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CALM THE FARM: TAFE NSW Goulburn helping Sue blaze a trail for women in ag

TAFE NSW Goulburn

CALM THE FARM: TAFE NSW Goulburn helping Sue blaze a trail for women in ag

ANIMAL INSTINCT: Parkesbourne farmer Sue Arcus says TAFE NSW is giving her the skills to diversify in her role.

13 May 2024

TAFE NSW Goulburn has helped a Parkesbourne farmer take her career to a new frontier despite being in the industry for decades.

Sue Arcus will never forget the day her dream of working in agriculture almost ended before it began.

“I was 17 and had applied for a job as a farmhand on a Goulburn property … the farmer just laughed me out of the room,” Mrs Arcus said. “He just couldn’t accept a female could drive a tractor or put in a fence post.”

Fast forward 35 years and Mrs Arcus has been running a successful Black Murray Grey beef cattle property in Parkesbourne for two decades.

Her story highlights how far women have come in agriculture in a relatively short period. Before 1994, farming women could not be legally recognised in Australia, instead being forced to list their occupations as “domestics” or “helpmates” on Census forms.

But times are changing. Women now make up about a third of the nation’s agriculture workforce and National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) outgoing president Fiona Simson, the first female president in the organisation’s 40-year history, said the NFF’s goal was to double the number of women in agriculture’s leadership ranks by 2030, adding TAFE NSW was an important pathway for aspiring ag professionals.

Despite her long affiliation with farming, Mrs Arcus recently commenced her first formal qualification, a Certificate III in Agriculture at TAFE NSW Goulburn.

“Farming was always going to be my destiny, even when people were saying women can’t be farmers,” Mrs Arcus said. “I get a real kick out of helping produce a quality product and I genuinely think it’s an honour to be producing food for people.

“I love the peace and quiet, the hard work and I love the idea I’m giving an animal a good life.”

She said with seasons on the land being either “boom or bust”, she wanted to get a TAFE NSW qualification to put her in a stronger position to secure farm contracting work to supplement her family’s income.

“I’m cleaning bed and breakfasts at the moment for a second job but I should be doing what I’m best at – farming,” she said.

“The TAFE NSW course is so practical and the industry is always changing. I’m learning things like new tagging methods for NLIS and chainsaw techniques.

“My teachers have an absolute wealth of knowledge and are so good at sharing their skills.

“I’m a strong believer that you never stop learning and TAFE NSW is a great place for lifelong learning.”

TAFE NSW Goulburn agriculture teacher Jamie Kay, who also runs his own farm in the district, said Mrs Arcus was a powerful example of the growing influence of women in agriculture.

“Agriculture is one of those industries that is powering ahead and there are so many opportunities out there for all TAFE NSW graduates, regardless of gender,” Mr Kay said.

Media contact: Dan Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 0477 722 428