Katie McRobert

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General Manager

Katie will be speaking in Session 2 . Licence to operate. Click here to see more.


A strong agricultural sector, availability of regional jobs and financial capital, and improved regional liveability are not only linked but interdependent. The strength of the ag sector rests on consumer and market support, enabled by the nebulous ‘social licence to operate’ (SLO).

Social licence is notoriously difficult to quantify or measure, and is often shunted into the ‘too hard’ basket; yet it’s not something that can be ignored. In an information-heavy society, the ag sector is subject to mixed messages based on a melange of facts and feelings which could have serious consequences for SLO.

Many of today’s agricultural policy issues are inherently emotive. For example, the environmental impacts of land clearing or chemical use are issues that elicit impassioned social responses based on core beliefs, subsequently attracting regulation which could be adverse for some sectors.

‘Sustainability’ is a prime case study for SLO. Consumers want sustainable produce, growers want sustainable enterprises and natural resources, governments want sustainable economies; yet each stakeholder may hold different views on what sustainability means. Misunderstandings of this kind can seriously undermine community trust.

These themes are not new, yet action which could create a stronger, sustainable ag sector and stronger, sustainable regions has been lacking – largely due to short-term thinking. To assure the industry’s social licence, decision-makers must envision goals for agriculture and regional communities many decades ahead, consider alternative scenarios resulting from action or inaction, and commit to identifying the common goals and frames of reference which provide the foundations of social licence.


Katie McRobert is experienced in the fields of policy research, editing, communications and project management and has been part of the Australian Farm Institute (AFI) team since late 2017.

Prior to joining the AFI, Katie worked as the Global Content and Community Manager for Rabobank’s Global Farmers Network and as the National Editor for the FarmOnline agricultural news service, overseeing seven rural news mastheads including The Land and Queensland Country Life.

Katie has an MBA with Distinction from Griffith University specialising in Sustainable Business and competed in the 2020 Global Business Challenge finals with her team ReHose Solutions. ReHose won the ‘Most Innovative Business Project’ at the 2020 MBA Australasia Graduate Management Awards. She has also participated in the inaugural National Farmers’ Federation 2030 Leadership Program, which develops participants’ leadership capabilities in critical thinking, persuasion and influence, negotiation, facilitation, and communication.

Katie is the incoming Chair of the inaugural CSIRO Drought Resilience Mission Advisory Group, and a member of the NSW Environmental Trust Biodiversity Subcommittee.