During National Volunteer Week, Agricultural Shows Australia is celebrating our remarkable Young Judges and Paraders competition volunteers.

Australia is home to countless individuals and communities that generously donate their time to causes close to their hearts. In Agricultural shows, we see thousands of people working tirelessly to ensure that every event and competition runs without a hitch. 

This week marks National Volunteer Week, our country’s largest annual celebration of volunteers. We’re highlighting the unwavering dedication of the people who drive the Young Judges and Paraders competition in their states. Through their work, they are contributing to further education and sustainable agri-food production practices. 

Ian Blades from St Helens, Tasmania, is a leading voice in the show community. He has a wealth of knowledge gained from volunteering for over 50 years, meaning Ian has dedicated countless hours to his passion. Ian has been a stalwart of the show movement, driving youth competitions for years.

At just nine years of age he exhibited a Scottish Terrier at the Royal Launceston Show, which sparked his passion that continues today. He’s now been involved in 33 consecutive Royal Hobart shows and is currently coordinating the national finals of the young judges and paraders competition and the national rural ambassdor award for 2023.

When Covid hit in 2020, Ian says he had serious withdrawal symptoms as shows across the country were cancelled. But says it’s ‘terrific’ to be back. 

“I love the show scene,” he says. “I could talk all day about shows. I travel Australia for shows, we’ve got a great show family in Tassie and that’ll keep me going.” 

South Australia’s Jacqueline Frances also wears many hats as a show volunteer. For the mum-of-two, involvement in her local and state shows have provided an opportunity to support young farmers, make best friends and travel the country. 

Her passion began as a kid with exhibits from her family farm. Volunteering her time sparked something within her, and now she is the Junior Vice-president of the Mount Pleasant Show, president of the Kapunda Show, the Junior Vice-president of SA Country Show. She also coordinates the young Rural Ambassador program and is the State Young Judges Coordinator. 

“It’s a passion of mine, so I find the time, ” busy Jacqueline says. “I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. What I love is that I get that sense of community and that connection that other people get from sport.” 

Jacqueline believes that being involved in the Young Judges and Paraders competition gives young people the chance to build confidence and learn new skills. Looking to the future, Jacqueline says she’d love for her own two boys to get involved. “I want to see them find their passion, and if that’s at the country show I’ll be one happy mum.” 

Another such inspiring and dedicated volunteer is Robert Cochrane, who was recently presented with the prestigious Contributor Award at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for his outstanding 31 years of service to the Young Judges Competitions. 

Born and bred on a dairy farm in Bega, NSW, Robert began his volunteering career at a young age. He joined Junior Farmers at just 10 years old, and has continued to volunteer ever since. 

“Farming is in my blood and I’ve wanted to be involved with shows all my life,” he says. 

Watching the next generation of young judges come through inspires Robert to continue volunteering. He has helped to educate students from local high schools to develop their judging skills at local shows, and group finals leading to the Sydney Royal Easter Show (SRES) state finals. 

“The main reason I get involved is to promote agriculture in the Sydney area for all the schools that teach agriculture. It’s great to see the next generation come through. Most of the winners go on to judge at the shows.  What we are doing is training future judges.” 

“I was very humbled to win the contributor award and totally unaware that was coming,” he added of his most recent accolade. “Volunteering has enriched my life quite a bit.” 

Another volunteer recognised for a lifetime of achievement at the Sydney Royal Easter Show is Michael Brennan who was honoured with a Life Membership of the Royal Agricultural Society.

Like Robert, Michael began his involvement with shows at just 11 years old, helping a neighbouring family exhibit cattle. For the past 45 years, Michael has been a dedicated member of the Kiama Show, has served two terms as President, and has been the Chief Cattle steward for many years. He’s also a vital leader in the Young Judges competition and supporting education and sustainable production in the farmers of the future. 

Michael says that being involved with the agriculture show movement has given him many skills and the confidence to succeed in other areas of his life.

“I have a great desire to give back to these organisations and to work with and mentor the younger generation to promote and encourage the sustainability of agriculture and the show movement into the future.” 

Through their tireless work at the Young Judges and Paraders competition, these sensational volunteers are educating in sustainable production practices and inspiring our next generation.