2017 Winners

2017 National and Western Australia Winner - Tanya Dupagne

Four years ago, Tanya moved to Kulin in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia to start the Camp Kulin program. She saw it as an opportunity to do something beneficial with the Shire of Kulin’s under-utilised recreational and community resources.

Today, Camp Kulin contributes not only to the wellbeing of young people from regional and metropolitan Western Australia but also to the local economy, with around 1,000 participants and 200 volunteers annually. A natural leader and problem-solver, Tanya has also created a mentoring program to support children at two local high schools, providing mental health support in the absence of a school chaplain.

Tanya’s project idea is to create and run a subsidised ladies camp program to support women from regional Western Australia. The program will help develop essential life skills such as leadership, trust, self-confidence, self-esteem, perseverance and ambition that the women can use in their day to day lives. It will involve an intense three-day camp where ladies can experience all the activities the Camp Kulin program offers. Support groups will be created via social media so participants can keep in touch, with alumni events to be held each year.

The leadership component of the program means participants are equipped to head back to their communities and start making changes and taking on leadership roles. It will help them to not feel isolated and realise they have the power to make a difference.

The already existing Camp Kulin Kids Camps have been recognised as the leading program of its kind in the country. Mothers, and the community generally, have seen so many positive changes in their children, and they would like the chance to have the same experience to grow and develop.

Tanya says “’One person can’t change the world, but they can change the world for one person”. That’s the ethos we adhere to at Camp Kulin. We want to make a difference to regional women one at a time and support them to make a difference to others across regional Western Australia.”

2017 South Australia Winner & National runner up - Simone Kain

Simone’s passion for regional Australia sparked a colourful quest to raise the profile of farmers by opening children’s eyes to agriculture through the character ‘George the Farmer’.

Inspired by her three farm-obsessed sons, Simone realised the importance of addressing the food production knowledge gap in a fun and educational way. She put her graphic design skills to work and developed the quintessentially Australian children’s character with business partner Ben Hood.

George (named after Simone’s eldest son) is also a champion of women in agriculture, and his wife, Ruby, who features prominently in the overall branding, is a talented agronomist. The duo has a strong following on social media, and star in a popular app, books, songs and live performances. George the Farmer’s free supplementary teacher resources and videos have been downloaded more than 3000 times in the past six months, educating an estimated 40,000 children in the classroom about agriculture.

Building on the vital contribution that women play in agriculture, Simone will use the Award bursary to make Ruby the Farmer the spokesperson and heroine of two new curriculum-aligned teacher’s resources. They will focus on women’s roles in Australian agriculture, showcasing the range of innovative careers available in primary industries to encourage children, and especially girls, to consider a future in agriculture. These resources will be freely accessible to teachers nationally and internationally.

Simone aspires to have George and Ruby on television screens to broaden the reach of agricultural education and further showcase Australia’s clean, green produce.

2017 NSW/ACT Winner - Sandra Ireson

Sandra, from the Riverina town of Booligal in NSW, has a keen interest in developing pathways for younger generations to gain a start in primary industries.

Throughout her career Sandra recognised that young people had limited opportunities to gain the basic hands-on training and bush skills to make them employable, resulting in diminishing numbers of young people entering or staying in agriculturally dependent communities and townships like Hay.

To address this challenge, in 2014 Sandra co-developed the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program to give young people the skills, education and experience they need to pursue a career in agriculture. The program provides hands-on training modules that cover all the necessary skills of stockmanship in sheep, cattle and farming skills, ongoing mentoring, and access to rural networks and landholders, which young people can use as a spring board to a career in agriculture.

The program has already delivered substantial benefits to Hay including: raising the profile of the local agricultural industry, enhancing tourism, greater recognition and understanding of the importance of food and fibre production, and enrichment of the social fabric of the community and surrounding district.

Building on the success of the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program Sandra plans to use the Award bursary to develop an adaptable model that can be used by other communities across Australia, ensuring their long-term sustainability.

Whether off the farm or from the city young people will have the opportunity to learn all the practical agricultural skills they will need – from shearing management and wool classing to fixing motorbikes and fences.

The model will not only provide a pathway for young people wanting a career in agriculture but it will also provide a network between district landholders, employers and trainees, and the opportunity for ongoing mentoring of trainees into the future, positively assisting in the long-term viability of agriculturally dependent communities.

2017 Tasmania Winner - Rebecca Lynd

With no farming background, Rebecca has built her Big River Highland Beef enterprise up to be the most successful Scottish Highland beef producer nationwide.

She is the owner and operator of Big River Highland Beef, which produces Scottish Highland beef for local restaurants and consumers and is the only commercial producer of Scottish Highland beef in Tasmania.  Rebecca developed the business without the ties of traditional agricultural practices – requiring research into farming techniques, innovation, marketing opportunities and land management.  In 2014, Rebecca was Awarded a Sprout Producer Program scholarship, a one year accreditation for small and start-up Tasmanian producers that involves educational units, field days and mentoring.

