Show societies —young and old working together

Bianca Williams holding her daughter and Ian Cassell

One of the greatest challenges facing volunteer-run committees is recruiting new members. Volunteers often give many years of their time to managing and caring for the Crown reserve. It can be difficult to attract newcomers to positions on boards, but the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW (ASC) is winning over a new generation of volunteers.

ASC is a key user group of showgrounds located on Crown land. Its Next Generation program is dedicated to interacting with young people aged 18‑35 years and encouraging them to become involved.

ASC Next Generation President Bianca Williams has worked with NSW country shows for nearly 25 years and enthusiastically heads up an executive group of 30 volunteer members from across the state. These are passionate, agriculturally focused and enthusiastic young professionals committed to local communities and their local shows.

Bianca explains that Next Generation provides a support network and mentoring for young people who want to take part in organising their local agricultural shows.

The program runs social and professional skills development events throughout the year, and the group has the opportunity to learn ‘how to run a cracking event’ to attract young and old alike.

'We encourage younger people to get involved in their agricultural shows, whether that’s through stewarding, judging, competing, helping on sub-committees or organising social events,' Bianca says.

'It helps them become part of their local communities, and it gives older members a chance to pass on their knowledge and expertise.'

ASC member Ian Cassell has dedicated many years to volunteering, keeping showgrounds on Crown land in good working order and making sure events run smoothly. Ian is passionate about recruiting younger people to help out in their communities, and he’s no stranger to running local agricultural shows.

He holds life membership of the Molong Show, which he’s been involved with for the past 47 years. On top of that, he’s attended Manildra Show Society for 70 years and is a member of numerous other show societies around the Central West of NSW.

Ian is highly aware that volunteers are “getting on a bit” and says that seeing young people coming through the ranks is definitely a boost for agricultural shows across the state.

'We have four young people under 25 years on the Molong Show Committee. They all have a rural background and bring fresh ideas and enthusiasm. It’s great to see the generational change and new blood coming through,' he says.

Bianca and Ian share a common goal: to help agricultural shows prepare for the future through inter-generational renewal. Molong Show Society has seven parent‑child pairs and four married couples who have been awarded life memberships of the society.

'Volunteering is a great way to quickly get to know people if you’re new to the district,' says Ian. 'The show society is the best place to start.'