2018 Winners

Darrylin Gordon is a busy young mum living and working on Lamboo Station, an Aboriginal managed pastoral station 50km west of Halls Creek in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.

As a Jaru woman, she is one of the traditional owners of the station and is passionate about her country and regional development.

Darrylin sees a future where rural business can combine business, culture and community together in a holistic approach to land management and cattle production, she wants to see traditional owners caring for country and maintaining cultural values whilst managing successful pastoral businesses.

Observing poor outcomes from employment programs delivered in Halls Creek, Darrylin wants to develop a program that aims at delivering work orientation and mentoring on Lamboo Station, in which participants can connect to country, learn invaluable life skills and gain financial independence.

Darrylin hopes the program will instil self-respect and pride in the participants.

Darrylin says that where there are high levels of education there is virtually no gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and hopes that her program will provide an educational as well as emotionally supportive environment.

Having worked as an Indigenous Community Alcohol and Drugs Officer for Kimberly Mental Health and as a Community Engagement Officer with the Shire of Halls Creek, Darrylin see great potential for an employment program that offers wrap-around counselling and support services as a way to sustainable increase the employability of participants.

In addition to Industry certification, the training will include life skills such as cooking, cleaning and hygiene challenging traditional gender roles. Darrylin hopes the trainees will take these skills back to their communities becoming role models to others.

Darrylin is demonstrating leadership in her community with a program that could offer a better economic future and weaves traditional culture and cultural values with the possibilities of modern economy.

Alex is a part-time carer for her father who received permanent injuries resulting from his life’s work in the agriculture industry. A self-described ‘die hard pastoralist’s daughter’, Alex grew up on Parnaroo Station at Yunta, 280km north-east of Adelaide.

Alex is a fierce advocate for the prevention of work-related serious injuries and fatalities in primary industries, the fatality rate for which remains eight times higher than the average rate for all other industries.

Having worked the last 12 years in work health and safety and having run her own work health and safety consulting business for the past 9 years, Alex seeks to engage and empower rural women to help rural men keep themselves safe whilst at work.

Alex believes rural women are the catalyst for change. She will use the Rural Women’s Award bursary and her extensive rural networks to launch the #PlantASeedForSafety social media campaign, including the profiling of 100+ rural women and how they have improved work health safety within their businesses or communities. She will also develop free, easy, practical and meaningful work health and safety tools designed specifically for use by small family businesses. Alex will spread the word and inspire women to champion the cause by presenting at a number of key industry forums.

Alex was the recipient of the 2014 Rural Youth Bursary, a Finalist for the 2015 Rural Women’s Award, and is currently participating in the South Australian Governor’s Leadership Program. In addition to preventing serious injuries and fatalities in primary industries, Alex also aspires to position herself as a key influencer and decision maker in securing the future sustainability of primary industries. Alex is also passionate about ensuring the views of children and youth are considered and valued in today’s world.

Melissa is passionate about giving back to the local rural community that has given her and her family so much since. In 2012, Melbourne city slicker Melissa, husband David and their young children decided to embrace a tree change and bought a 10-acre hobby farm at Kyneton in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. They soon realised the monumental challenge ahead of them, as their lack of farming expertise became apparent, particularly in cattle and water management.

A chance meeting with retired farmer Noel Jenner helped change all that. Noel became a huge source of farming wisdom for the growing family. Melissa realised there was an untapped opportunity for retired and established farmers to offer their farming expertise to tree changers.

In June 2015, Melissa’s project, ‘This Farm Needs A Farmer’ was born. Its mission is to build stronger, more engaged communities by connecting tree changers with established and retired farmers who can pass on their valuable local knowledge to newcomers.

Sharing the decades of knowledge retired farmers have with novices to the land will help the local economy by ensuring tree changers are well informed about good land management practices. The project will also help enhance the already strong community by engaging local business support and mentoring, as well as creating a space for like minded people to get involved.

Melissa now receives enquiries not only from new and pending tree changers, but those who made the move a while ago and are tired of the ‘trial and error’ approach and people who are thinking about a move to the country.

Field Days and on-farm workshops are part of ‘This Farm Needs A Farmer’ platform. The workshops will allow tree changers to learn the skills they need to manage their properties or begin an agribusiness.

Melissa is focusing ‘This Farm Needs A Farmer’ on the local Macedon Ranges area but hopes to expand to other areas.

Since Melissa was announced as a 2018 Victorian AgrifuturesTM Rural Women’s Award finalist and subsequent winner, ‘This Farm Needs A Farmer’ has increased its community reach. It has also helped to build trust and win over the older farming generation.

Melissa applied for the award, not only for herself and the project, but to be part of something she truly believes in and set an example to her children about giving things a go. Melissa’s advice to other women thinking of applying for the award is “Go for it! Even if you don’t become a finalist, it will give clarity and direction to your idea ¾ that investment of time is never wasted.”

Jillian approaches life optimistically, with the logical thinking of a civil engineer, the roll-up-your-sleeves attitude of a farmer’s daughter from Coonamble, and an altruistic passion for change.

Her company, The Infrastructure Collaborative, has served the infrastructure needs of 50 Local Governments in Regional NSW since 2009 when it was established from a 50,000 acre property west of Walgett. Now based in Dubbo, Jillian serves clients in Australia and the United States, where she is able to cross-pollinate learnings from a diverse set of work assignments.

Jillian enjoys taking a Design Thinking approach learned at Stanford University to solve problems and shift infrastructure projects from Government planning shelves to be shovel ready. When working on roads, Jillian refocuses infrastructure conversations around productivity for agriculture and mining, safety for school buses and access for tourism. Most importantly, she thrives when facilitating in an environment where there has traditionally been a lack of collaboration.

