Everyday plant health heroes

Craig Elliot

Coordinator, National Xylella Preparedness Program, Wine Australia and Hort Innovation

A big part of my day involves talking and presenting on biosecurity risks and what we can do to protect agriculture…

How did you choose your job? Or did it choose you?

This role touches on a lot of the work I love doing – being the interface between researchers and industry to help raise awareness and adoption of their work as well as looking at preparedness and prevention measures to reduce the impact that something like Xylella would have on our country.

How long have you worked in this industry?

I actually started my career as a Police Officer after university, which gave me my initial training in incident management. Since 2002, I have worked in natural resource management and biosecurity agencies in Queensland and Tasmania in a variety of roles including operations and emergency management, training, policy and legislation development and then a series of senior roles.

What does plant health mean to you?

I like the motto, ‘Plants = Life’. You can’t imagine a world that has pests and diseases running rampant through our agricultural and natural systems and I would like to see biosecurity treated as a normal part of life with people being careful about what they bring into Australia.

What are your greatest achievements in this role?

The focus of the first year in this role was on awareness raising; especially as Xylella could be regarded as ‘just another problem’ in amongst all the other biosecurity threats and the other pressures on people. So, every time I see Xylella being mentioned in industry communications and the media I think we are having a win. Something I’m excited about is the interest that is being generated about using ‘behavioral change’ techniques to improve the adoption of biosecurity practices.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A big part of my day involves talking and presenting on biosecurity risks and what we can do to protect agriculture, the natural environment and communities from pests and diseases. Normally this sees me travel a lot to meet with industry groups and speak at conferences and workshops. The other main work I’m doing is monitoring developments overseas and talking with researchers studying Xylella to get that information to the right people working on Xylella here and making connections between those people. In the upcoming year we’ll start moving into the development of the response plans and procedures to manage a Xylella incursion as well as commissioning a project studying potential Xylella insect vectors in Australia.

What advice would you give anybody wanting to get into the industry?

Be flexible and focus on the outcome. Biosecurity is, unfortunately in some ways, a boom business. We are going to see more and more pressure on our borders and then on our agricultural sectors and the environment from new and existing pests and diseases, so that means that it is an exciting and dynamic area. For people coming into the field it’s important to remain flexible to how the threat environment changes and what is required but, most importantly, remember that you are dealing with people’s lives and businesses and your decisions can have long-term and very personal impacts on people.

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