Did you know that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the National Rural Ambassador Award? To celebrate, we’ve been catching up with the 19 individuals who have held the prestigious title since 2001.

He might bowl, bat and run a little slower these days but Bruce McConnel is still just as active in the agricultural sector as he was in 2009 when he won the national rural ambassador award. 

When Bruce took out the title he was an Agribusiness Manager for the National Australia Bank, in Gatton, QLD.  He was actively involved in the family property at Somerset Dam, QLD and was judging shows across Australia. He also managed to find time to play rugby and cricket.

Today the Toowoomba resident is the proud father of three boys aged 11, nine and seven, and still plays rugby and cricket, just a little more sedately. Bruce is the General Manager of TSBE Food Leaders Australia, a not-for-profit membership based organisation that helps Australian food businesses innovate, export, network and learn. He’s also the vice-president of the Royal Agricultural Society of Queensland. 

He said the friendships and connections he made during his time as rural ambassador have stood the test of time. 

“There would not be a week go by where I don’t speak to someone from the rural ambassador competition, at a N=national or state Level,” Bruce says. 

In 2009 the national final was held  in Hobart, and straight away it was into the ABC studios for a live radio interview. Bruce said this side of the competition has been particularly valuable throughout his career. 

“The media work for the following year was a big part of the story, and has helped significantly in my professional life as I now do media work weekly in my current role,” he said.

“I opened shows, and travelled to many QLD Shows under the role, but I will say none of those beat the Christchurch show with the RASC.  Meeting royalty, friends from all over the Commonwealth and truly adding to the knowledge to make a difference in the ag sector across the globe was a real highlight.”

Bruce thanks past president of QCAS, Mrs Estelle Drynan for giving him the push he needed to enter the competition. Cnce successful at the Esk Show, he says it was the QCAS CEO, Mr Mark Bryant who was a great support and mentor through the journey.

Bruce grew up on a cattle farm, raising 2000 head of Droughtmaster cattle. He started in the show ring as a cattle exhibitor, and then young judge and entrant in parader competitions. 

“These were key to starting to get public speaking confidence and experience,” Bruce says. 

“Then I started judging shows before the rural ambassador awards.  From there, with young children I did pull out of much activity for a number of years but recently have become involved in the management/director capacity with the RASQ (Toowoomba Royal).

“Through it all, I’ve always been active on the family farm. “

Bruce credits the national rural ambassador program with taking his career to a new level.

“The exposure to mentors, guidance and new thinking from around the globe changed what I thought was possible for my career,” he says,

“ It also gave me a stronger, global peer network.  Further, it gave me confidence and experience in media, public speaking, presentations etc – all skills I use in my current professional life.”