SHE'S been an instrumental part in developing the future of the Northern Territory pastoral industry.
Dubbed one of the Territory's most influential people, Tracey Hayes wears her heart on her sleeve when talking about the community and industry she's extremely proud to work in, live in and promote.
The first female chief executive officer of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association recently announced her resignation from the role after three years, which has prompted an outpouring of admiration for the mother-of-four.
Ms Hayes took some time out of her busy schedule to catch up with Rural Weekly recently to look back at her time in the hot seat.
"It's been a fantastic position. I've loved every minute of it," she said.
"I've had the chance to deal with a whole range of fabulous people at a membership level through to politicians and policy makers.
"At the end of the day, it's been my role to influence change for the better, work with the industry and people and to make sure the Territory's pastoral industry is headed in the right direction."
Some of Ms Hayes' highlights from the role include negotiating a land access model for the resource sector and leading a $600million class action against the government.
"Getting mandatory land access agreements into the policy was a huge win for the industry. It's the first step in the right direction," she said.
"Beforehand landholders had minimal say. Companies would just send a letter of their intent to explore.
"The co-existence, land access model for mining and gas is ongoing, it's not complete. It needs to be legislated to ensure the protection of our livelihoods into the future.
"This is something I'd really like to see through before finishing up."
Ms Hayes said a lot had gone on behind the scenes in preparation for the class action against the government and former agricultural minister Joe Ludwig following a complete suspension of live animal exports to Indonesia in 2011, which left the industry reeling and many farmers without income.
"A win for us was the Federal Court ordering Joe Ludwig to hand over private emails and texts relating to the class action," she said.
"We now have a court date set down for the middle of July, which is another step in the right direction."
While Ms Hayes said every day presented new challenges and the Territory had come a long way, it had been difficult trying to implement a new way of thinking in the government and resources sector.
Travel has been a huge part of the role, including various trips to China and Indonesia.
"We constantly have a particular focus on alternative markets for the Territory; previously we've been highly exposed and vulnerable without market diversity," she said.
"We've needed to be strategic in our approach. We're really focusing on one area and one region of China and building strong friendships and relationships with key players.
"Hopefully soon AACo will get the go-ahead to export to China. Negotiations are still going on around live export protocols and limitations in place, including blue tongue."
One international project Ms Hayes said she was extremely proud of was an Indonesian pastoral program.
"We recruit candidates from 13 universities from across Indonesia," she said.
"We select 20 to be part of the program and bring them back to Australia and put them through intensive training, educating them in northern beef and have them out working on members' stations.
"It is an experience of a lifetime.
"Then six months later the host families tour their villages in Indonesia and visit their universities, it's a real 360 culture experience program.
"It's helping us to form life-long relationships with the young Indonesian community and cementing our future relationships."
Ms Hayes said building rock-solid relationships at a grass roots level would make it easier for the Territory to do business with Indonesia in the future, an achievement of which she was extremely proud.
Alongside international travel, the Territory's a big place to cover when you are required at 16 face-to-face branch meetings in different areas each year.
"It's really essential we get out to these meetings with the members," Ms Hayes said.
"We do about 20,000km a year covering the ground. It's a big job.
"We make sure the members have a chance to form policy and help take the association in the direction it needs to go."
There are also four meetings a year with the executive board to discuss what has been going on out in the regions and branches.
The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association is dedicated to getting the next generation into the pastoral industry and Ms Hayes said the indigenous pastoral program played a huge role.
"We recruit young indigenous people into a program and place them in paid positions and mentor them through the process," she said.
"At this year's conference we had an inaugural award for a great young achiever to attract and encourage others to be a part of the program."
Ms Hayes said the annual conference had become a huge part of their year now, attracting more than 500 delegates.
"It's one of the bigger agri-conferences in Australia now," she said. "It's a really great opportunity for us to work with our colleagues and partners in the industry.
"But it's also a chance for the pastoralists to come to town and we seek out speakers who will challenge and inspire people.
"We make it all about thinking outside the square and looking for over the horizon challenges and opportunities.
"I really believe we're one of the most progressive organisations in the country and we're up with the modern industry. There's such a diversity in the Territory with family and corporate entities."
Before finishing up in the role, Ms Hayes would like to have the opportunity to assist to develop a northern Australian beef strategic plan.
"We're at the stage now we have a really good opportunity to have a targeted focus on north Australia," she said.
"We've got our own minister and a focus out of Canberra like we've never had before.
"The challenges that exist for us also exist in Western Australia and Queensland - the plan includes those jurisdictions as well.
"A great example would be when we're lobbying for money for the beef roads. If we have a strategic direction that can sit underneath it, instead of a blue print sitting on the shelf collecting dust, we've got more to refer to - here's our blue print for investment."
Last year Ms Hayes was placed in the top spot of the Territory's most influential people.
"We were wondering who it would be. Not for one minute did I think it was going to be me," she said.
"I was really humbled but I felt more than anything it was indicative of where our association and the industry is at the moment."
While Ms Hayes said she was stepping down from the role to spend more time with her family, she would still like to contribute to the industry in some way.
"The boys are in high school now so we will stay in Darwin until they've finished to continue to give them stability," she said.
"I'll still work from home. I've got other business interests that have been neglected of late, but I will certainly keep myself busy and challenged.
"I've been involved in the NTCA for a long time now, as vice-president and as CEO, I can't see myself breaking away overnight."
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