Ingham Daily Press

Keeping People Connected

Women in sugar: WISHing for a bumper 2022

2022 WISH committee members: (L-R) Sara Barbagallo, Trina Motti, Leanne Cordner, Leanne Bonassi, Sharon Fighera, Leah Russo and Zenan Reinaudo. Photo supplied.

WOMEN in Sugar Herbert (WISH) has revealed a combination of fresh, new perspectives and invaluable experience will lead the organisation this year after long-term and new members stepped up to fill positions on the 2022 committee.

Caroline Pace and Leah Russo were re-elected as president and vice president respectively, bringing a wealth of knowledge and passion to the leadership roles.

Ms Russo said that she joined WISH over three years ago to learn more about the industry that she and her husband had recently entered into as cane growers.

“I instantly felt comfortable at the meetings and it was easy to ask questions in a welcoming environment,” Ms Russo said.

“Being part of the group has been very beneficial to me and our business.

“We get updates first-hand from Canegrowers, QSL and HCPSL monthly, as well as guest speakers from time to time,” she said.

“There is also the opportunity to attend the annual conference and social functions. I encourage any woman involved in the sugar industry to join our wonderful group.”

The Canegrowers-affiliated group, whose main role is to connect and inform women in the sugar industry in a safe and supportive environment, has been around for decades, with similar groups spanning Queensland.

Leanne Bonassi, who retained the role of treasurer, added that the group started with a Women in Sugar Australia (WISA) conference several years ago and has maintained its relevance in the district.

“We love catching up every year [with other WISA groups],” Ms Bonassi said.

“This is why I wanted to be part of this group. The comradery is really good. Having QSL and Canegrowers come every month is very valuable, along with the conversation that happens.”

Leanne Bonassi

Member Leanne Cordner said she enjoyed widening her industry knowledge in a supportive environment.

“It’s being able to come in and ask questions about what’s ok and not ok [to do as a grower],” Ms Cordner said.

“It’s industry knowledge that we find out that we normally wouldn’t find out and going to see what’s happening behind the scenes, especially for people who didn’t grow up in the industry.”

Ongoing secretary and long-serving member for seven years, Sharon Fighera said that it’s great to see new members join each year.

“Being a WISH member is a great way to collaborate with other women in the industry,” Ms Fighera said.

“Any woman who is a member of Canegrowers is always welcome to attend our monthly meetings.”

The proactive group is going from strength to strength, expanding its influence with Vice President Leah Russo and member Zenan Reinaudo recently being elected as Directors of the local Canegrowers Board.

Ms Reinaudo, the first woman board member in the district, said she hopes that her position on the Canegrowers board will encourage other women to be part of the board in the future.

“I was nervous at first as I didn’t know much about the industry, although I have been in other industries,” Ms Reinaudo said.

“It can be isolating working on your farm, day in and day out, so this position and my WISH membership allow me to learn more, make a difference, and bring a different perspective to the issues currently faced by the industry.”

Zenan Reinaudo

Local women in the sugar industry are being encouraged to follow the group’s social media platforms, including their Facebook and Instagram pages, to get a feel for what the group discusses at meetings and what events it’s involved in.

Newly elected Media Officer Sara Barbagallo revealed that WISH had made some exciting changes to allow more people to get connected and stay up-to-date on changes.

“As we want to keep as many people informed about industry changes, we are also now offering members the opportunity to attend meetings via video link if they’re not able to attend in person,” Ms Barbagallo said.

“It’s another way for us to allow women to stay up-to-date and to be more involved in their businesses.”

For all enquiries about becoming a member, please email Sharon at

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