Dr Amy Munro was once a country kid with dreams of working with animals. Today, the newly qualified veterinarian has just won a national award for her efforts to give the next generation a voice in agriculture, while shining a light on gender inequality in the industry.
Dr Amy Munro has always been a proud supporter of regional Australia.
It is where she grew up, studied at university, and has just started forging a career as a mixed practice veterinarian helping creatures great and small.
It was her country upbringing on her family’s farm in Cumnock in Central West NSW that first ignited her passion for agriculture and its many animals.
Years later that same passion led her to study at Charles Sturt University, where she spent her time championing for youth in agriculture and serving as the Vice President and Youth Coordinator for the peak body, Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA).
The 24-year-old’s commitment and contribution to her industry has not gone unnoticed and has garnered her this year’s prestigious Agriculture Student of the Year award at the Australian Farmer of the Year Awards.
The award recognised her passion to encourage the next generation to engage with the agriculture industry, her efforts to boost gender equality and diversity in the industry, and her continued drive to further her education in animal welfare.
“The award was something I was nominated for … I am still a bit shocked about it,” Dr Munro said.
“I didn’t need or expect any recognition for what I was doing, it is nice to see other people have recognised what I am doing is a positive influence on the industry.”
Since graduating in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences with a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology / Bachelor of Veterinary Science in June last year, Dr Munro secured a job in Cohuna in northern Victoria where she spends half her time working with diary cattle.
Although Dr Munro loves her position and feels ‘quite lucky to have it’, she said every day has its challenges and she is keen to use her platform to inform the public about those challenges.
“With mixed practice, you have got to switch between different species and different client personalities. It can be pretty challenging, especially when it’s an emergency,” she said.
“One of the biggest things as a new graduate that I needed to learn was to try and moderate my amount of emotional energies, so that I still had a bit left for myself. Within the first few months, I learned pretty quickly that that's what I had to do to look after myself first, so that I could help.
“I think there is increasing awareness in the public eye of the mental health issues experienced by vets and the day-to-day struggles and challenges of the profession, but I think part of those issues come from a lack of client understanding.”
Dr Munro said one challenge is some clients don’t understand the costings and billing processes, but she thinks communication is key to addressing this.
“I think there needs to be more communication and positive storytelling when it comes to mental health and the challenges of the profession, so people respect vets that little bit more and understand the next level effect of some things – including what clients do – that can really impact vets.
“I want to lead by example in the industry and do my best in the profession by sharing my story, helping people to understand or learn certain things about the profession, and just really encouraging everyone to communicate.”
Another passion for Dr Munro is improving gender equality and the opportunities for women, particularly young women, in agriculture.
While serving with AWiA, she played a fundamental role in establishing and serving on its inaugural Youth Committee and creating a Youth Coordinator position for the peak body.
She also represented the organisation at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) 2020 conference, delivering a presentation on the importance of farm succession planning.
While studying at Charles Sturt Dr Munro investigated the experiences of vets and how gender influences their experiences.
“One of my main findings was that both men and women experience sexism in the workplace,” she said.
“Whether it's a man being asked to lift heavy things, or a woman being asked to do some kind of domestic task.
“There is sexism in the industry, and it can affect people’s mental health, and I think it’s important we talk about it.”