2003 Winners

2003 New South Wales Winner - Milada Safarik

Milada Safarik with the support of the Award, achieved a world first in marine worm production for the aquaculture industry. Milada is a research scientist and one of the principals of Aquabait, the first and currently the only marine worm farm in Australia.  Her vision is to support the development of a sustainable and viable new aquaculture industry for Australia, through the development of farm grown marine worm bait, and by doing so reduce the pressure on the environment, while creating new opportunities for rural enterprise and employment for rural women.

Milada’s project focused on research and development, critical to a newly emerging industry and critical also to full proofing marine worm production. Her research effort resulted in a world first in the cultivation of the marine tube worm Diopatra aciculate for the recreational bait industry and in the completion of two significant research reports.

Report 1: Density dependant growth of the polychaete Diopatra aciculata: 

The study analysed how the growth of the marine tube worm is affected at different stocking densities and was important in determining the appropriate density level for highest growth rates with the best biomass return (published with the journal, Scientia Marina).

Report 2: Jaw growth and replacement in Diopatra aciculata:

The study focused in the jaw structure of the tube worm and discovered that the tube worm molts its maxillae at different periods of its lifecycle and as a result can be aged accordingly. This was previously unknown by the scientific community.

Both projects have contributed to the scientific and commercial knowledge of the tube worm Diopatra aciculate and both projects will be published in scientific journals, thereby contributing to the further development of the aquaculture industry.  Both scientific reports were presented by Milada at the 8th International Polychaete Conference held in Spain in July 2004.

On a personal level, Milada says the Award and the research effort undertaken grew her knowledge and contacts within the industry, both nationally and internationally, and has increased her profile and that of Aquabait Pty Ltd.

The Award also opened up opportunities for Milada, both within and out of the industry, to participate in various conferences that were extremely valuable to her development. Aquabait’s customer base doubled in the 2003-2004 summer period as a direct result of the increased exposure the Award provided, with the first export opportunities currently under investigation.

In addition the research projects she undertook were all with the support of some very professional women that were valuable partners and scientists in the fields of marine and polychaete biology.

These relationships in turn promoted interest from students, some who were involved with the data collection of the density study of Diopatra aciculata, and who have the capacity to become the next generation of female scientists. discussed research collaborations between Newcastle university and Aquabait Pty Ltd for future research effort.

2003 Victoria Winner - Anna Aldridge

Anna is a qualified winemaker and wine marketing consultant based in Victoria’s Yarra Valley.  The Yarra Valley, in close proximity to Melbourne, is Victoria’s most visited wine region and is renowned for outstanding cool climate wines.

Her vision for the future of the Yarra Valley wine industry is to see the region develop sustainable initiatives that strengthen its pre-eminent position, as a global leader in the production of cool climate wines, and that its wine grape growers achieve consistently better than average prices in return for above average quality produce.

At the time of the Award Anna was deeply concerned about her region’s future sustainability given the dramatic expansion in grape production nationwide. She believed that in the face of intense competition from larger corporations, the majority of smaller Australian wineries would need to develop new strategies to market their product to remain viable.

Her proposed activity was to execute a marketing plan for the Yarra Valley Wine Network, (the Yarra Valley Winegrowers Association – promotional sub-committee) to position the Yarra Valley internationally as a leading cool climate wine producing region.

A study tour to New Zealand enabled research into a similar cool climate wine industry to enhance the project. Anna was able to investigate their viticulture and wine making practices along with their marketing strategies. New Zealand has a cohesive marketing campaign and has branded its products extraordinarily successfully in key export markets such as the United Kingdom.

The ten day study tour incorporated the four leading New Zealand wine regions of Marlborough and Hawkes Bay on the North Island and Marlborough and Central Otago on the South, visiting numerous vineyards, wineries and meeting with a number of wine and tourism bodies. Of particular interest was the New Zealand industry’s efforts and experience in regional branding. Regional branding is recognized as a means by which the industry can further develop its marketing strategy, to respond to the increasing maturity and complexity of its domestic and major export markets and the threat of rising competition to stay ahead of the rest of the wine pack.

Anna also investigated the issue of wine closures, as winemakers faced the quality and marketing issues associated with cork versus screw cap.  Anna recorded and reported on the viticultural, winemaking and marketing findings of her tour, which she made available to members of the Yarra Valley Winegrowers Association, and which assisted the region’s wine industry personnel in all facets of their business.  She also write and distributed a marketing plan for the Yarra Valley Wine Network, which at the time boasted a membership of 21 regional wineries.

