Empowering women in agriculture

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John Harvey, Managing Director, AgriFutures Australia

Managing Director of AgriFutures Australia, John Harvey, talks about being inspired by Australia’s rural women and the importance of celebrating their contribution to our rural and emerging industries, business and communities.

For the past few years, I’ve had the enormous privilege of being involved in the selection panel for the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award which means I have the honour to meet, hear from and learn about the ideas these exceptional women have. It’s an inspiring process and it energises me for the rest of the year.

Cara Peek
Cara Peek, 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner

Hot on the heels of International Day of Rural Women and the announcement of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner and National Runner Up, I also find it incredibly reassuring to know that the future of our industry is in safe hands. The passion and energy of these women, and particularly the group of 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Finalists with a focus on community-building, is motivating.

It is these new leaders that will drive the future of Australia’s rural industries and the good news is that amongst the passionate, resilient, and determined women, as in the case of our 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner Cara Peek, we are seeing more representation from influential indigenous female leaders.

Cara, a proud Yawuru/Bunuba women, runs 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. Her passion for bettering the lives of others has been central to driving hope and lasting change within the Kimberley.

It’s also true that the Census data isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of the genuine and extensive contribution we know rural women make to our sector. In the 21 years the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award has been going, we’ve seen careers in rural industries beyond traditional farming to varied professions like marketing, research, communications, engineering, agtech, finance, food innovation and more.

And it is encouraging to note that among students studying agricultural courses at university, women are now in the majority (55 per cent), and they are leading the way when it comes to introducing new technology and innovation to the industry.

That’s why supporting rural women to develop their leadership skills, experience and confidence is one of AgriFutures Australia’s core missions. We know it’s a vital way that we can help drive the future prosperity of our rural industries and regional communities.

One thing I hear consistently from our AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Alumni is how their involvement in the program has given them a platform and transformed their lives in the process. We will continue to keep shining a spotlight on Australia’s rural women and bringing them opportunities and experiences that will allow them to be a conduit to a sustainable and prosperous future for our sector.

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