How Allison Clark is helping those with literacy issues thrive in business

23.04.22

Originally published on Women’s Agenda, who are profiling women working in agriculture and related fields, with the support of AgriFutures Australia.

Adults in Tasmania are disproportionately affected by illiteracy, with up to 49 per cent in some regions considered functionally illiterate. Allison Clark is determined to change these figures.

Having been working for decades in business diversification, product design and development, Clark saw a need to do something to help those with literacy issues – especially those starting their own businesses in rural, regional, and remote communities.

She began working to ensure entrepreneurs and businesses could find the information they needed, in a way that was meaningful and useful for them to ensure future success and growth. The project earned her recognition as the winner of the 2018 TAS AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

“At the heart of my project was ‘innovation’ and how you create change for individuals with diversity challenges who had a business idea but did not know where to start looking for support,” she told Women’s Agenda recently.

“I also wanted to understand if industry funded research and development was finding its way into a space where it could help support start-up activities. And then I started designing projects and collaborating with others on new opportunities that could help!”

Clark said the award has helped her to go on to do more work building opportunities for growth in the regions.

“I did not realise the full potential of winning the Award at the time…I knew it promised great things, but it has really become the catalyst for all of the things that I have wanted to achieve,” Clark said.

Clark is now working on a project designed to accelerate agritourism in Tasmania, and support farmers and farming families in the state.

“It is designed to identify diversification opportunities and provide support for farmers and producers at the right time, right scale, and right level of engagement to help our farming families stay on farm, build the futures they desire, and inject new opportunities for growth into regions,” she said.

Clark says the project, called Opening the Gate, will harness spare capacity on farms, connect visitors with produce and place with people, and act as a vibrant and engaging platform to keep people in rural and regional communities for longer.

“This project is a catalyst for change, just as the AgriFutures Women’s Rural Women’s Award and Westpac grant were for me,” she said.

“It gave me the time to focus on what I could do and how I could do it. Our Project Team includes Regionality (Australia’s leading agritourism business development program), and we are on target to exceed the number of farmers and producers we initially thought would run through the program.

“I am in my happy place … helping others create and collaborate.”

Clark says there’s always more space for women to step into the agricultural sector. And she believes they should be encouraged to take an interest in agriculture from school age.

“Through positive storytelling and providing visibility of the great role models out there; through teachers encouraging agricultural science as a worthwhile stream of science and technology; and by breaking down every barrier as we see it – with men and women visibly naming it up for what it is,” she said.

“As we break down barriers and provide new spaces for women to thrive it has the added benefit of providing a pathway of participation for people with all forms of diversity – and that’s when we truly thrive as a community.”