday April 28th morning.

A group of local Small Landholders met to learn about some of the issues that Small Landholders need to be aware of - whether on already established properties or people considering purchasing their first small landholding.

The event opened with Pascoe Durtanovich, Ravensthorpe Shire CEO, who provided an overview to the Shires policies, rules and regulations relevant to local Small Landholdings. There are a number of policies listed on the Shire website and Pascoe encourages all Small Landholders make themselves familiar with these.

Peter Thurkle, Community Emergency Services Manager for FESA followed, discussing fire protection, prevention and general awareness. He emphasised the importance of fire breaks and having a plan in place should fire strike. Property owners need to be mindful that in the event of a fire FESA will need to have easy access to help protect your property – it is ideal to have more than one access point should fire close in. Fire fighters will not enter a dangerous situation where they may be cornered.

The group broke for a brief morning tea break before regrouping on the front verandah where we were joined by some disgruntled chickens (we were blocking their roost) and a magnificent view of the Barren Ranges. Peter Masters, Senior Operations Officer for DEC concluded the event, explaining the depth of legislation regarding the clearing of land on small properties. Peter provided discs with DEC Fact Sheets – they included guides on how to apply for permits to clear land and legislation regarding previously cleared land. Much of this information can be viewed on the DEC website or by contacting the local DEC Office on 08 9838 1967.

The event concluded with some informal discussions regarding issues local property owners were facing. RAIN sought feedback for our next event – many people were interested in learning to improve their soils and about establishing orchards and veggie patches. We are in the process of coordinating this next event for late June – details will be communicated when finalised so stay tuned.

If you have a pressing interest in a topic please don’t hesitate to contact the RAIN office onrainoffice@westnet.com.au or phone 9838 1018. We would be more than happy to link people with the information they require and your expressions of interest may assist us in tailoring our events to the local demand.

Thanks to the speakers who joined us for the Introduction Day and a huge thanks to Sue and Colin who hosted the event. Your generosity was greatly appreciated.

Peter Masters, DEC Senior Operations Officer, addresses attendees on land clearing laws. (Image courtesy of Sue Leighton)

A few other snippets from the office:

Jessica Wright has joined us in the office in Rodger’s absence. Jess has completed a Future Funds grant application for the Phillips River Boat Launch – fingers crossed!

RAIN has been successful in attaining bird survey funding through the Southern Incentives South Coast Shorebirds Project – great news!

Seedling orders will arrive in early July – we’ll contact landholders to arrange collection once they arrive. If you haven’t ordered your seedlings yet please give us a call on 9838 1018 so we can add your order.

Boxthorn spraying is under way in the Shire for those who registered. The spray team are liaising closely with landholders to work towards the eradication of this Weed of National Significance.

Here’s hoping we get some more rain to get those crops off and racing!