2011 Winners

2011 New South Wales Winner – Karen Hutchinson

Rural change agent

Karen Hutchinson, from Hanwood, New South Wales was, at the time of the Award, Executive Manager of Murrumbidgee Irrigation and an irrigated agriculture leader at a time of unprecedented change in the management of the nation’s water resources.

Karen came from an academic background with expertise in group processes and sustainable resource management and professional experience in strategic development.

Since 2000 Karen has lived with her family at Hanwood outside Griffith, where she has been involved in primary industries; directly at a farming level growing sultanas for dried fruit production on their irrigated property. Indirectly she has been an educator and involved in policy development for the irrigation industry.

In her role as Murrumbidgee Irrigation Executive Manager, Karen was responsible for water distribution and customers throughout the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA).

Karen believes that with agriculture in the Murray Darling Basin facing the prospect of significant cuts to water allocations, the efficiency of water supply and its use will become absolutely critical to the survival of the Basin’s rural industries and communities.

Karen wants to see irrigated agriculture go beyond resilience, to embrace change and to demonstrate its ability to adapt and thrive in response to political and environmental change.

She believes during a time of unprecedented change, the irrigation community of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area will need strong leadership. She aimed to use her academic background and qualifications, her industry knowledge and the strong links she had with industry and the farming community to provide that leadership to her community.

Her Award ambition is to research current knowledge and thinking on innovation and change, to learn from other industries that have faced change and to map out opportunities for engaging industries and communities to manage change in the MIA.

2011 Victorian Winner – Angela Betheras

Trade negotiator

At the time of the Award, Angela Betheras was an alpaca breeder from Darnum, West Gippsland and principal of an integrated tourist enterprise ‘Nickelby by Darnum’. She was the first female to sit on the Committee of Lardner Park Events, the largest Farmworld event in the southern hemisphere and was previously Chair of the West Gippsland Gourmet Country Tourism Association.

In 2005 she traded the corporate world and an 18 year career in international trade and supply chain management with some of Australia’s major retailers to pursue her passion for alpaca breeding.

The alpaca industry has established itself as a credible and profitable fibre industry, boasting a total of 100,000 breeders. But, according to Angela, it needs to find new markets for its woollen products if it is to expand and support its breeders.

Angela’s Award ambition was to explore trade relations with China as an export market destination for exclusive Australian made alpaca garments and accessories.

China is the world’s largest consumer market, boasting a rapidly increasing number of affluent middle class consumers. Beijing and Shanghai between them have a population of 32 million people and many months of below zero temperatures.

Given her corporate background and her experience in facilitating trade, Angela believed she had the necessary skills and contacts, and understanding of the customs and culture, to initiate new trade relations with China and establish a new market for Australian alpaca products.

2011 National Runner Up and Queensland State Winner – Barbara Grey

Rural communicator

Barbara Grey from Mungindi, Queensland, has been an irrigated cotton grower since the early 1980’s. The innovative and efficient practices she and her husband have put in place on their farm led to them being awarded the prestigious Cotton Australia ‘Innovative Grower of the Year Award’ in 2007, and consistently being placed in the top five percentile of their region’s benchmarking group for cotton growing.

At the time of the Award, Barbara was Chair of the Women’s Industry Network – Cotton and Non-executive Director of the Cotton Co-operative Research Centre. She is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation, has completed an Advanced Diploma in Business and was enrolled in a Masters of Business Administration.

Barbara is committed to strong, healthy and productive rural industries and regional communities and is deeply concerned about what she believes is a growing disconnect between rural people and government and decision makers.

Her Award ambition was to implement a pilot education program that will empower aspiring rural and regional women leaders to gain a better understanding of the political process and government decision making which will help give them a stronger and more effective voice for rural industries and regional communities.

Barbara used the bursary to build her skills in project facilitation to give her the competencies to deliver on the pilot program. In the longer term, she believes the pilot could be replicated and become a regular training initiative for rural and regional women.

2011 South Australian Winner – Kim Blenkiron

Community capacity builder

Kim Blenkiron from Strathalbyn, South Australia, grew up on a farm in the Mallee and always knew her work and life would be in farming.

At the time of the Award, Kim and her husband had been farming for close to two decades, both on Kangaroo Island and on the mainland at Strathalbyn. Her industry involvement included working with Agriculture Kangaroo Island and representing Kangaroo Island on the SA Advisory Board of Agriculture.

At the time of the Award, Kim was the State Coordinator of Partners in Grain in South Australia.  In this role she worked with key women in regional communities to develop their professional skills and self confidence. In holding that position she established and ran an impressive 13 self-directed learning groups.

Kim is committed to supporting the professional development of rural women and believes that their skill sets are critical to the management of individual businesses and to the profitability of industry generally.

Kim’s Award ambition is to better support rural women to achieve their personal and professional goals and ambitions for their industries and communities. She planned to run a series of workshops to transfer her coaching and communication skills to rural women to increase the capacity of rural communities.

2011 National Winner and Western Australian State Winner – Caroline Robinson

Rural entrepreneur

At the time of the Award, Caroline Robinson lived in Woolocutty, Western Australia and was a rural development consultant specialising in community development, strategic engagement and project management, and a wheat and sheep producer from Woolocutty in the Western Australian wheat belt.

Caroline is the brains behind the Wheatbelt Business Network (WBN), established to promote local produce and regional tourism, and to provide opportunities for entrepreneurship and networking, training and education and the advancement of women in business.

She planned to research and develop a Buy Local marketing campaign for the wheat belt that will emphasise local consumer loyalty and the value of business-to-business sales.

She used the bursary to visit other rural communities and learn from their strategies. She coordinated a survey of local government and key stakeholders across the wheat belt to identify the gaps within the local economy and the scope for existing businesses and prospective new businesses to fill those gaps.  She then intended to embark on a comprehensive marketing campaign for the entire region.

Caroline believes that encouraging people to buy local will not only help the viability of businesses but provide an opportunity for new business ventures and alternate income streams for rural people. She thinks the Buy Local marketing campaign has the potential to be adopted by other communities across the country.

2011 Tasmanian Winner – Jackie Brown

Agricultural educator

Jackie Brown from Brighton, Tasmania, is a leader in the field of agricultural education in Australia. Since the early 1980’s she has been committed to agricultural education and to raising awareness of the dynamic and diversified number of career pathways that agriculture offers students.

Jackie was the driving force behind the development of the Bridgewater High School Farm in Brighton, Tasmania. She was instrumental in building the farm into a nationally recognised and highly utilised educational facility.

The farm provides vocational training, work skills programs and agricultural science, as well as a diverse range of short courses.

Her Award ambition is to raise awareness of the serious shortage of students pursuing a career in agriculture, and the importance of making agricultural education accessible to all students, in both rural and urban communities.

Jackie planned to investigate international best practice in agricultural studies by visiting a range of agricultural training providers in the United Kingdom, with the intention of implementing more innovative programs for teachers and students in Tasmania.

2011 Northern Territory Winner

There was no winner in 2011 for the Northern Territory