Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Ophel-Keller, Dr K.

The Hon. I. PNEVMATIKOS (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister inform the chamber about the work of Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller PSM and the recent recognition of her work?

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:33): I thank the Hon. Ms Pnevmatikos for her question. It's a great opportunity to be able to highlight the work of an excellent, coincidentally female, member of the profession.

I was very pleased last week to be able to attend one of the investiture ceremonies at Government House, held by Her Excellency the Hon. Frances Adamson AC. Amongst the outstanding individual contributions recognised across many parts of our community, I was particularly proud to witness Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller receive her Public Service Medal (PSM) for, and I quote, 'outstanding public service to the agricultural industry through research and innovative leadership'. A graduate of agricultural science at the University of British Columbia, Dr Ophel-Keller also holds a PhD in plant pathology from the University of Adelaide and is an affiliate professor with the University of Adelaide.

She has recently retired from a very distinguished career, exceeding 35 years as a leader in primary industries research. She has held multiple roles across SARDI during that time, including research leader in plant health, research director in crop sciences and acting executive director of SARDI on two occasions, including in the lead-up to her retirement. She is an incredible example of the kind of expertise that we are fortunate to have had at SARDI and in South Australia more generally.

As a highly respected leader and scientist, Dr Ophel-Keller has led a number of successful research projects and teams, including the development of Predicta B, a unique DNA-based soil diagnostic technology. One of her final contributions in public service was to the development of the recently released SARDI Strategic Plan 2023-28.

She has also played an important role in developing future generations of researchers, mentoring females to advance to leadership roles and working with GRDC and SAGIT to establish a grains internship program, which is now a highly sought-after pathway for the next generation of agricultural scientists. I do recall, when I visited the SAGIT board meeting last year, seeing some of the outstanding work that has come through that internship program and some of the young women who were involved in that program to the greater benefit of the organisation.

Though she is now retired, I am pleased to hear that Dr Ophel-Keller will remain involved with PIRSA through her new role on SARDI's research and development advisory committee, meaning that her wealth of experience and knowledge will still be an important asset for SARDI going forward.

Talking with Dr Ophel-Keller at the investiture ceremony, she was of course typically humble about her honour and focused on how this recognition can promote agricultural science as a career of choice for young people. Once again, a huge congratulations to Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller and all the other recipients also who received their honours in the past few weeks.