Dr Rob Wilson, Chair of Agricultural Shows of Australia, Mrs Estelle Drynan, President of Queensland Ag Shows, Marla Calico, President and CEO of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE), (travelling from USA and is also keynote speaker), Jessica Underberg, Chair of IAFE and CEO of Erie County Fair (travelling from USA to speak at the conference), Brianna Hockey, President of Queensland Ag Shows Next Generation, Justice David Thomas, President of the RNA and Harris Thompson, 2019 National Rural Ambassador winner.

I am truly delighted to be here to join you for this, the inaugural Agricultural Shows of Australia Conference.

I am excited to not only be here but also to see the result of so much hard work and passion.

And the opportunity to share the very best of what each community knows and does to showcase and link their agricultural and industrial community with the urban ones. I would also like to acknowledge that many of you have likely been affected by the terrible bushfires we’ve seen across much of eastern Australia. This disaster will undoubtedly impact some of the nation’s 580 agricultural shows and to you in particular, I know that ASA and this community will be there to support you in the years ahead.

“The show” – the annual agricultural shows is the most important date in every community’s calendar. They have always been a very visible symbol of the district’s pride and expertise.

Of celebration in good years, and of coming together in tough years.  Of ingenuity, and community spirit.

And in this time of a growing disconnect between the most important work of regional Australia, the Show is the annual opportunity to showcase our very best. To educate, to entertain, and to provide the environment for competition.

Last year Deb Frecklington, Member for Nanango won her section with a basil pesto.  Having some idea of her workload, and with a real sense of competition I am inspired to once again enter my show and attend with bated breath to see if my entry earned the blue ribbon.

As a school of the air child, a very ambitious home tutor helped me to send in an entry to the Brisbane Ekka circa 1979. That school’s competition remains an important milestone in many children’s lives and it is critical that those connections of children into their community remain.

Whether it’s Brisbane, Sydney, Borroloola or Gundagai, the Show is a constant.Each generation discovers it, fireworks and competitions, displays and friends. Many a first date has been cemented with a stuffed toy on sideshow alley, and babies are paraded.

Grandparents sit in the main ring and share their own childhood joy and pass the baton back to the following generation.  Shows symbolise that things are still OK.

Even in this era of digital entertainment, the show is an opportunity to see the best of our neighbours and be amazed at their talent, interests and skills.

Whether it is cakes, or crocheting, dogs or doodles, a pen of three steers, or bales of wool we are all held in awe, even if it’s just for a few hours.

The common thread at every Show is people. The people who go, but importantly, the people who make it happen.

Show Societies represent the largest volunteer organisation in Australia, and I can tell you I remind my colleagues in Canberra of this fact every chance I get!

Everyone should know about the hours and hours of unpaid work going on in this sector all over Australia.

And for all of us who volunteer to make our own Shows happen, it is a joy to contribute to our town and the passion and dedication of volunteers that puts the smiles on so many faces, young and old.

In my community of Cloncurry there was not an annual show until 1979 when the community came together to literally build the show.  The yards were welded, holes dug, and endless cups of tea and no doubt beers were consumed in the planning.

And more recently I had the enormous privilege of serving on the Brisbane RNA board, the Ekka.

Every town I go to, every show I visit it is great to see local people’s names remembered in halls, and rings and on trophies.

Last week in Beaudesert visiting dairy farmers I was told of a man who travelled Queensland and Australia to judge the dairy competition was recognized by his community when the dairy trophy was renamed to remember him.   This is what shows are for me. People, and passion, and communities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a big believer in Shows and their importance to people, especially in the regions.

Late last year, $20 million in Regional Agricultural Show grants was made available, fulfilling an election promise to ensure shows can not only keep going, but improve and expand.

Eligible show societies and state peak bodies can receive up to $500,000 for repairs or upgrades of existing facilities such as outdoor seating, grandstands, holding yards and attractions.

The Morrison Government has also set aside $10 million this year to fund agricultural education through schools which will, like agricultural shows, give kids an insight into life on the land and where our food comes from.

It is imperative that agricultural shows are given every assistance to keep going and thrive long into the future.

I am proud that our government, and so many of my colleagues in Canberra, see the merit of boosting this sector which recognises the most important part of these terrific local events…YOU.

So please, let’s have a great time tonight and really make this first conference one to remember. Thank you all for being here and thank you for the invitation.