National Winner | Community & People category
Torrens Park, SA
Alex Thomas is the Director and Principal Consultant at Alex Thomas Pty Ltd and a 2020 Growth Awards National Winner in the Community & People category. Read on to learn more about Alex.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
The establishment of The #PlantASeedForSafety Project is the culmination of my love for life on the land, the subsequent deterioration of my father’s health and my career in work health and safety. Having grown up on a remote sheep station and with over 14 years of experience as a WHS professional, I have always had a strong desire to give something back to the industry and the community that gave so much to me. I saw a need to change the perception that work health and safety was “all about paperwork”, because it simply doesn’t inspire people to make safer, healthier choices. Leveraging that message through rural women was deliberate – they are key influencers in their homes, businesses and communities, they are generally more risk averse, they offer a fresh perspective and they are already leading change.
Since its launch in 2017, the Project has been widely publicised, has received corporate support and in April this year was launched in New Zealand.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
Social media is an essential platform for connecting with rural audiences and I am increasingly active on channels including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. I am an avid user of video conferencing, am often on the road speaking and facilitating and have reasonable access to the media – newspapers, magazines and radio. I also sit on a number of boards and committees which allow me to push out information as appropriate.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
My plan is to explore options to scale The #PlantASeedForSafety Project to other parts of the world. It’s already been launched in New Zealand and as with all things innovation, is a constant experiment. I am acutely aware that the Project’s effectiveness relies heavily on how well it resonates with rural audiences, therefore the Project’s messaging needs to maintain constant momentum and cut through – particularly given WHS is such an otherwise stale topic. I’m really excited to continue to test different ways of engaging with rural audiences and to start a global conversation about health, safety and wellbeing.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
I don’t really see any barriers, only opportunities! I do intend on starting a family at some point, and with that will come various challenges in managing my time and resources – however I’ve recently appointed an advisory board for both my business, the Project and the advocacy work I do to help inform my decisions moving forwards.
There is also a significant piece of work to be done in streamlining and commercialising the Project across Australia and New Zealand, exploring the Project’s value proposition and identifying potential sponsors and collaborators.
What is the biggest challenge Australian Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
In my mind, improving the health, safety and wellbeing of rural men, women and children is one of the biggest challenges. We need to take a more holistic view of the rural ecosystem and promote not only a sustainable industry, but sustainable human beings as a part of that. Industry health, safety and wellbeing is not well entrenched on boardroom agendas or in strategic plans, and it needs to be.
Further to that, the world is becoming increasingly complex. We have COVID-19, we have bushfires and we have droughts and all those things are going to continue to hamper people. It’s all very well to have a plan on how productive we’re going to be and how the economy is going to recover, but we have to factor in how we’re going support our people to get there, too. Organisations in rural industries are only at the beginning of their journey towards having a level of cultural maturity that values the importance of health, safety and wellbeing. Big corporates are talking about health, safety and wellbeing, but really only at an organisational level – not at an industry level, and not when it comes to its inherent link with their social license to operate. For the mum and dad farmers, it’s on the radar but it’s not actioned or actively spoken about. Agriculture is dominated by small family businesses, and every one of those small businesses effectively has a CEO. This means there are thousands of CEOs – so if we want to influence a entire industry, we need to do it very differently. We need to identify who the key influencers are, everyone from heads of companies to rural women, to get the message across.