Jillian’s project is to improve the commercial success of start-ups by increasing the capability, capacity and confidence of regional business owners. Her bursary would go towards developing the business concept and include conducting a Regional Start-ups Insight Study. The project lives within a bigger eco system to develop more effective space and services for new and growing business owners within Dubbo and the wider catchment.

Holding a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Sydney, a Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy from the University of Stanford, Jillian joins the rural Women’s Award Alumni ready to learn, give back, and meet new people as part of this experience.

Allison hopes to use her project to  re-engage with new thinking and networks and aims to contribute to positive change in Tasmania and beyond.

Allison grew up in the Huon Valley on a family property and started her career in the public service in Hobart.  After a period of time, Allison took a role working with Hazell Bros. agriculture based at Judbury which provided a great opportunity to work in a large agri-business focused on fruit growing, sheep, beef, and nursery activities on properties spread across southern Tasmania.

This led to a role in the wider Hazell Bros. Group as General Manager Integrated Management Systems and responsibility for the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 management systems across civil construction, transport, earthmoving, and forestry activities.  After a number of years, Allison was increasingly asked by businesses in Tasmania to provide advice on quality and food safety systems and decided to leave Hazell Bros. and focus on consulting to the horticulture sector – she founded Optimum Standard as a result. Ultimately, Allison became a full-time employee with Houston’s Farm supporting their food safety development system.

During her time with Houston’s Farm, Allison undertook a number of diverse roles including the National Technical Manager and the General Manager Marketing. In later years she was responsible for product design, development, and commercialisation, change management, and sales and marketing, and her activities led to significant diversification and growth for the business.

Over a number of years she completed her MBA part time specialising in Agricultural Innovation.  In 2017, Allison felt that she had reached a point where she needed to broaden her horizon and took a role with Optimum Standard as their Lead Innovator.  As Lead Innovator, Allison works across a number of industry sectors, focusing on the things that can create innovation and change in product and service delivery.

Allison’s project aims to understand (a) how farming business/ agribusiness taps into research or networks that are available and (b) understanding the barriers to integrating this information into decision making processes so that we can provide better design, development and commercialisation tools in the early stages of development to limit failure.

Many businesses have a great idea, but do not have the necessary skill or experience to design, develop and commercialise a product whilst limiting its risk of failure.  Other businesses have the commitment, drive and financial resources necessary to diversify, but do not know in which area to innovate.  Having a decision tree style kit available to businesses could provide a solid framework for success.

The project will develop a decision tree and extend research findings to help others create the change that will energise success.

Linda Blackwood lives in Katherine in the Northern Territory. She loves the outback lifestyle and the opportunities it affords those who are prepared to give it a crack. Linda and her husband Adam own Katherine-based business that offers a full service onsite mechanical solution for pastoralists and other property owners.

Linda is passionate about supporting rural small businesses and believes that identifying and addressing some of the challenges small businesses face in rural Australia will facilitate growth and increased efficiency, leading to a better balance between work and community life in rural areas.

In her 2018 Rural Women’s Award application, Linda identified risk management of contractors and associated administrative costs as a key issue affecting NT stations. She proposed a Station Site Access project which would allow contractors to lodge their accreditation’s online, and for station managers and employers to easily check contractors’ accreditation status.

It is critical for property owners to know if the contractors coming onto their property are properly qualified and insured. There is currently an ongoing issue of risk management around contractors coming onto stations and the Station Site Access accreditation program will streamline efficiency and reduce administration costs for both parties.

Ideally, pastoralists should check the certification and insurance of tradespeople coming onto their properties. Particularly on larger stations where a lot of people can be coming onto the land to work at any one time, this can be a lot of administrative work.

The Station Site Access accreditation program will be able to be accessed by small and large stations to improve management and increase efficiency.

Linda is aiming big and sees Station Site Access as a solution that could one day be utilised nationally. Initially though, she will be focusing on the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory, a jurisdiction with many large pastoral properties that she believes could benefit from her initiative.


Krista is a leader in agricultural innovation and the co-founder and managing director of Natural Evolution Foods, a world-first company specialising in green banana flour products.

A dynamic mum of two, Krista’s motto is “to solve the world’s problems and make people’s lives better”. She is a keen advocate for innovation and disruption, and passionate about reinvigorating the Australian food manufacturing industry.

Krista’s interest in reducing waste and finding uses for unsaleable produce led to the development of Natural Evolution Foods in 2012. Following tireless work and research, she and husband Rob built the world’s first pharmaceutical-grade green banana processing facility and pioneered a gluten-free banana flour and skincare range. The business has experienced remarkable growth, expanding into international markets and winning sustainability and innovation awards in Australia and overseas.

Her aspiration is for all rural industries, businesses and communities to succeed and thrive in their field of work. She wants the next generation to see the value in an agricultural career and to demonstrate that being a farmer is more than driving a tractor – “we are strategic, we are strong and we are world-class.”
Krista believes that innovation, sustainability and science will be integral to the success of the Australian agriculture industry.

Using her expertise and knowledge gained from the banana industry, she will use her bursary to work with farmers in her local Tablelands area, and empower them to create an alternative industry and revenue stream for unsaleable sweet potato products.

She will use the bursary to nutritionally analyse the characteristics and value of sweet potatoes and research the market opportunities and potential to create new, high-value food sources.

Krista’s long-term goal is to create a dreams factory, where rural and regional innovators can work together in a creative space to bring their ideas and visions to reality.