Matthew Fletcher

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Kununurra.  Email:

The last Rangelands Conference I attended was Kununurra in 2012. I was looking forward to attending another and the Canberra conference towards the end of the northern dry season was an ideal time.

The conference highlight was the opportunity to meet with a number of people I had not previously met. I had read their papers in the Rangelands Journal, spoken to them on the phone and exchanged emails ─ but it was nice to have a cup-of-tea and talk. The opportunity to catch up again with past colleagues, interstate colleagues and people that I have previously crossed paths with also made the trip enjoyable.

The only problems I had at the conference were good problems: such as wanting to be in the theatre next door to listen to a presentation that was on at the same time as the one I was already engulfed in. This is one of the benefits of a three-day conference: if you miss the opportunity to listen or talk to someone, there will be another opportunity to meet.

I left Canberra with new ideas about peer-to-peer forage budgeting, better informed about Bothriochloa pertusa, and enjoyed the experience listening to Chinese students talk about China’s rangelands.  Reflecting on a couple of the plenary presentations, I thought the belief that only a minority of landholders were not managing the rangelands in a ‘clean and green’ manner was optimistic.

I will never forget Barney Foran’s rendition of ‘McArthur’s fart’. Earlier that day I had lunch with Barney (never met him before) who explained to me the difference between methane and carbon dioxide emissions with regards to trapping heat. I had no idea that nine hours later he would command the conference dinner floor and leave no stone un-turned entertaining us all.

Thank you to the ARS conference committee for organising such a well-run event; it was appreciated.


Sarah McDonald

NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, Email: 

For myself and seven others, the ARS2019 conference began early with the three-day semi-arid woodlands field trip to Cobar. Here we saw first-hand the benefits of contour and water-spreading banks, cluster fencing and TGP fencing, carbon farming, aboriginal land management and mallee fowl conservation. A highlight of this trip was the opportunity to meet and talk with the land managers of these projects who are passionate about improving both the environment and productivity of their land for future generations. A particular thanks goes to Fiona Garland and Cathy Waters for pulling off such an interesting and well organised tour. The conference officially kicked-off on Monday night with the welcome function at the yacht club (unfortunately it was too dark to enjoy the view!) and the following three days were filled with presentations on a wide range of topics and presented by a mix of scientists, extension officers, land managers and students. I found that the variety of session formats throughout the three days (long and short presentations, posters, world café, panel conversations and concurrent sessions) was engaging and kept my interest despite the long days.

Another highlight for me were the many opportunities throughout the conference to meet and catch-up with other conference delegates, including the welcome function, poster sessions, conference dinner and breaks between sessions during the conference. For me, as an early-career researcher, the opportunity to meet and catch-up with other experienced rangeland researchers and industry leaders was invaluable. The friendliness and openness of the attendees and conference organisers is a great attribute of the rangeland society and rangeland conferences. Lastly, I really appreciated the effort made to limit waste throughout the conference by using the App for conference information, providing reusable cups and plates, and avoiding handing out bags of brochures and promotional material that so often come with these events. While I may be biased towards the ARS with my field of work, for me the 2019 ARS conference stands out as one of the most successful conferences I have attended in recent years. Congratulations to the organisers of the conference, I am looking forward to the next!