Robyn O’Leary was inducted into the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria Beef Cattle Hall of Fame in 2017, a fitting tribute for the cherished agricultural teacher.
Mrs O’Leary joined Finley High School in 1987 and fuelled by a passion for agriculture and education, she spent countless hours developing the school-based agricultural traineeship program and later established the Finley High School Shorthorn Cattle Stud.
Since 1994 she has been accompanying students to the Melbourne Royal Show in the sheep, carcase and cattle and poultry competitions and has also stewarded for the Waterford Challenge.
Show preparations begin at least six months in advance and Mrs O’Leary said the Melbourne Royal experience is invaluable.
“Hearing them develop their speaking skills and gain confidence in their abilities is amazing, and watching them grow into responsible, helpful, capable and kind people who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and have a go is awesome,” she said.
“Having past students return and give back to the ag program is also very humbling.”
While it’s a highly decorated school, 2022 proved to be a year of results that ‘mostly you just dream about’, Mrs O’Leary said. Winners of the coveted Bott-Burtson trophy for the Most Successful School, the school also paraded the shows Supreme Champion Poll Dorset Exhibit, Interbreed Champion Ram of the Show, Senior Champion Shorthorn Bull and the Grand Champion Carcase in the Beef Carcase competition, among many other accolades.
Regardless of background, ability or even whether students are studying agriculture or not, Mrs O’Leary is a passionate advocate for the agricultural sector and its future.
“Even if students aren’t from a farming background, I encourage them as much as I can to follow their passion, because it’s a fabulous industry with opportunity and diversity and many people out there are willing to help,” she said.
“These students are our future and we need to be encouraging them into our industry.”
Mrs O’Leary said her induction into the Hall of Fame was an “unexpected and amazing honour” and made even more special by having her husband and four children attend the presentation – even though the celebrations had to be cut short.
“I had to leave to go and have a test so that I could have a heart operation the next day,” Mrs O’Leary recalled.
A true stalwart of the agricultural industry.