APAC CEO of the Year Awards 2023

Most Supportive Farmers Charity CEO 2023 (Australia): Natasha Kocks Aussie Helpers Ltd. is one of Australia’s largest farming support charities, fostering lasting connections with rural communities across Australia. Since 2002, it has supported more than 15,000 farmers facing hardship by providing them with financial assistance, counselling, educational support, livestock feed, and essentials like fuel, groceries, and medicines. Today, Aussie Helpers is led by CEO Natasha Kocks, who carries on her parents’ legacy through the charity. Here, we speak to her to find out more about what the organisation does. Having grown up in rural Australia, Natasha Kocks understands the challenges faced by farmers, their families, and rural communities, from mental health to finances to natural disasters. Today, she is CEO of Aussie Helpers, a not-forprofit organisation dedicated to helping farming communities get through tough times. Aussie Helpers is the passion and legacy of Brian and Nerida Egan, Natasha’s parents. In 2018, Natasha joined the organisation to help her parents, before which she amassed over 20 years of experience managing thriving businesses throughout Queensland. Not only had Natasha accumulated this experience managing other companies, but she spent time volunteering for Aussie Helpers since its opening in 2002. When Brian decided to retire from his position as CEO in 2019, it was only natural that it was his wish for Natasha to take his place. Brian left big shoes for her to fill, but she was determined to rise to the challenge to support farming communities. “I reflected on my business leadership experience, pivoting, scaling and applying it to the needs of Aussie Helpers,” Natasha explains. “I also rapidly invested in my executive management and leadership skills, completing a Company Directors Course, and appointed interim consultants to address immediate challenges Aussie Helpers faced.” Today, Natasha’s mother, Nerida, still plays a vital role in the operation of the charity. However, Brian sadly passed away in early 2020, after dedicating almost two decades of his life to supporting farming families. In the same year, both were awarded Order of Australia medals for their work supporting farming communities. Natasha comments, “I’m honoured to lead, grow and continue my parent’s legacy as CEO of Aussie Helpers to support farmers and farming communities - wherever, whenever and however they need it.” Aussie Helpers is dedicated to providing immediate help to farmers and communities when the need arises. There is no waiting period when a farmer or rural community needs the charity’s help, which is what sets it apart from other charities. Furthermore, the team at Aussie Helpers is dedicated to those it serves and continually adapts to the evolving challenges faced by farming communities, driven by feedback. Through this, Aussie Helpers supports farmers through the toughest of times, enabling them to thrive in the best of times. Thanks to the work Aussie Helpers does, farmers are not alone. Natasha continues, “I’m driven every day to ensure farmers know that help is just a phone call away and to grow Aussie Helpers to ensure we can continue to support farmers into the future.” The needs of farmers are vast and varied. Current challenges include inflation and rising costs, weather and climate change, staffing issues, economic uncertainty and biosecurity. As well as this, farmers continue to struggle with health and education inequalities, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, alongside significantly lower educational outcomes than people in cities. Recently, Aussie Helpers has noticed an increasing divide between city and country. Many people across Australia do not understand where their food comes from and therefore fail to appreciate just what it takes to bring it to them. With increased cost of living pressures affecting people across the country, many farming families are struggling to feed themselves. Food banks are rare in rural Australia, so many farming children are going to school hungry, despite their parents working around the clock to feed the rest of the country. Furthermore, Covid-19 and devastating natural disasters have massively impacted farms and farming communities. The increasing frequency and severity of such disasters is proving to be a huge challenge for Aussie Helpers. As the cost-of-living crisis persists and natural disasters continue to cause devastation, the charity is seeing increased need for its services. Operating as a not-for-profit organisation, Aussie Helpers relies on its generous network of volunteers