CQU alumnus Melinda’s university path takes her from the farm, to Tokyo and back again

Published:22 June 2020

CQU alumnus Melinda Hashimoto is the CEO of Egg Farmers Australia

A background in farming, a passion for education, business and politics, and a love of language, have come together to put CQUniversity alumnus Melinda Hashimoto in charge of Egg Farmers Australia.

Melinda has come a long way since graduating with a Bachelor of Education (Languages Other than English) from CQU in 2000, and now, as Egg Farmers Australia CEO, she acknowledges the vital role her university studies played to put her in the top job.

Having grown up on farms with her family around Brisbane and later Central Queensland, Melinda always had dreams of the places and people in the world around her.

“I decided to study at CQUniversity as it had a unique one-of-a-kind’ Japanese immersion course called The Language and Culture Initial Teacher Education: Primary (LACITEP) program,” Melinda said.

“From a young age I wanted to study a language. The school I attended introduced Japanese studies and I had the most inspirational teachers in years 7 and 8. I enjoyed their classes and I believe their drive and commitment to providing an incredible learning experience for their students correlated in my goal to become a Japanese teacher.”

It was also during her CQU Japanese studies that she met her husband Ryo and that the next part of her journey began.

“My four-year course was completed in three-and-a-half years and I then went and taught at St. Brendan’s for 18 months before moving to Japan for five years,” she said.

“My husband Ryo and I worked at an International School and set up an elementary school starting with six students and after five years there were over 100 students enrolled - this feat was one of our huge achievements.  Together we taught, built resources and timetables.”

After returning to Australia, Melinda completed a Master of Business Administration while she worked three part-time jobs. Eventually she found a job as a political and economic adviser to the Japanese consulate in Brisbane and later, with Trade and Investment Queensland’s North Asia team.

“I was involved in politics at an early age. My family sat around the table and discussed politics and I wanted to understand it,” she said.

“Bill O’Chee was a huge inspiration to me as he was one of the very few young politicians in my era and I believed that age should not be a barrier to being involved in the political process.”

At 20 when she was still a CQUniversity student, Melinda was the President of the Young Nationals. This role allowed her to travel and meet a range of people and strengthen and change some of her views.

“Trade has always interested me given Japan is our second largest trading partner and agriculture and mining are commodities in our region that make their way to Japan. I really realised my love of trade when I worked for the Federal Minister for Agriculture.

Melinda has lived and worked in Yeppoon, Tokyo, Toowoomba, Canberra and now she’s come full circle back to her farming roots as Egg Farmers Australia’s CEO in Rockhampton representing more than 270 Australian egg farms.

In Australia, more than 17 million eggs are produced daily to meet domestic consumption, and the industry contributes $1.8 billion to the national economy.

“Our organisation is apolitical and one of the most enjoyable parts of the job is engaging with people from all levels of government, all parties and all walks of life. It is really fascinating,” she said.

“This job would be difficult to do without previous experiences in education, trade, agriculture and business both practical and theoretical.

“Sometimes in life you need to take risks and be prepared to move around to gain experience. The experience in fast-paced environments helps a great deal.

“One challenge I have found is working with policy advisers who have never lived in the regions or have no experience with agriculture. When considering policy issues these advisers do not come with that lens and I have found that my perspective has been helpful in improving policies.

“Everyone has different knowledge and experience and we can always learn from one another.”

She said the benefits of studying with a regional university spoke for themselves.

“Any learning opens your mind to new ideas, approaches and people,” she said.

“Regional universities often have different offerings and a range of experiences in industry placement and community settings that makes your time.

“Local students are lucky to have a regional university to attend and with online learning you can be engaged with your university wherever you are. 

“Regional education allows for specialised industry placements and for international students they are able to have a study and lifestyle experience that they would not experience at home.

“CQUniversity is well known for first of family. I am the first of my family to receive a formal university degree. My parents did not have the opportunity to attend university but were driven to ensure that I had the opportunity, for which I am thankful.”