Connecting the community through the Rabo Client Council

Posted by Rabobank Australia on

18/06/2024
An opportunity to join the Riverina Rabo Client Council has eased Annabel Burge’s transition to the region


Having made the move to her husband’s Riverina family farming operation post Covid, Annabel Burge is a world away from her bustling Melbourne law career.

And having so far battled through mice plagues and floods, plus a difficult pregnancy, she laughs that perhaps corporate law was more merciful.

While Annabel admits that the transition to farming life has had its challenges, she and husband Alistair, who are now joined by baby Lucinda, are excited to be back on the land, working on his family’s Coleambally cotton and cereals operation.

Recently, Annabel has gained further opportunity to immerse herself in her new community and meet like-minded ag professionals thanks to the Rabo Client Council.

The Riverina Rabo Client Council is made up of client volunteers who work with the bank to develop and deliver grass roots initiatives, and prioritise where funding can make the greatest impact within the community.

Across Australia there are seven Rabo Client Councils, all ensuring that Rabobank’s community support is delivered exactly where it should be.

“I didn’t know anything about the Rabo Client Council until I was approached by regional manager Sally Bull last year,” Annabel explains. “I was immediately impressed by the concept, and the opportunity to not only support the community, but also to do something personally fulfilling.”

Rabo Client Council support is directed around key themes, including agri education and building industry capacity, rural health, sustainability, and building rural/urban connection.

From supporting vulnerable youth, to mental health workshops with Mary O’Brien of ‘Are you bogged mate?’ the Rabo Client Council delivers initiatives across Australia, directly to the door of regional and rural communities.

Encouraging connected, vibrant communities

Originally from South Gippsland, Annabel is thrilled to be meeting so many new people from across the region thanks to the Rabo Client Council.

“The Riverina is such a broad area, and our client council region spans from Young to the border region, so it’s nice to have an opportunity to meet people from a range of different areas and commodities within the group.”

As a Rabo Client Council member, Annabel is required to attend a number of meetings annually, as well as the community initiatives on offer.

“We have our second round of Financial Skills Workshops in Coleambally on Wednesday, July 24, and as an initiative aimed to provide practical financial skills specifically for farm-based businesses, these workshops are always so well received, and relevant.”

It was actually whilst attending a Rabo Client Council Rural Financial Skills Workshop that Annabel was approached by Sally to join the council.

“I participated in the workshop to gain a greater understanding of the farm business, and can personally vouch for how practical and informative the workshop was.”

“From succession planning to business management, Rabobank takes a lead on ensuring farmers remain up-to-date on the latest knowledge and insights, and there are so many opportunities the bank presents to help farm businesses grow.”

“As young farmers ourselves, we’re so appreciative of Rabobank for opening these conversations within the community, it’s an asset to our business.”

Boys to the Bush is an organisation supported by the Rabo Client Council, a local Not-for-Profit that helps disengaged youth through mentorship and early intervention strategies.

“Getting these young boys work on farms has been a widely adopted opportunity, and one which we’re really proud of.”

Hay Inc is another program Rabo Client Council is helping that is having a positive impact on the community.

“Hay Inc is a rural education program that provides practical on-farm training to students who may otherwise not have an opportunity to gain basic hands-on training and bush skills to make them employable.”

“Any community engagement that brings people together, whether it’s vulnerable youth or older farmers, is so worthwhile.”

“All Rabo Client Council initiatives are about connecting the community, and getting people off their farms, which is so important.”

As the second youngest member of the Riverina Rabo Client Council, Annabel is particularly passionate about education, and considering farming’s ever-evolving sophistication, ensuring local producers have the knowledge and skills required to run increasingly complex operations.

“I’ve also learnt so much from the other members of the client council, which includes people of various ages and experiences, and who are all actively engaged in the community – it’s very inspiring.”

Meetings are generally held in Albury, with a day of travel allocated so members can meet socially for dinner the evening before a meeting.

“Dinner the evening before the meeting is a great opportunity to relax and have a general chat and catch up, before the meeting the following day which is when we really get into the detail about how we can ensure Rabobank is best supporting our region.”

In addition to providing rural communities with unique learning experiences, Annabel said being part of the Rabo Client Council had been extremely fulfilling personally.

“I came into this experience with no expectations – albeit with a newborn baby, which has been a bit of a juggle – yet it’s been a wonderful experience, and it’s so fulfilling to contribute to a greater purpose.”

“The Rabo Client Council has also without a doubt eased my transition into the region, I’m meeting new people and feeling part of the community and I’m excited by opportunities that together we can provide our locals.”