Rebecca is a co-founder of her local growers’ market, Big River Growers’ Market, aimed at getting local produce out of people’s backyards and into the community.  Rebecca has been a guest speaker at the Slow Food Hobart AGM and has organised and hosted educational farm tours in the Derwent Valley.  Recently, Rebecca was accepted into the national e-Leaders program delivered by the National Rural Women’s Coalition.

The program provides connections to other rural leaders, growers and has an emphasis on sustainability and management planning.  Through the program, Rebecca developed a feasibility study into on-farm slaughter and butchering facilities with the aim of improving processing options for small-scale livestock producers seeking to produce quality product for restaurants.

Rebecca will use the Award bursary to undertake a study tour to the USA to research a selection of best practice small-scale, on-farm cattle slaughter facilities to gain an understanding of the contemporary issues and practices associated with small-scale, independently owned and/or community-supported slaughter facilities with a major focus on animal welfare, WHS risk management, compliance with regulations, energy use, waste management and consumer needs.

2017 Northern Territory Winner - Kate Peake

Kate is a passionate advocate for the Northern Territory having been born and raised in Darwin’s rural area. In her role as CEO of Regional Development Australia Northern Territory (RDA NT) she works with a broad range of organisations to support the sustainable development of the region.

Among other roles Kate is a NT Farmers’ Board Director and a member of two water advisory committees.  Kate’s interest in groundwater management has grown from her association with irrigators and her involvement in many water allocation planning processes.  She believes effective water management is now the single biggest factor underpinning the sustainable development of the Territory.

Kate’s project centres around the promotion of local water stewardship and the development of stakeholder-endorsed communications and strategies to foster sustainable water use across the Darwin region.

Kate believes the greater Darwin area is facing a potential crisis if rapid and proactive water management strategies are not applied.  The opportunity for a preventative approach still exists, but there is a growing possibility of difficult, costly and divisive remediation in the future if something is not done soon.

Kate’s Award ambition is to improve public understanding of water resource issues in the rural Darwin area, and to facilitate a wider snapshot of public opinion to inform government’s water management policy and practice.

2017 Queensland Winner - Jacqui Wilson-Smith

Jacqui is the Global Innovations Manager at McCormick and Chairperson of the Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN), a not-for-profit food network that she co-founded in 2015. Jacqui has dedicated her 20-year career to developing food and wine brands in Australia and overseas.

In 2009 she returned to the Sunshine Coast to raise a family and lead the innovation and marketing team at Botanical Food Company. Within this role she was instrumental in launching the company’s innovative and highly successful Gourmet Garden range of herb and spice tubes and dried spices.

Jacqui’s international career has led to her interest in ‘Design Thinking’, a customer-focused mindset of bringing to market new ideas, products, services or business models that solve complex problems and delight customers. She is confident the adoption of Design Thinking could greatly benefit Queensland primary industries, by encouraging innovations that will add value, increase food security and build resilience in rural and regional communities.

Using the Award bursary, Jacqui will partner with educators, government and industry to create an online training platform to connect rural food and agribusinesses.  The platform will deliver practical and engaging content to provide time-poor companies with the skills and tools to make more informed decisions around innovation, resulting in fewer failures, higher sales and increased exports.  ‘Design Thinking’ will be the pilot topic.

The online platform will be piloted initially within the Food and Agribusiness Network, with the long-term aim of broadening the range of topics offered and accessibility to other regional networks and communities. Jacqui hopes the project will address the tyranny of distance faced by more isolated FAN members and encourage a sense of belonging through a virtual network. She also hopes the project will help to connect and inspire other rural communities to create their own FAN hubs.

2017 Victorian Winner - Kirsten Abernrthy

Ecologist and social scientist Kirsten Abernethy has worked in fishing communities for over a decade in Cornwall, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands, but says she has found her calling in the fishing communities of Victoria.

Kirsten is proud of her state’s seafood industry, but believes there is one resource the industry isn’t utilising well – the women who work in it. Women make up fifty-five per cent of fisheries workers in Victoria, but hold less than five per cent of the industry’s executive positions. Kirsten says women make a significant contribution, but are largely invisible in the fishing industry.

Kirsten wants to change that. She wants to give women the confidence and skills they need so they can tell politicians, the media and funding bodies about the industry they love. She believes women in the fishing industry have different perspectives to offer, and wants them to be as much a voice for the industry as men are.

Kirsten will use the Award bursary to work with women in the fishing industry to determine what information and training will help them better engage with the community and take on greater leadership opportunities. She wants to capitalise on the pride and passion of women in fishing, and help build their capacity and confidence. This will be through developing and piloting a needs-based platform, co-designed with women in fishing.

Working with women in fishing will inform both what is needed, and how it should be delivered. The platform will focus on ways and tools needed to build social acceptability of fishing in communities and engage with decision makers. She hopes to give women in the industry the skills to promote the fresh and sustainable seafood that is available throughout Victoria.