David Crombie AM receives 2017 agribusiness leadership award
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David Crombie AM receives 2017 agribusiness leadership award

Australian agricultural industry luminary David Crombie AM has been named the 2017 recipient of the trans-Tasman Rabobank Leadership Award, for outstanding contribution to the food, beverage and agribusiness sectors.

Mr Crombie was presented with the award in front of close to 300 food and agribusiness leaders from across Australia and New Zealand at the annual Rabobank Leadership Award dinner in Melbourne last night.

Nathan Free, managing director of Victoria’s largest organic farming operation Duralgai Horticultural, took out the title of 2017 Rabobank Emerging Leader, recognising young leaders in the sector.

Presenting the award, Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group managing director Peter Knoblanche said the breadth of Mr Crombie’s contribution to Australia’s agricultural sector and the wider community over the past four decades was “truly awe inspiring”.

“You would have to go a very long way to find an individual who has accomplished and contributed as much in so many aspects of Australian agriculture – indeed Australian business and public life – than David Crombie,” Mr Knoblanche said.

“David has more than 40 years of commercial and representational experience in agriculture, much of this spent at the highest level, at the helm of both industry organisations and business enterprises.

“The list of his achievements and the contributions he has made is frankly exhausting. And such is David’s great passion for agriculture that I am sure there is much more yet to come.”

Mr Knoblanche said “Australian agriculture has indeed been fortunate to have such an outstanding and tireless ambassador, who is held in such high regard both in and outside the sector”.

“At the same time, David has been a very successful business leader in his own right. And with all of this, he has also always been extremely generous with his time, in particular when it comes to mentoring and fostering others within the sector.”

A fifth generation cattle producer from south-east Queensland, Mr Crombie served as president of the National Farmers Federation from 2006 to 2010, as well as chairman of Meat and Livestock Australia (from 1998 to 2005) and Meat Standards Australia (1996-1998).

“During David’s tenure at Meat and Livestock Australia, he played a seminal role in building the meat industry’s reputation and skills at a crucial time in its development and driving change in the sector,” Mr Knoblanche said.

“Within the meat industry, he was the chief protagonist for Meat Standards Australia, the world’s gold standard for meat tenderness and consistency, and the NLIS (National Livestock Identification System).”

He was a Commissioner of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and served as Australian co-chair of the IndoBeef program – a collaborative research initiative established between the Australian and Indonesian Governments to strengthen Indonesia’s community-based beef sector and improve the livelihoods of Indonesia’s rural poor.

Mr Crombie has also been closely involved in a number of organisations which support agriculture more broadly, including the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, which he chaired from 2000 to 2008.

In addition to running his own farming enterprises, David Crombie was a founding partner of international development company GRM International (now Palladium) and served as managing director until 2000. Mr Crombie remains on the Board of Palladium which is now recognised as a world leader in the delivery of development assistance and impact investment.

He currently sits on the boards of three listed companies - Australian Agricultural Company, Alliance Aviation Services and Barrack St Investments. He previously held board positions with Grainco, Export Finance Insurance Corporation and Foodbank Queensland, and was managing director of Queensland NT Pastoral Company (formerly King Ranch Australia).

In recent years, Mr Knoblanche said, Mr Crombie had been a passionate advocate for the opening up of Australia’s north for agriculture and has participated in the Federal Government’s Land and Water and Infrastructure Task Forces and contributed in the lead-up to the new Cooperative Research Centre for Northern Australia.

Outside of agribusiness, Mr Knoblanche said, David Crombie had also demonstrated exceptional leadership in “his other great passion – sport, and, in particular, rugby”.

A former representative player for Queensland and a Wallaby, Mr Crombie went on to be Chair and President of the QRU (Queensland Rugby Union) and a board member and President of the ARU (Australian Rugby Union).

In 2014 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to agriculture, communities and sport.

Accepting the award, Mr Crombie said his career within the industry had been driven by a passionate belief in agriculture.

“I believe agriculture is really important and that it is something that Australia does very well,” he said. “There’s a view out there that ‘oh, I’m just a farmer’. Well, no, we’re not just farmers, Australian farmers are amongst the best food producers in the world.

“And we’re in the food generation right now. There are expanding populations within our region, but more importantly there is increased purchasing power within an expanding middle class who are prepared to pay for differentiated quality foods. Australia is wonderfully positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. Let’s be proud of what we do, let’s tell our stories and let’s keep getting better at doing it.”

Mr Crombie said while it was an important element of leadership to have clarity of vision and to advocate that view strongly, it was also essential to adapt to changing circumstances.

“A part of good leadership is when circumstances alter, to have the courage to change. As a leader you need be out there in front – you need to articulate with total clarity what is required, you need to equip your team with the necessary skills and, by doing this, you can create opportunities to empower your team to travel where they may not go themselves,” he said. “In that sense, the production paradigm is shifting in agriculture. We are moving from a ‘fair average quality commodity mindset’ producing what we are comfortable with towards delivering the needs of our customers. This customer focus provides clear signals up and down the chain and requires that everyone in the chain be totally engaged and accountable.”

The peer-nominated and judged Rabobank Leadership Award is presented annually to individuals who create sustainable growth and prosperity at both a corporate and industry level in the food and agribusiness industries, while demonstrating wider commitment to society. Other previous recipients include Australian and New Zealand food and agri corporate leaders Sir Graeme Harrison, John Watson, Max Ould, John McLean, Nick Burton-Taylor, Robert Hill-Smith, Barry Irvin and Sir George Fistonich as well as leading food scientists Dr Bruce Lee and Dr Jim Peacock, and Australian industry organisation leader Mick Keogh.

The 2017 Rabobank Leadership Dinner was held at Mural Hall in Melbourne. Keynote speaker was Executive Chairman of Bega Cheese and 2011 Rabobank Leadership Award recipient, Barry Irvin AM.


Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is a part of the global Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has nearly 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand is one of Australasia’s leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand 
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525 
Email: denise.shaw@rabobank.com  


Skye Ward
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103
Email: skye.ward@rabobank.com

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