In addition, Anna was instrumental in developing a comprehensive website specific to the Network, providing background information on the Yarra Valley, detailed information on member wineries, media releases, reviews, and an events calendar, complete with links to distributors worldwide and a dedicated wine trade section.

The website went online in January 2004 and won high praise and commendation throughout the industry. An electronic newsletter was also distributed to over 1000 trade, media and relevant wine industry groups throughout the world. Network member wineries were confident of economic gain to the Yarra Valley region as a direct result of the Award’s assistance in researching and implementing a marketing plan.

On a personnel level, the Award greatly enhanced Anna’s understanding of the international wine industry. The visit to New Zealand augmented her industry networks and was of enormous benefit to her consultancy business. The process of setting up the Yarra Valley Network required organizational and negotiating skills and the opportunity to refine such skills was invaluable. In addition, her term as RIRDC Rural Women’s Award 2003 Victorian Winner allowed her to explore leadership and networking skills that will have long-term benefits.

2003 Queensland Winner - Desley Vella

Desley’s twelve month tenure as the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award 2003 Queensland Winner culminated in study tours and extended learning.

Desley’s vision is to promote the sugar industry and agriculture in a positive way, while improving the economic prospects of the region’s cane farms and local rural community, through the development of the Cane Cutters Barracks-a Cultural Ecotourism Venture.

The main objective of the venture was to provide the community with a cultural educational venue that highlights sustainable land use and natural resource management practices, while enhancing economic opportunities and facilitating communication between rural and non-rural sectors of the community.

“The Barracks Project’ was borne out of a need to diversify business and employment opportunities, against the backdrop of a depressed sugar industry, a decline in local employment opportunities and a drift by the younger generation to capital cities.

The Barracks is a heritage facility, located at Babinda in the Far North Queensland ‘Wet Tropics.’ The Barracks Project provided an opportunity to capitalize on the existing infrastructure and natural assets of the region.

Desley put the bursary towards a study tour of Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria, to observe heritage, tourism, and farm ecotourism, in action in other states and to learn from their environmental management systems and promotion and marketing campaigns.

During her tenure as Queensland winner, Desley also completed a number of courses, including the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, the Ideas 2 Market Commercialisation Workshop and a Certificate of Accreditation for International Tour Coordination, and is currently completing a Recognition of Prior Learnings, all geared towards extending her skills, knowledge and capacity in rural and regional enterprise and marketing.

‘The Barracks Project’ evolved to make better use of available human and economic resources, and from a cane cutters barrack museum and environmental rehabilitation site, emerged a cane cutters barracks style accommodation, complete with educational study tours and environmental rehabilitation and community website.  Twelve months on and the barrack’s dilapidated structure was restored and furnished with period antiques, memorabilia and historical photographs and story records. Postcards and stationary capturing the region and its agriculture have also been designed and printed and an educational study tour is in the making and soon to get underway.

At a personal level, Desley believes the Award and in particular the AICD course has instilled in her the confidence and capacity to make a further contribution to her community and the organizations she represents.  She has made a contribution into a number of initiatives, including the region’s Strategic Plan, she was also elected the primary producer representative on a four member panel that reviewed the $10 million BSES (Bureau of Sugar Experiment Station) Prosper and SRDC BSS260 Program and is currently organizing a third International Study Tour of the Babinda region.

2003 South Australia Winner - Sharon Starick

At the time of the Award, Sharon had for the previous decade been intrinsically involved in the South Australian Murray Darling Basin and the management of its natural resources. She was involved with the Community Advisory Committee for the Murray Darling Basin Commission, the South Australian Murray Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Steering Committee and took on the position of Deputy Chair of the South Australian Farmers Federation Natural Resources Committee.

Over the previous 15 years management of the natural resources by the community of the South Australian Murray Darling Basin had moved from addressing single issues at an individual Landcare level to one of addressing a range of issues at a regional level and from addressing the symptoms to the causes of degradation.

Sharon’s concern was that the improved management of the Basin’s natural resources had taken place on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, with some priority issues receiving little or no attention and while significant resources have been committed to planning, education and awareness raising activities the condition of many of the natural resources continues to decline.  She believes that a whole of landscape change is required, involving significant community adjustment, if communities are able to participate and be actively involved in solutions, and priority natural resource management issues, such as water quality and salinity, are to be addressed.

