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Farmer, advocate, leader

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Tracy Lefroy is the epitome of a modern multitasker. From farming with husband Kristin at Cranmore Farming in Bindi-Bindi, to grains industry and regional Australia advocate, and President of the Shire of Moora, Tracy balances a myriad of roles with grace, determination, and an unwavering commitment to each endeavour.

For Tracy, the decision to step up and to represent her community as a councillor was a simple one, following on from the example set by her grandparents and parents who held leadership roles in their towns.

“To be part of the community means giving back more than you get. And that has certainly been the ethos I have chosen to live by,” said Tracy. “There were things happening within our town that I felt could be done differently, or changed for the better, and I just don’t think it’s fair to make commentary from the outside.

“I thought, ‘I can’t pass judgment on those who are doing the work and who are volunteering their time’ — so I put my hand up. That was six years ago and I honestly love it.”

Tracy was elected Deputy President in a contested election in November 2019, and was elected without contest to the presidential role a year later.

Statistics released this month for International Women’s Day show that the progression of women in leadership roles is being made at a glacial pace, and this is in line with what Tracy has observed. She says, “Across local government, gender balance in terms of representation around the table is quite good — but in the leadership roles it’s not there.”

“I certainly feel that there are many situations where gender is no longer an issue — and I have never felt as Shire President that it has been an issue for me when interacting with our community or other stakeholders. But then I look at the big wall with all the photos of past presidents in the Shire of Moora, and I’m only the second female. How can that not mean that gender has been a barrier to someone becoming Shire president?”

It was fortunate for Moora that gender was not a barrier for Tracy, as the combination of experience living in the region, together with a big ambition for a town she clearly loves and is proud of, has enabled her to make significant positive changes and contributions to its development — with a strong team behind her.

“I would like to think that part of my leadership journey has been raising the profile of the Shire of Moora — to recognise the role that we have within the region as a leader. We are the largest centre between Perth and Geraldton and as such, provide services such as policing, education, healthcare, industry, and retail that you cannot get anywhere else.

“I was lucky to come in behind a Shire President who was very strong and proactive, and I have a fantastic CEO in Gavin Robbins.

“I have awesome support from not only my deputy, but from fellow councillors, and we are working cohesively with a medium to long term view.”

Complementing her position at the Shire and as Director at Cranmore Farming, Tracy is also a board member of the Grain Industry Association of WA and Chair of the Wheat Council, its subsidiary commodity board. She is a non-executive director at InterGrain, and representative on the Grain Growers National Policy Group. While this sounds like far too many hats to be wearing (not forgetting Tracy is also mother to three children!), her passion and gratitude for being appointed to the roles keep her energised.

“I feel so lucky to do the range of jobs I do, from farming, to our community, to state-based work to federal policy work,” Tracy said. “And I love the different hats — it means you’re refreshed each time you go into a different situation, there’s no Groundhog Day feeling.

“Interestingly, I find the layers of work all complement each other. For example, I was lucky enough as Chair of the Wheat Council to MC a dinner with a delegation from Japan, who use our grain to make udon noodles. It was a great opportunity to build relationships, and the next day was spent negotiating the protein range and blend of wheat that we are sending to them. I love that a farmer from Moora is actively engaged in negotiating with our Japanese end users. I think that is phenomenal.”

While Tracy loves the end result — “It’s so exciting when you see something that you’ve worked on actually come to fruition” — she says trusting the process and enjoying the journey is key to a successful outcome, no matter what sector she is working in.

“Advocacy is a slow burn,” she said. “It can take a while to get there, and the process is not always linear. But if you are there for the right reasons, hopefully the outcomes will follow.”

Returning to the topic of gender disparity in leadership roles, Tracy has firsthand experience navigating challenges that disproportionately affect women, especially those with children. The ability to seize spontaneous opportunities, accept travel commitments, or accommodate late-night meetings becomes significantly more complex when juggling the responsibilities of family life, and “Who is looking after the kids?” is rarely a question asked of a male CEO! The decision to prioritise family over career can be viewed as a weakness, but this is a perception Tracy aims to challenge. She explains, “I was invited to join a delegation to Jakarta for the Australian Grains Industry Conference, to which I had already committed…then, the school calendar was released. It meant I would be missing my daughter’s last swimming carnival, when I’d also made a commitment to her that I would attend every sports carnival this year.”

“So, I pulled out of the delegation. I felt sick making the call, and I felt embarrassed and awkward about that being the reason. But unless we start saying, ‘I’m prioritising my family,’ and viewing that as a valid reason not to commit to other projects, we’ll continue to feel awkward.”

Despite this already impressive back catalogue of experience, there is a sense that Tracy is still a well of untapped potential – the strength of the network she has built further fuelling her prospects. Pondering whether her metaphorical hat-stand is at capacity, Tracy laughed and said, “I don’t know — the opportunities arise, and I just keep saying yes!”