In high school, Danila Marini “never felt comfortable in my own skin”. The Young Farming Champion (YFC) tried to heavily hide their femininity at the agricultural high school they attended in South Australia, but although was called a tomboy never really wanted to be a male.
“In the early 2000s I didn’t have much exposure to the LGBTQI+ community and only knew of some terms like bisexual while the term non-binary was non-existent,” Danila said.
Now, as the newly appointed Action4Agriculture Sustainable Development Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being) Ambassador, Danila (30) is excited at the opportunity to share their story with today’s high school students.
The Ambassador appointment came about after Danila participated in a workshop designed for The Archibull Prize (TAP) students of Mary MacKillop Catholic College in Wakeley, western Sydney. The all-girls school was interested in showcasing gender diversity in agriculture and a workshop was coordinated by SDG 5 (Gender Equality) Ambassador Francesca Earp with strong female leads including Tayla Field, Dione Howard, Chloe Dutschke and Katherine Bain. Danila’s inclusion facilitated open discussions about gender fluidity and non-binary people in agriculture.
“There’s definitely a gender bias in many industries such as science and agriculture that swing towards the classic straight white cis male,” Danila said
Danila who is a CSIRO experimental scientist and animal ethics co-ordinator also recognises the hurdles for women and gender diverse people, whether related to societal expectations about having a family, or professional stereotypes.
I have had someone say to me I don’t look like someone who would have a PhD,” says they and “non-binary people present the same,” they said
For Francesca, 25, whose masters and PhD are focused on gender equity and the exclusionary past of feminist history and how it shapes the engagement and empowerment of non-dominant feminist groups, working with a Danila was timely and eye-opening.
“I hadn’t met anyone previously in the ag sector who identified as non-binary,” says Francesca. “The same is true of my work in agricultural development, which is an unfortunate reality of traditional patriarchal perspectives of agriculture that either don’t provide opportunities to non-binary practitioners or researchers or don’t make them feel welcome while fostering engagement and empowerment in the sector.
“Danila was really open in talking about how we could improve the inclusivity of the workshop sessions, talking about equity in general, rather than specifying who we were fighting to have equality for, which I’d really like to take further in my own future research.”
Franny says everyday is an opportunity to open your eyes and see the world from some-one else’s perspective
Danila and Francesca are welcome role models for young people with a personal interest in gender diversity and this illustrates how Action4Agriclutre empowers these young people to talk about the issues important to them, and to take everyone along on a journey of understanding.
“Gender equity is a very complex issue and by focusing on only the ‘female’ aspects of gender equity you not only heavily impact minority groups but women themselves,” says Danila. “I’m not afraid to speak up about my experiences and I realise people can’t change or learn if you are not willing to help.”
After the workshop, Danila said that being a good ally to non-binary people meant being cognisant of the fact that gender is complex. Asking for pronouns and remembering to correct mistakes are two important things.
“It’s very important to understand that non-binary is not a ‘third’ gender – it’s an encompassment of gender fluidity and not all non-binary people present the same,” says they. “Also, do not lump woman and non-binary people together for events if you are not willing to accept non-binary people that are assigned male at birth.”
Having role models in agriculture who promote diversity, equity and inclusion is not only important for students but for teachers, families and communities. Leah Brown, TAP teacher at Mary McKillop, says her students are passionate about highlighting gender issues and contributing to fulfilling gender goals.
“We know that real life activities and projects are great for engaging students in their learning and building relevance and connections to what they are learning with the wider community and the world.”
Applications are now open for the 2022 Archibull Prize here