The aim of her project was to expand community capacity through expanding her knowledge and understanding of the processes associated with managing change, while investigating some of the innovative processes implemented by other communities within the Murray Darling Basin.

A study tour of catchments throughout New South Wales and Victoria, covering some 4,000 kilometres over eight days and meeting with a range of persons from landholders to Landcare facilitators and members to Catchment Management Authority Executives proved extremely successful in gathering information on change management processes.  The tour involved numerous visitations, inspections and field trips and face to face interviews with some 20 participants who shared their stories of natural management change within their districts.

Key learnings from the study tour were collated and categorized against:

  • Motivators for Natural Resource Management Change.
  • Future Challenges for Natural Resource Management
  • Future Opportunities for Natural Resource Management
  • Key Principles for Change Management

While the tour resulted in no quick fix solution to change management a number of key principles were developed to assist decision makers to assist communities embrace whole of landscape change.

Notable amongst these are that all have a responsibility, be it landholders, industry, community and all tiers of government to management our natural resources, there is a need to understand the capacity of the communities to implement changes, and a need to engage with the community to ensure natural resource management takes into account economic, social and cultural issues, and that change needs to be driven by the community in partnership with government.

Importantly while individual circumstances and specific issues may differ, the importance of people in managing change and the processes to assist communities through the change apply equally to all states and to the total Basin. However three opportunities for natural resource management that have application to South Australia were identified and these were:

  • Stewardship payments for farmers to manage natural resources.
  • The establishment of reference groups involving all key stakeholders to develop trusting relationships to engage all stakeholders to enable change.
  • The development of ‘Train the Trainer’ models to train potential delivers within the community to enable greater access to knowledge and skills.

Sharon disseminated her findings to eight industry and community groups, including the SA CARE Team, the Murray Mallee Strategic Task Force and the SAFF Future Leaders Forum.

She believes her knowledge and understanding of change management processes associated with natural resource management grew significantly and as a result she has now developed a better understanding of the diversity of natural resource management issues within the Basin, their complexity and the economic and social implications involving in addressing them. As a result of her new found knowledge and exposure Sharon has become more involved in natural resource management at various levels.

She believes the numerous groups and organizations that she is involved with have benefited from this knowledge and that the principles developed and opportunities identified as a result of this project will be implemented by these organizations.

2003 Western Australia Winner - Erica Starling

Few know the Western Australian tuna long lining industry like Erica Starling. She is owner and operator of Indian Ocean Fresh Australia, a fish packing, wholesaling and distribution operation, which is a processor for some 16 vessels fishing the Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery. (WSRBF).

At the time of the Award, Erica had also served as an industry representative on the Southern and Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Advisory Committee, under the direction of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.  Her vision for her industry is to see the fishery return a stable price to its fishers, through consistent supply and guaranteed quality within a sustainable environment.

The fishery exports predominantly into Japan and the US, with a small quantity destined for the European Union. Bioterrorism and food safety issues emerged as major challenges, necessitating higher standards of documentation along the supply chain, to ensure continued market access.  And while the tuna fisheries of the East and West Coasts both have their own code of practices, governing environmental and marine regulation and fisheries regulation, no specific catch handling manual had been written for the entire fishery.

The aim of Erica’s project was to assure the fishery’s customers of a consistent quality by guaranteeing all handling methods from ocean through to plate are optimal to ensuring the highest quality and safety of the product. The fishery and its product has the potential then to be branded with a certified method of handling best practices that in turn could be used as a powerful marketing tool.  The ultimate goal was to produce a user friendly manual to guide skippers and crew on the best method of handling their product on board, and flexible enough to meet their own unique vessel characteristics.

The manual will also be a useful tool in training both new and existing crew members to maintain consistent handling practices.  The bursary was leveraged into a wider project, supported by the Seafood Industry Development Fund (Fisheries Research and Development Corporation) to include both the East and West Coast Tuna Fisheries.

Following extensive scoping and investigation of past handling practices along with a review of all current food safety issues and protocols, information was collated and a series of audits conducted including interviews with a number of skippers and crew. The information was then collaborated into the draft manual and then reviewed by specialist seafood scientists and food technologists.  The Australian Tuna Manual Handling Project was then printed. Initial feedback from industry and buyers alike was extremely promising with the manual’s release eagerly awaited.

Erica believes the Award has been of considerably more value to her than she initially anticipated. She believes it opened up numerous speaking opportunities and avenues to promote her industry and rural women. The bursary allowed her to complete a project she has always wanted to do, it has also challenged her in new skills development, particularly in writing a technical document and a document that she believes will be of immense practical value to her industry.

