Winnaleah student speaks out for the dairy industry

DAIRY ADVOCATE: Winnaleah District High School student Montanna Gilroy worries about the dairy industry. Picture: Johanna Baker-Dowdell
DAIRY ADVOCATE: Winnaleah District High School student Montanna Gilroy worries about the dairy industry. Picture: Johanna Baker-Dowdell

An impassioned open letter about the dairy crisis has led one Winnaleah Grade 10 student to become an unlikely spokeswoman for the industry.

Montanna Gilroy, 15, attends Winnaleah District High School and works part time on Tuesdays and weekends at two dairy farms.

Over the past 11 months Montanna has watched the affect of the dairy crisis on her employers and the community she lives in and became frustrated with those who suggested dairy farmers “move on”.

“I wrote a letter and posted it on Facebook [on May 4] and got a lot of support. Someone told me to send it to the media so I sent it to The Australian Dairyfarmer and they published it that day,” Montanna said.

“A lot of people shared it on social media, including my school. I got a letter from Michelle O’Byrne and a lady on the Fonterra board congratulating me.

“I didn’t think I’d get this recognition from it,” she said.

In the letter Montanna writes, “The dairy crisis is real. It has hit so many individuals, impacting the lives of every single person who works in the industry … I'm only 15 and I understand it. The dairy crisis scares me”.

Buoyed by the response she has received, Montanna has called on politicians and Fonterra executives – as most of Winnaleah’s dairy farmers supply Fonterra – to take notice of how reduced dairy prices are crippling producers.

“The 40 cents extra [Fonterra] is paying now is a reasonable idea because fuel, petrol and fertiliser prices are low enough to make some income, but the price drop cost more than that,” Montanna said.

“Farmers are paying with mental and physical issues. Some have been hurt or have had to sell up or go bankrupt,” she said.

This budding agricultural leader wants to stay in the dairy industry and is considering a career as a farmhand, dairy technician or agronomist, but is concerned about the industry’s future.

“The job that I once used to enjoy with an open heart now has a shadow - you go to get up at 4.30 in the morning and not have a clue about whether you'd still have a job the next day or not,” Montanna wrote.