Port Campbell Discussion Group

Discussion group to celebrate 50 years

A Port Campbell group believed to be Australia’s longest running dairy discussion organisation is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary early next year.

On Saturday January 30, 2016 past and present members of the Port Campbell Dairy Discussion Group will come together for a reunion dinner at the Port Campbell Surf Club.

When the group started in early 1966 televisions were in black and white, The Beatles ruled the airways and computerised dairies were a thing of science-fiction.

A lot has changed since then but the discussion group has remained a constant source of information and inspiration for local farmers.

Group leader Andy Powell, a second generation member who follows in the footsteps of his father Ross, said the major milestone was good reason for celebration. 

“The group has helped a lot of farmers over the years,” Andy said. “The greatest learning tool a farmer can have is to learn off other farmers.”

The group was started in 1966 by Department of Agriculture officers Jack Green and John Cruickshank and an enthusiastic collection of local farmers. 

The first meeting was held in July 1966 and Gus Ward was elected leader.

Interest was so strong that another group was formed a few weeks later with Ron Follett as leader. Each group had about 14 members and operated separately until the early 1970s when they were reunited.

The group now has 65 members and hopes to make the reunion a milestone event.

“We’d like to see all past and present people come along, and it’s open to non-members and others who are interested in dairy or in discussion groups,” Andy said. 

“We hope to have some of the original members here so they can compare things with the modern generation.”

The group has defied the fate of other now dissolved bodies by keeping its focus on issues of relevance to local farmers. 

“Port Campbell has always been a success because it is farmer-driven and because of the calibre of the farmers in the group,” Andy said. “The group is very proactive, always keeping on top of the major issues,” he added.

The group has a broad reach, covering to Ecklin, Brucknell, Simpson, Princetown and Mepunga. 

It has played a strong part in the region’s economic growth. “Dairying is the backbone of local business,” Andy said. “Towns like Timboon would find it very hard without dairy. If the dairy industry is down, places like Warrnambool also feel it.”

Corangamite Shire Mayor Cr Chris O’Connor said discussion groups were great value 

“I used to regularly attend discussion groups when I was farming so know the value they bring, particularly to younger farmers,” Cr O’Connor said.

“All farmers are very generous with sharing information.”

Dairy Australia Communications and Engagement Manager, Farm Communities - Industry Promotion and Product Innovation, Suzi O’Dell, said the anniversary milestone was a credit to the commitment of local farmers.

“It’s a truly `Legendairy’ effort by local farmers to sustain a group for 50 years and it shows just how dedicated farmers are to ensuring they use best practice,” Ms O’Dell said.

The Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the industry is supporting the group’s 50th anniversary dinner. 

If you would like more information about the group and the reunion please contact Rachael Campbell at the Department of Economic Development on (03) 5336 6868 or rachael.campbell@ecodev.vic.gov.au.