John Ralph Essay Competition 2013

Do community perceptions of Australian agriculture really matter?

  • Two cash prizes: $5,000 for the Professional category and $1,000 for the Student category
  • Incentives for professors and lecturers who involve their students
  • Prizes awarded at the 2013 Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference


The John Ralph Essay Competition
2013 topic
Rules of entry
An opportunity for lecturers to involve students
Judging criteria
Entry form

The John Ralph Essay Competition

In 2010, the Australian Farm Institute established an annual Essay Competition to honor John Ralph, who was the inaugural Chairman of the Australian Farm Institute and who argued strongly for comprehensive and objective research as the basis for sound policy decision-making, particularly for the agriculture sector.

2013 topic

The topic for the 2013 John Ralph Essay Competition is:
Do community perceptions of Australian agriculture really matter?

As part of some current research, Australian Farm Institute staff recently asked a small sample of people in Sydney about their perceptions of Australian agriculture, and who leads the sector. Perceptions about agriculture often involved farmers on horseback and animals, and responses about industry leadership ranged from Bob Katter to Barnaby Joyce or Tony Windsor, but most could not name any current leaders of the agriculture sector

These responses point to the fact that community perceptions of Australian agriculture are often very traditional, and the sector is not perceived as modern or progressive. The sector also does not have a recognised leader.

This begs the question above, which is the topic for the 2013 Australian Farm Institute John Ralph Essay Competition.

In addressing this subject, competition entrants will be expected to:

  • analyse whether or not community perceptions of agriculture are important to the future of the sector
  • describe what they believe are current community perceptions of the Australian agriculture sector, providing evidence from a range of different sources
  • contrast this with community perceptions of other sectors of the economy
  • propose what (if anything) the sector should do differently to influence community perceptions; and most importantly
  • if actions are proposed, provide a detailed plan of how the proposal could be implemented and by whom, and describe the benefits the sector should expect from any proposed actions.

Rules of entry

Entrants in the competition are required to write an essay entitled:
Do community perceptions of Australian agriculture really matter?

There are two categories for this competition, one for professionals and one for students.

The Professional category is open to all including farmers, agribusiness participants, policy makers, consultants and researchers.

The Student category is open to persons undertaking full-time undergraduate education. Professors, lecturers and course coordinators are encouraged to support this competition by including the essay topic in their course program.

A judging panel consisting of the Chairman of the Institute Board, the Institute CEO and the Chair of the Institute's Research Advisory Committee will have the task of judging the competition and selecting the two winning entries. These will be published (along with a number of other papers on the same topic) in the Summer 2013 edition of the Farm Policy Journal.

Entries must be 1500 to 4500 words in length, and material beyond the 4500 limit (excluding reference list) will not be considered by judges.

The essay is expected to present the author's point of view based on a sounds and well-argued reasoning. A scientific style (method, quotes, references and reference list) is not compulsory, but important references should be cited. The essay should be written in a style suitable for an audience that has some familiarity with the topic, but does not have a great depth of knowledge about the issue.

Editing tips and assistance can be provided by the AFI team.

Entries should be submitted in electronic format (.doc or .docx for Windows),
by Friday 27 September 2013 (extension to the Friday 4 October 2013).

Professors and lecturers interested in having their student participate have to register by Friday 23 August 2013.


The winner of the Professional category of the John Ralph Essay contest will receive a cash prize of $5000 and the winner of the student category will receive a cash prize of $1000.

Both winners will also receive a one year's membership of the Australian Farm Institute (valued at $297) and complementary attendance at the Australian Agriculture Roundtable Conference.

An opportunity for lecturers to involve students

Professors and lecturers are encouraged to participate by encouraging their student to enter this competition. The Australian Farm Institute has established this essay competition to create discussion and debate on current agriculture sector topics, and to encourage students and the wider community to engage in issues of strategic importance to the future of the sector.

Any professor or lecturers interested in having their students participate are invited to include the competition topic in their students' assessment tasks, and to enter some or all of the resulting essays in the competition.

Professors and lecturers who have at least three students who enter the competition will be offered:

  • One year’s free subscription to the Farm Policy Journal
  • One hardcopy of an Institute research report of their choice.

Judging criteria

Entries will be judged using the following criteria;

  • Completeness: entries must address all the issues raised in the competition topic;
  • Originality: entries should go beyond just repeating 'common' beliefs, and carefully and objectively examine the questions posed by the topic;
  • Comprehensiveness: entries should canvass the full extent of the issue, and carefully consider the positives and negatives arising from any proposed 'solution';
  • Practicality: any proposals advanced to resolve the issues raised in the competition topic will need to find the right balance between being bold and practical – there should be a reasonable chance proposals will be adopted.
  • Clarity: entries should be written in clear, jargon-free language so that it is easily read and understood.

Entry form

To participate please fill the following form. Essays must be submitted before
the 4th October 2013.

For more information, feel free to contact us by email.

Good luck!

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