2003 Tasmania Winner - Lee Adamson Ringk

Lee Adamson Ringk is principal of ‘De Floriet’ a new commercial cut flower enterprise that aims to grow Tasmanian wildflowers as an intensive horticultural crop under environmentally sound and sustainable conditions and management practices.

Lee’s vision is for a sustainable and diversified system of wild and exotic flower production, through the selection of species that work in harmony with the natural environment.

She believes the Tasmanian wildflower industry promises huge potential, as an emerging horticultural crop, with promising markets both domestically and overseas that offer significant social and employment opportunities both for rural women and their families as well as smaller rural holdings.

The bursary enabled Lee to travel to Melbourne to attend the Melbourne Flower Show to observe the florist industries’ application of cut flowers and observe innovative design techniques. She also travelled across the Tasman to the South Island of New Zealand to study their flower farming and environmental management systems.

At the Melbourne Flower Show, Lee observed a disappointingly limited usage of wildflowers by exhibitors. However she was able to identify a number of applications for Tasmanian wildflowers, as replacements for more intensively grown flower and foliage crops. This confirmed that there is a suitable niche for wildflowers in the industry that has yet to be developed.

The South Island of New Zealand was targeted as it has a similar geographic position and similar environmental conditions to Tasmania. In addition many of the South Island’s growers are proving they can be viable on small holdings of less than ten acres.  Lee met with five grower enterprises and investigated their commercial flower operations, along with a visitation to the Floramax flower auction where the majority of flowers are auctioned directly to florists.  Key learnings for Lee from the New Zealand study tour included first-hand knowledge of a flower growing system similar to their own, along with an insight into the operations of five individual farms and the application of their breeding and management systems to those in Tasmania.

Lee was able to share her knowledge from the New Zealand study tour to other growers at a number of field days and she wrote a number of reports on her findings for inclusion in industry and association newsletters.  On a personal level, Lee confirmed her belief that commercial viability for a flower and foliage grower is achievable on a small holding, making floriculture a suitable on-farm diversification.

In addition the opportunity to establish a thorough support network amongst her peers and New Zealand associates provided essential learning skills and mentoring resources. This has been reflected in her own ability to provide support to other growers and encourage diversification in knowledge gathering.

Overall the Award has substantiated Lee’s belief that Tasmanian wildflowers have a market niche and that commercial production of these species does not have to occur on large scale monoculture systems. This makes the establishment of the Tasmanian wildflower growers network more accessible to low capital and first time flower farmers, benefiting both local economies and regional growth.

2003 Northern Territory Winner - Beverley Wilson

At the time of the Award, Beverley had worked with the Northern Territory pastoral industry for the previous 30 years, during which time she carried on with her a commitment to sustainable agricultural and natural resource management practices, which she has implemented where ever practical on property.  Beverley’s focus was on feral pig control and reducing the destructive impact that pigs have on the pastoral industry and the environment.

Her vision is for agriculture to utilize all of its resources, including its feral animals, for a dual benefit of preserving the biodiversity of the environment and reducing the cost burden of feral animal control on the pastoral industry.  A feral pig production and processing industry had been operating for some time in the Northern Territory, but the industry relied on backyard operators and is devoid of food safety and quality assurance controls.

Bev’s short term goals included field testing a sample of feral pigs, from collection and care through to slaughter at the Litchfield abattoir, with particular emphasis on meat quality, while at the same time raising the profile of the harvested pig meat industry. A higher profile was seen as critical to improving market acceptance and increasing market outlets for the meat, and to achieving the long term goal of establishing a co-ordinated approach to the industry’s logistics and processing, from collection and transportation of shot animals to the safe and hygienic handling of field shot meat through to export abattoir.

A study tour of eco-friendly piggeries in Victoria and South Australia, confirmed that Bev’s animal husbandry and management practices were of a high standard and that the free range system can be equally applied to feral pig production.  She was able to successfully demonstrate the collection and management of feral pigs and prove the positive impact of controlling feral pigs on the biodiversity of the environment.

However extenuating circumstances, including higher grain prices coupled with competition from alternate meat imports, meant that Beverley was unable to secure suitable markets and end-users for her pig meat and unable to achieve the profile she had hoped for the harvested pig meat industry.  Despite this Beverley feels she gained much from the Award in terms of confidence and knowledge and intends to continue to pursue her ambitions for a viable feral pig meat industry for the Top End.