An illustration of women who work in the agriculture and farm animal field. The text on a banner in front of the women says "Women in Agriculture".

Championing Higher Welfare; the Women Leading the Way

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the milestones of women working in agriculture toward a future of higher-welfare farming. Pushing for a better quality of life for the millions of animals farmed in Australia each year, through their resilience, innovation, and dedication these women are also raising the bar for gender equality in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field.

Women today work in many essential roles across the agricultural sector thanks to years of advocacy for equal representation, from farm hands and managers through to policymakers and suppliers, and of course, here at the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme. While we recognise the collective force of all women and those with diverse backgrounds, it’s important for us to highlight those working toward the common goal of higher-welfare farming. This means improving practices on the ground and advocating for change within industry, with each incremental effort helping to raise the bar for a better quality of life for farmed animals.

Today we celebrate some of the women who work at RSPCA Approved, along with dedicated producers and innovative specialists, all working to champion improvements in higher-welfare farming.

Melina Tensen
Senior Scientific Officer (Farm Animals)
RSPCA Australia

Hailing from the Netherlands where she had been working in agricultural aid, Melina began a Bachelor of Science in the UK and increasingly developed an interest in farm animal welfare. While establishing herself in Canberra, Melina completed a degree in agricultural sciences specialising in animal production and a graduate certificate in animal welfare, all while working full time in an agricultural aid organisation. 

“Change in practice as well as attitude towards farm animals and their welfare, relies on ongoing animal welfare research. Animal welfare organisations have a key role in communicating the outcomes of that research to raise awareness and encourage consumers to seek products from animals raised to higher-welfare standards.”

Melina’s role with RSPCA Australia focuses on providing science-based information, commentary and advice on farm animal welfare issues at industry, government, and consumer level, including the development and review of RSPCA policies and the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme Standards.

Tracey Ling
General Manager Risk & Compliance

Hazeldenes has a strong track record for improving meat chicken welfare. In fact, in 2014 they helped pave the way for Coles to launch their own brand fresh RSPCA Approved chicken. 

Tracey has been part of the industry as it pivoted towards a stronger focus on animal welfare. Having worked at Hazeldenes since 2000 and diving into Quality Management in 2005, she knows the importance of animal welfare and continuous improvement, as well as the importance of diversity in the agricultural field. 

“Don’t be put off by what have been typically male-dominated industries. If you work in a good organisation that respects the contribution made regardless of gender, embraces diversity and has the foundation for leadership and talent development then the opportunities are endless and very rewarding.” 

Kate Owers
Certification Coordinator
RSPCA Australia Certification Body

Certification Coordinator Kate has tailored credentials for her role with the RSPCA Australia Certification Body. With a degree in animal science along with experience in processing agri-environmental schemes for an international government organisation and working on the ground in rural supplies Kate has developed a keen interest in animal health and nutrition. Kate’s experience has solidified her interest in working with producers to implement improvements in rearing animals for food and fibre, as well as throughout the supply chain.

Working in our Certification Body has developed her knowledge of higher-welfare farming and given her the opportunity to work directly with industry.

“It’s important that we work with industry to implement evidence-based welfare gains and I am grateful that I am part of a team that achieves this. I value that we can see the tangible impacts of how industry has worked to improve welfare and provide higher-welfare options for consumers.”

Diana Ryan
RSPCA Australia Certification Body 

Diana grew up immersed in agriculture, involved with the day-to-day agenda on her family’s Dairy farm. Unsurprisingly, she has fostered a strong love of farm animals with a passion for cattle, with one of her most rewarding roles being assisting cows during difficult calvings. When her family downsized, Diana took on a small beef cattle farm, managing the business and the animals herself. Diana’s current role as an RSPCA Assessor allows her to continue being invested in agriculture across a range of industries, whilst also being involved in driving improvements across them.

“Collaborating with the entire team at RSPCA Approved and knowing that we are collectively making a real difference in improving farm animal welfare is exciting. Continual improvement each time a Standard is revised, creates a tangible and achievable way to improve the welfare of animals.  Creating positive change with industry, all while supporting the livelihood of farmers focused on higher-welfare farming is encouraging, and it’s why I am so keen to work with RSPCA Approved.”

Compared to when Diana completed her apprenticeship which included only three women out of 18 students, she’s noticed a shift in the balance of men and women working in agriculture.

