Marking the end of a chapter in his distinguished career in the Australian grains industry, Donald McGauchie AO will retire from GrainCorp’s Board of Directors in February 2022.
Twice appointed to the Board from 2000-2003 and 2009 respectively, Donald’s extensive experience as a farmer and on public company boards has helped steer the agribusiness through major industry changes and challenging climates for over 15 years.
The boy from Bendigo, Victoria, still lives in the house he was born in. He participates in the management of the family property, Terrick West Estate, a sheep and cropping enterprise, with his wife Elizabeth, alongside his brother Ross and wife Robyn.
While a love of the land runs deep in his veins, his career expands well beyond the farm gates.
He served as President of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) from 1994 to 1998 and held executive roles with Woolstock Australia Ltd, Telstra, the Victorian Rural Finance Corporation and a string of board seats including with the Reserve Bank, the Ridley Corporation, National Foods, James Hardie Industries NV and Nufarm Limited.
Mr McGauchie is currently Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Company Ltd, Chairman of the Australian Wool Testing Authority, a Non-executive Director of Special Olympics Australia and special skills external Director at Nuffield Australia.
Mr McGauchie said despite wearing many different hats, agriculture has always been central to the soul.
“My family has farmed in northern Victoria since the 1850s, so agriculture has always been a very big part of my life, particularly the wool and grains industries,” he said.
“I spent several years on the farm before getting involved in agricultural politics, via the Victorian Farmers Federation, Grains Council of Australia and then the NFF where we achieved the liberalisation of the agriculture trading system and reduced the cost of exports.”
In 2004, Mr McGauchie was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of his services to the Australian grain and wool industries and for economic reform of Australian agricultural commodity handling and marketing.
The award largely recognised Mr McGauchie’s role in the de-regulation, privatisation and amalgamation of three state-owned enterprises, VicGrain, the NSW Grains Board and GrainCo in Queensland, which became GrainCorp as it’s known today.
In fact, the first time he served on the Board was when the Victorian Elevators Board was acquired by VicGrain, which he says marked momentous change for the industry and, ultimately, GrainCorp.
“I have to say that’s my favourite memory of my time at GrainCorp – when the Victorian Government handed down its decision to sell the business to us.
“That was quite an achievement, delivered under huge pressure and competition, but we remained determined to put the Grain Elevators Boards in the hands of growers.
The long-lasting legacy of that event is something I hold very close to my heart, so I was delighted to come back for a new era.”
In his directorship at GrainCorp, Mr McGauchie says he has enjoyed watching the company’s evolution.
“GrainCorp is competing in the marketplace in a way that it has never had to before and that evolution, in my opinion, has produced a really fine company,” he said.
“The culture of the company remains strong and has embraced the changes they needed to grow.
“Looking ahead, we need to invest in the network as we’ve done in recent years to improve our performance and we need to support growers in managing all the issues climate change is throwing at us.
“That’s how the company will stay one step ahead.”
And as for the future of the country’s agricultural industry – his hopes are high, thanks in large part to the resilience of Aussie farmers.
“One of the great strengths of Australian agriculture is that our farmers are incredibly resilient; they deal with issues that many farmers around the world do not, like the variability of markets and severe droughts.
We’ve also produced a new generation of competent younger people who will take the industry forward. The farming community today are younger, better connected and more worldly than ever before.
“GrainCorp’s sponsorship of a Nuffield scholar in the grains industry is a fantastic example of how the company can invest in those younger people and create a new legacy for the industry.”
GrainCorp CEO and Managing Director Robert Spurway said Mr McGauchie’s legacy will be long remembered at GrainCorp.
“Donald has had an extraordinary influence on agriculture in Australia and he’s inspired many to follow in his footsteps,” Mr Spurway said.
“On behalf of the people at GrainCorp, many of whom know Mr McGauchie personally, I thank him for his service to the company and wish him the very best in his future endeavours.”