Mark is proud to be his authentic self this Pride Month
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Mark is proud to be his authentic self this Pride Month

Category Our People

Mark Vecchiato - Rabobank

Mark Vecchiato was one of the swathes of Melbournians who followed the well-worn path towards the regions during Covid, a tree-changer gasping for space and fresh air.

While the lifestyle perks were undeniably attractive, there was one quiet and unsettling niggle – how would Mark and his then partner be welcomed in their new community of Hamilton?

“We certainly had our worries about moving to a rural town, and whether we would be embraced, however we’d been visiting Hamilton for some time so hoped we would be welcomed.”

Thankfully their worries were unfounded, and Mark smiles that today he feels more at home in Hamilton than he does in inner-city Melbourne.

“It’s one in, all in, in a small town and we’ve been blown away with the friendliness and generosity of the community – in fact I feel more at ease holding hands here than in the city.”

“They say to new mothers it takes a tribe to raise a child, well, likewise we’ve felt those community values keenly since moving to the country, everyone is working to build happy, vibrant regions. Country towns can be so inclusive just by their very nature.”

Immersed in his new rural life with his now husband, it was in fact their new friends within the local community who assisted with planning the wedding, finding an appropriate venue and organising meetings with local vendors.

A lifestyle, and career change

Mark – who worked in banking and finance for 15 years in Melbourne – decided to turn his hand at agricultural banking, and for the past two years has been a Senior Relationship Manager at Rabobank’s Hamilton branch.

“I grew up in Sydney so didn’t have a lot of knowledge on agriculture, but it’s certainly something that piqued my interest, and now, working for Rabobank I have enormous appreciation for the sector, and how dependent we are as a nation on our Australian farmers.”

“Sadly when people look around the supermarket, so many consumers really don’t realise that the majority of products and produce come from our very own farmers.”

The Rabobank story and its cooperative roots is also one that Mark finds fascinating.

“When you go to work each day it’s easy to lose sight of who we are, but Rabobank’s ‘By farmers, for farmers’ foundation is a story that resonates, and it reminds me that we’re here for a purpose – to help our clients build a better world.”

Mark has been equally heartened by the community values within the bank, particularly the support received by colleagues when learning new skills.

“If there’s something I don’t understand, there’s enormous willingness from my colleagues to help, and there’s a lovely collaborative approach to work at Rabobank that I’ve never experienced anywhere else.”

“From legal, to fellow relationship and credit analysts to credit managers, teams all work together to ensure a job gets done and there’s a genuine support structure.”

Championing diversity this Pride Month

And now Mark is proudly embracing the opportunity to give back, through Rabobank’s Rainbowbank LGBTIQA+ network.

With Pride Month running throughout the entirety of June, Mark is helping celebrate diversity and raise visibility through the Rainbowbank Network.

Mark Vecchiato - Rabobank
Mark and husband Shane Rhodes on their wedding day.

“Just as in the community, at work I also feel empowered to be my authentic self, and this group aims to ensure everyone at Rabobank is comfortable with who they are.”

It’s a privilege he acknowledges wasn’t possible for many in generations past.

“We have 20 people from across the bank in our Rainbowbank group, and it’s important in our industry that the LGBTIQA+ is celebrated.”

“Across the ag sector there may be people out there who may not be comfortable sharing who they are, and it’s my hope that groups like Rainbowbank help to open those doors.”

With the first Mardi Gras held in 1978, Mark said each generation since had continued to make inroads celebrating pride and diversity, but that challenges continued.

“Personally I get very frustrated with the blood donation rules for the LGBTIQA+ community, but with each challenge we continue to break down barriers and pave a path to the future.”

During Pride Month at Rabobank, Mark said he’s been impressed by the engagement across the whole bank, including the executives.

Head of Country Banking Marcel van Doremaele is the Executive Sponsor of the Rainbowbank Network, and hosted a lunch to hear stories from, and help promote, the group.

“This sort of support highlights that leaders within our business really do care about the wellbeing of every single person working in the bank.”  

Rainbow lanyards and branding are some other initiatives spearheaded to help raise LGBTIQA+  visibility this Pride Month, as well as a Trans and Gender Diverse Awareness session with Pride Training and a presentation of Rainbowbank’s 12 month roadmap to Rabobank’s Executive Sponsors.

A tree change for the better

Whilst he admits to missing his favourite Melbourne restaurants, Mark reflects on the past two years with a smile.

Mark Vecchiato - Rabobank

“I love how close everything is – waterfalls and wineries are all within ten minutes, and I certainly don’t miss the noise and hustle and bustle of the city.”

A recent two hour 10km crawl on Melbourne’s Western Ring Road did little to entice them back.

“The one thing I have noticed in the country is that people smile back at you – In the city I smile at someone in the street, and rarely do they smile back.”

“It’s such a small but lovely gesture that is still so prevalent in the country, and it makes everyone in the community feel embraced.”

Proud to be championing the LGBTIQA+ within Rabobank, and rural Australia, Mark said it was initiatives such as Pride Month and Rainbowbank that will continue to foster inclusivity and diversity, and that he’s thrilled that Rabobank was taking such an empowering stance this Pride Month.