“Things have changed particularly in the dairy industry where encouragingly, many women are now managing or owning dairy farms. Women have a huge role to play in agriculture due to a variety of skills that are ideal for working to raise the standard of farm animal welfare in Australia.”

Sheridan Alfirevich
General Manager – Farming


Sheridan has a strong background in animal welfare. After practising as a veterinarian in regional WA, she accepted a Poultry CRC sponsored veterinary internship as a result of her interest in avian medicine.

“I’d love to see more women involved in agriculture and specifically in the poultry industry. The poultry industry is growing rapidly and is dynamic, fast-paced and provides plenty of opportunity for career development and progression.”

After joining Inghams as General Manager of Farming in 2022, Sheridan now leads an experienced and dedicated team of more than 600 people responsible for managing Inghams farms and hatcheries nationally. She has also been actively involved in many animal welfare projects at Inghams to support their animal welfare strategy, including benchmarking Key Welfare Indicator targets and provision of enrichment on farms. 

Jeanelle Boyce
Head of Food Safety, Quality & Nutrition (Australia & New Zealand)

In 2021, McDonalds completed their move to sourcing 100% RSPCA Approved chicken throughout their Australian locations. Jeanelle was a key part of this accomplishment, working alongside supplier partners to achieve this transition, and in turn, ensure many millions of meat chickens now and in the future have a better quality of life. 

“I am fortunate in my role to work with and cross paths with many outstanding women in this field, who are passionate about progressive agriculture and higher-welfare farming, and what I see is that women bring not only a passionate and enthusiastic voice but are quite innovative in solving problems and identifying new initiatives to further the sector.”

As the Head of Food Safety, Quality and Nutrition, Jeanelle has a great understanding of the standards and importantly, the higher-welfare standards McDonalds is accountable for in its supply chains.

Lauren Mackenzie
 Lead Sustainability Manager – Forests Land & Agriculture

Lauren was immersed in farming and food supply early on; growing up on a property in Central Victoria, livestock and animals were part of her everyday life. Today at Coles, Lauren leads the Forest, Land and Agriculture Sustainability team, covering emissions, ecosystems and animal wellbeing, which focuses on safeguarding and the promotion of animal health and welfare outcomes, and the care of producers which leads to good animal wellbeing in our supply chains.

“I’ve seen such progress in women’s representation in senior leadership roles across the animal proteins sector in the last few years but there is still a way to go. Greater gender diversity helps to build more empowered, connected communities, which in turn improves the lives of our animals. 

I am especially proud that Coles was the first national supermarket retailer to launch RSPCA Approved chicken in our Own Brand products and since then we have expanded the program to source turkey and pork from outdoor raised pigs from farms with RSPCA Approved certification.” 

Melanie Simpson
 Agricultural Technologist – Coles Own Brand Sustainable Sourcing

Melanie’s journey in the agriculture sector began in the Coles Graduate program after having completed a Bachelor of Agriculture, majoring in Sustainable Production. As part of that program, she was immersed in many roles including product development and quality; meat production and supply chains; livestock procurement and responsible sourcing. Fast-forward to today, and Melanie is responsible for governance, policy and technical on-farm support across meat, sustainability and animal wellbeing claims at Coles.

“My hope is for more women, especially those coming through high school and university, to see a future for themselves in the agriculture industry.

As farming and food supply chains become more front of mind for the community, I hope the variety of work within the agricultural sector becomes more well known for young women and young people in general. There are many different avenues to pursue what you’re interested in and passionate about.”

Women in agriculture are a force of positive change, breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes in their fields. Their dedication, expertise and drive are an inspiration for future generations of women, as well as others from diverse backgrounds, orientations and abilities, looking to pursue careers in farming and agriculture. As we reflect on these invaluable contributions this International Women’s Day, we celebrate the empowerment of women in agriculture, ensuring continued recognition for all women in years to come and providing inspiration to anyone looking towards a career in the agriculture space. 

Interested in reading more? 
RSPCA Assessors Bringing a Wealth of Experience
Dedication and Teamwork Ensuring a Robust Certification

1 Australian Government – Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestery, 2023


One response to “Championing Higher Welfare; the Women Leading the Way”

  1. Sandy Coe says:

    As a vegetarian it gives me some hope for the animals knowing women are monitoring animal production on some of the farms.

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