What does a government officer do?

Host: Northern Beef Development project
Written by Mariah Maughan, Development Officer, Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development

What does a government officer do?

I get asked this question too many times to count, so I thought this is an opportunity to give an insight into the extension and development work I do that contributes to the northern beef industry and the behind-the-scenes work that goes along with it.

 Mariah Maughan.

I work with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Northern Beef Development project and my role mainly focuses on the Business Improvement Grant (BIG) program.

A day in the life of a Development Officer can involve a broad number of tasks, including traveling over 3000km in a week to visit grant applicants and write case studies about their new business implementations.

It can be spending a whole week in Excel spreadsheets sorting through numbers to develop benchmarking data for pastoralists to use.

It can be travelling with a cinematographer to capture innovations on stations in short videos.

It can be walking around an irrigated pivot, picking up samples of cow dung to test for the pasture nutrient content, or it can include administration.

 Mariah and Senior Research Scientist, Geoff Moore.

These aspects of the job are so vastly different, however, the purpose is clear – to assist pastoralists improve their businesses.

Through the BIG program, the Northern Beef Development project works with 68 pastoral businesses across the Kimberley and Pilbara.

The BIG program provides reimbursement for those 68 participating enterprises to develop business plans and implement something that they feel will improve their business. It is through this program that I achieve my goal of assisting pastoralists to improve their business.

Through working on the BIG program, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many participating stations and capturing lessons they have learnt through implementing new innovations such as remote water monitoring, DNA testing and water medication.

However, the grant program isn’t all about early innovations – it also assists pastoral businesses with the fundamentals to improve their business if that’s what they’ve identified as the priority improvements for their enterprise.

I regard myself as very fortunate for the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained from my work, however, as my goal is to assist pastoralists I place a higher value on getting that knowledge out to other pastoralists through articles, case studies and short videos.

I entered the northern beef industry as a ringer on cattle stations in the Kimberley and I loved it. Over the years, I developed a passion for the industry and a respect for the producers. The transition from working within a northern beef business to a department that supports the industry has given me a different perspective on things, with members of industry being largely supportive.

From a dozen eggs dropped on my desk from a station’s town run, to the fresh bed waiting for me at the station after a long day’s drive, it’s the little things about my job that make me feel most appreciated and valued

When I have been genuinely able to assist a pastoralist, I know I have done my job. When a pastoralist relates to an article I have written for a publication like the Rangelands Memo and decides to make small changes to benefit their business, I know I have done my job.

When I can see a new implementation through the grant program succeeding and, better yet, when the pastoralist and I can share that knowledge with other stations, I know I have done my job.

There’s no doubt there’s diversity in my role as a Development Officer with the Northern Beef Development project and that it differs in some ways with the role of others.

One thing I am sure of is that all Northern Beef staff have the same aim – to assist pastoralists in their businesses to improve their productivity and profitability.

 Spending time with Kimberley pastoralist Darrylin Gordon on Lamboo Station.

 We don’t spend all our time with cattle!

 My number one offsider, Billy!