AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner and Runner Up announced


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WA social innovator Cara Peek takes out top honour as the 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner with dairy industry trailblazer Cressida Cains announced as National Runner Up.

Anita Ratcliffe from Westpac, AgriFutures Board Member Bill Ryan, 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner Cara Peek and The Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC

Broome-based lawyer, social innovator and co-founder of Saltwater Country, Cara Peek has been named the 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner for her work in driving employment opportunities for First Nations people in remote Australia. Cressida Cains, artisan cheesemaker and a passionate dairy industry advocate from New South Wales was announced as the Award’s National Runner Up.

Due to COVID-19, the national Rural Women’s Award ceremony was postponed last year. Instead, the 2020 National Winner was announced today at a special ceremony offering live coverage of the proceedings via video links with over 600 viewers tuning in across the country.

Ms Peek, a proud Yawuru/Bunuba woman was recognised for her dedication to fostering access and opportunity for rural and remote communities and accepted the award at a State-based ceremony at The University Club of Western Australia in Perth.

Adding to the $10,000 already awarded to each state and territory finalist from Platinum Sponsor Westpac, Ms Peek will receive an additional $10,000 from the bank to further progress Saltwater Country, an Indigenous-led not-for-profit that uses rodeo sports and country music events to re-engage at-risk Indigenous youth with their rich pastoral history.

Saltwater Country currently develops and oversees a number of evidence-based programs delivered with cultural integrity, allowing students to train in the safety of their own communities across the disciplines of horsemanship, equine therapy, agribusiness, marketing and event management.

“The collective success of our people in delivering events and programs is empowering in the social, emotional and economic development and advancement of Indigenous people in the north. It provides real time experience and solutions – it’s a place for our people to shine. It’s also an opportunity for training and development with transferable skills”, she said.

“Winning the Award is great recognition of the work that we’ve undertaken and I hope that it will generate the network and support that we need to achieve all the things we aim to achieve. If I can create opportunities for others out of that, and play a part in the collective strength of our people, that’s what I’m going to do every day”.

“I am extremely thankful to AgriFutures and Westpac, not only for the award but for the opportunity to showcase the resilience and ingenuity of our indigenous communities in the Kimberleys. It’s been great to be in a cohort of such strong, high achieving women and the support that also comes with that”, she said.

John Harvey, AgriFutures Australia Managing Director, congratulated Cara on winning the Award and said she demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities and a passion for bettering the lives of others.

“Cara’s work is a clear conduit to a future, built sustainably for rural and remote Indigenous people, by Indigenous people. She has continued to operate in the toughest of times, whilst having real impact, and has been central to driving hope and lasting change within the Kimberley. I am confident this bursary will go some way to supporting Saltwater Country in realising its full promise”.

Stephen Hannan, National General Manager, Westpac Agribusiness also congratulated Cara for her project and winning the coveted National Award.

“Cara’s recognition as this year’s winner is a celebratory tribute to women in rural and regional Australia, whose drive and dedication can sometimes go unnoticed. We know there are thousands of women committed to making a positive contribution to their industry, and for the prosperity of their local communities, who would benefit from having additional industry support. Across Australia, it’s something we see firsthand from our customer relationships, and it is why Westpac continues to sponsor these awards,” he said.

Cressida Cains, National Runner Up, took home a further $5,000 Westpac bursary for Dairy Cocoon, a non-for-profit digital platform designed to assist small-scale farmers.

“The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award has given me an incredible opportunity to make lasting, long-term, sustainable change. I strongly believe in the Australian dairy industry, and I’m excited about its future.”

Mr Harvey congratulated Cressida for her desire to give back to the dairy industry and her passion for supporting farmers to adapt and grow their businesses.

In addition to praising all the 2020 National Finalists, Mr Hannan also commended Cressida on her achievements and said the bank looked forward to seeing how she uses the bursary to pursue further success.

“The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award helps to elevate the accomplishments of women such as Cara and Cressida by offering them access to influential industry advocates and a credible platform.”

Cara and Cressida were joined by their fellow national finalists, who were recognised for their outstanding contribution to rural communities and industries during Wednesday’s ceremony. The 2020 cohort includes:

  • Rural mental health advocate, Kelly Barnes (Dunkeld, VIC)
  • Horticultural expert, Karen Brock (Winkleigh, TAS)
  • Business woman and livestock marketer, Elisha Parker (Clermont, QLD)
  • Rural psychologist, Stephanie Schmidt (Burra, SA)
  • Marine biologist and sustainable aquaculture advocate, Amy Kirke (Darwin, NT)

Established in 1999, The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award celebrates and inspires the next generation of female leaders in rural and regional industries, businesses and communities. With the support of long term Platinum Sponsor Westpac, the prestigious Award recognises the essential role women play across regional Australia.

Applications for the 2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award program closed on Friday, 8 October 2021. Submissions for all Northern Territory applications will close on Friday, 28 January 2022.

State and territory finalists will be announced in March 2022.

Full details can be found at

AgriFutures Australia is thankful for the support of the following Award partners:

Platinum Sponsor

  • Westpac

Media Partners

  • Australian Community Media
  • ABC Rural
  • R.M. Williams Outback Magazine

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