I’m in a fortunate position as Chair at AgriFutures Australia because I get to engage with these passionate rural women every day.
We are a diverse organisation and our work in agriculture is diverse. We support the people driving the future prosperity of Australian rural industries and regional communities by providing them with learning opportunities and experiences. We identify and nurture research and innovation opportunities that are synergistic across rural sectors. We invest in research which enhances the profitability and sustainability of our levied rural industries. And we support new and emerging rural industries.
Many names come to mind when I think about whom to acknowledge on International Day of Rural Women. The United Nation’s aim of the Day is to recognise the contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty. Both sexes deserve recognition but I find women are more likely to dance in the shadows and I feel passionate about capitalising on opportunities such as this Day to bring to light their achievements.
This year alone our organisation has worked with some incredible female, rural figures; Jo Kelly, an impact engineer spearheading the development of Australia’s seaweed industry. Australia has ideal growing conditions and a huge export opportunity for high value bioproducts from native Australian seaweeds but currently, there are no commercial scale seaweed ocean farms operating here in Australia and no strategic plan for industry development. Jo is the driving force behind the development and expansion of this blue economy opportunity.
Meanwhile, in the lab, working on a treatment for ulcerative colitis, an incurable inflammatory bowel disease which effects more than 75,000 people in Australia, is Lauren Chartier. The Adelaide PhD student, is investigating if emu oil can be used as a therapy for ulcerative colitis and colitis-associated colorectal cancer.
Cara Peek, a Broome-based innovator and a Yawuru/Bunubu woman. Cara was named our 2020 WA Rural Women’s Award Winner and will invest her Westpac bursary towards progressing the Saltwater Academy, which will provide training and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians, while celebrating the heritage of the Kimberley Aboriginal pastoral industry.
And within AgriFutures Australia, we have 38 incredible female staff members (representing 82% of the entire organisation) working to deliver large research projects across our levied rural industries such as rice, thoroughbred horses, export fodder, tea tree oil and chicken meat, to name a few. The project outcomes will grow the long-term prosperity of Australian rural industries. Our team also work on capacity building programs such as our flagship Rural Women’s Award and global agrifood tech events like evokeAG..