A trip to Indonesia last year by a group of 10 Kimberley and Pilbara women, in the wake of the live cattle ban, has sparked a formal alliance.
The Indonesia-Australian Cattle Trade Alliance is seeking incorporation as the first step in forming direct links between Australian cattle producers and exporters and those working in the industry in Indonesia.
The Indonesian trip grew from an Influential Women’s Forum in Broome last year.
Jane de Long, from Dampier Downs, was amazed by what she learnt about the country and its people, and determined that the trip should not be an end in itself, but the start of a new alliance between people who all depended on cattle but whose lives were so markedly different.
“They are working for $4 a day,” she said.
“There is no welfare.
“When the cattle stopped coming, the feedlots were empty, there was no market for the hand-cut hay, no money for families.”
The alliance is in its infancy but its options for providing support are limitless. Even little bits of money, in Australian terms, for local orphanages can make a huge difference, she thinks.
“It’s about setting up connections with people,” she said.
“It’s hard to get information unless you actually go there and it’s hard to understand how the cattle industry there affects their lives.”
The women visited feedlots, the abattoir featured in the contentious Four Corners reports which sparked the ban on live exports, a wet market and were invited to an Indonesian woman’s home.
“We’ve seen every step from the size of the trucks used to unload boats, the conditions of the roads and the impact on Indonesian families,” Ms de Long said.
“I’ve seen every step from my side of the fence, so it was nice to see it from the other side.”
Alison Penfold, chief executive officer of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, said the quota for Australian cattle to Indonesia this year was 267,000, with one shipload having already gone from Townsville.
Expansion of the live export trade is also at the top of the WA Farmers Federation wish list for candidates in the March State election. Federation president Dale Park said they expected strong support for their demands.
“Most of the politicians that we’ve talked to are supportive of the live trade industry, except maybe the Greens. Certainly the mainstream parties are in favour of it,” he said.
He believes, despite some misgivings, the public is becoming supportive, too.
“I think the public has seen how the exporter supply chain assurance system is working and generally, I think people understand why we need to have live exports.”
The association also wants a salinity strategy implemented and more funding for rural roads.