Nuffield Scholar Brooke Barkla from CPC.
Nuffield Scholar Brooke Barkla from CPC.

Indonesia experience inspires Nuffield study

When she packed her bags and left Indonesia in March 2020, Brooke Barkla was bound for the Nuffield Australia Contemporary Scholar’s Conference in Brisbane.

From there, Brooke would set out on the international research component of her Nuffield scholarship on the socio-economic impacts of the Australian live export industry in existing and emerging markets.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic took off and, with borders rapidly closing, the Nuffield travel was cancelled at the last minute.

Brooke hasn’t returned to Indonesia, despite it being home for four years, working as Consolidated Pastoral Company’s (CPC) Business Development and Performance Manager, based in South Sumatera.

Originally from a cattle property in south east Queensland and now based in Darwin, Brooke’s a self-described jack of all trades. Her role with CPC covers everything from operational aspects of the business to profitability analysis, sales and import planning and cattle quality control both on arrival and departure.

“Our team in Indonesia continuously strives to meet the highest animal welfare standards,” Brooke said.

“Across all aspects of operations from feeding, bedding, cattle handling, hospital treatments to processing facilities, they make cattle comfort and welfare their number one priority every day.”

Awarded the Nuffield scholarship in 2019, Brooke’s application was motivated by a desire to drill down into the direct and indirect benefits of the live export industry on the livelihoods of people, both in Indonesia and further afield.

“Obviously the live export industry is key to food supply into the region, but I’m really interested in the livelihoods that depend on our industry as well,” Brooke said.

“Living and working in Indonesia has allowed me to see firsthand how integral the industry is to feeding, employing and supporting literally millions of people there and right around the world.

“Animal welfare is such a huge focus of the industry, as it should be, but the people involved in country are critical as well and a part of the industry that doesn’t get as much attention.”

In addition to the current socio-economic impacts, Brooke’s research will examine the potential effects of any future transition away from importing live Australian cattle to higher volumes of boxed beef and cattle from other nations.

With plans to visit countries throughout Asia, as well as Brazil, India, Mexico and the Middle East, the COVID-19 pandemic has made components of her Nuffield research trickier than they might otherwise have been. Brooke has also seen how the pandemic has posed challenges for all involved in CPC’s operations in Indonesia.

“CPC employs roughly 600 staff in Indonesia, not including the broader supply chain roles like commodity and feed production, butchers and truck drivers,” Brooke said.

“All told, there are roughly 12,000 families supported by CPC operations in Indonesia, and COVID-19 has had a significant impact on them.

“Culturally, the pandemic is changing the dynamics of how business is done. Social distancing doesn’t come naturally to the Indonesian people, as they’re often living and working in really close proximity to each other.

“Decisions are normally made collectively, through in-person discussion, so social distancing has led to big management changes as well.

“With impacts on shipboard staff as well, the industry and people employed within it have really shown their resilience by managing to proceed without any major disruptions, while keeping animals and people safe and employed.”

This story featured in the November 2021 edition of LiveCorp’s Ruminations magazine

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