Thomas Hunter’s life as a fulltime ambulance officer in Adelaide may be a far cry from the agricultural world he grew up in but the two are intertwined. Without having entered the Rural Ambassador Award in 2016, Thomas says there’s no way he’d be where he is today.
Growing up in South Australia, Thomas was a regular fixture at the Coonalpyn Show and a member of the Limousin Youth Beef Society. As all good things start, he decided to ‘give it a crack’ when the show president suggested he enter the Rural Ambassador Award.
He went on to become South Australia’s runner-up – not bad for someone who couldn’t name many worse things than public speaking. A self-confessed shy 21-year-old, conversations with one or two people were easy but larger crowds were a whole new ball game.
He soon found himself jetting off to tour farms in the United Kingdom as part of his prize, touring behind the scenes at the Royal Adelaide Show and confidently addressing crowds. He formed valuable industry relationships and built rapport with people from across the country and overseas.
Now aged 26, Thomas says the experience has been the gift that’s kept on giving even five years later.
“The Rural Ambassador changed my life. It’s turned where I was and gave me the confidence to go where I am today. My leadership skills are so much better because of improving my communication skills,” he said.
“I’ve always used those experiences that I had with improving my communication and interpersonal skills in interviews and it’s done quite well for me. It helped me find what I wanted to do; it gave me a different outlook on everything,” he said.
Thomas is still partly involved in the beef industry but his career change came not long after his return from the UK.
Boosted by his newfound confidence, he took on a paramedics degree and today he’s only two subjects away from graduating.
“Before the Rural Ambassador Award I probably wouldn’t have ever thought of pursuing it because I just didn’t have the confidence and compassion in myself to be able to do that,” he said.
“It’s pretty incredible to think about, actually.”
And while it’s been an incredible journey for Thomas, it almost didn’t happen. He says he was a bit sceptical about a competition he feared may just involve him getting on stage and ‘talking himself up.’
“That’s not it at all and I think people also think that you have to be heavily involved in a community or your local show too but I think the program actually brings you more into your show and your community and you get a whole new appreciation for both,” he said.
“It’s brought a lot of relationships and rapport with so many people into my life. It was just an amazing experience.”