2023 Winners

2023 New South Wales Winner & National Runner Up - Michelle Leonard OAM

Founder, Artistic Director and Conductor of Moorambilla Voices, Michelle Leonard OAM is the artistic visionary with a strong motivation to amplify creative opportunities for regional children and young adults as a catalyst for social change.

Moorambilla Voices is a nationally awarded regional arts organisation that has been making a significant impact since its inception in 2006. The organisation has provided skills development workshops directly into schools for over 40,000 children from 21 Local Government Areas. It has also commissioned over 100 new Australian works, and conducts yearly residency camps, tours, recordings, and performances for regional and metropolitan audiences. Through Michelle’s work, Moorambilla Voices showcases the extraordinary capacity of children as choristers, dancers, and visual artists to standing ovations.

Michelle will use the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant to fund her travel expenses to interview and learn from those who have benchmarked successful and innovative programs in rural and remote communities and collaborations with Indigenous Australian Elders.

Watch Michelle’s story

2023 Northern Territory Winner - Eileen Breen

Eileen Breen is a passionate advocate for sustainable business and co-founder of NTEX, with a track record of creating new enterprises and projects that prioritise environmental responsibility.

With over 30 years of experience in a diverse range of industries, including in Australia and overseas, she has been instrumental in developing successful businesses and fostering entrepreneurship in the community. Mentoring, building capabilities and expanding networks are central to Eileen’s commitment to helping others succeed in their business endeavours.

Thanks to the NT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant, Eileen plans to scale-up her SustainAbility project to more businesses. The initiative empowers rural, regional and remote businesses and communities to embrace the opportunities of the circular economy to deliver a positive benefit to local people, the planet and sustainable profit.

Watch Eileen’s story

2023 Queensland Winner - Emma Gibbons

Emma-Louise Gibbons, the founder of Huds and Toke, is a trailblazing entrepreneur who is passionate about sustainability and reducing carbon emissions by utilising produce grown on farms which can’t be sold and insect protein in her pet treats.

Her dedication to sustainability and innovation has earned her global recognition, including a recent partnership with Krispy Kreme to offer dog-friendly doughnuts in their UK and US stores.

Thanks to the QLD AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant, Emma-Louise will be able to purchase highly specialised equipment that can process alternative proteins and ensure all production remains on site at her facilities.

Watch Emma’s story

2023 South Australian Winner - Ali Paulett

Ali Paulett, the founder of Indigenous Australian native garden, the Bush DeVine and managing director of Paulett Wines, is a passionate advocate for food education, collaboration with First Nations people and community connection. With over 20 years of experience in the Paulett family business, Ali now manages a team of more than 30 people.

As someone who has worked closely with the land for many years, Ali recognised the importance of creating a sense of place and knowledge that would educate schoolchildren and the wider community about how First Nations people used and nourished the environment. This led her to establish the Bush DeVine Indigenous Australian native sensory bush food garden in 2010, which now features 40 different types of native plants and a beautiful sensory walking path. In addition to being a popular attraction, the garden also supplies their Winery Restaurant, which opened in 2015.

Ali plans to use the SA AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant to add educational components to the DeVine garden including interactive signage, videography to enhance the sensory experience and a cooking vicinity for the community to utilise.

Watch Ali’s story

2023 Tasmanian Winner - Melissa Duniam

Melissa Duniam, facilitator and founder of Leading Rein, is an advocate for life-long learning and is sharing her knowledge of working alongside horses in a leadership development program.

Melissa is a business operator who’s worked for 20 years in the agricultural industry, including managing a dairy enterprise across multiple farms, accommodation stay and an indoor equestrian facility. Recovering from a farm accident in 2016 and inspired by her grandfather who picked up horsemanship later in life, Melissa began researching equine-assisted learning. Five years later she completed the training and founded her business, Leading Rein, working with people and teams to improve workplace culture, build communication and relationships.

Melissa plans to use the TAS AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant to expand her business and share the benefits of equine-assisted learning with the wider community.

Watch Stephanie’s story

2023 Victorian Winner and National Winner - Nikki Davey

Entrepreneur and co-founder of Grown Not Flown Nikki Davey has a vision to see the local cut flower industry bloom, using her skills in business and digital product development to support small-scale growers.

Nikki worked in business and change management and is passionate about sustainable and regenerative agriculture on her central Victorian farm. As a budding flower farm Nikki saw a need for technologies dedicated to small-scale growers and developed her digital platform and app to connect consumers with local sustainable flower farmers, reducing ‘flower miles’ and supporting micro economies.

Since 2021 the platform has grown to have more than 3,500 users in 30 countries and more than flower growers listed. The VIC AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant will fund the development of a knowledge hub within the platform so that flower growers can tap into tips, tools and best practices.

Watch Nikki’s story

2023 Western Australia Winner - Michelle Moriarty

Founder of Grief Connect, Michelle Moriarty is helping widowed people across Australia to reduce social isolation and improve mental health outcomes whilst helping to normalise conversations about grief in the wider community.

It’s a mission that has a deep personal connection for Michelle who unexpectedly became a widow at 38 when her late partner Nathan died in 2018.  Michelle’s lived experience and 18 years as a social worker led her to establish Facebook support groups for widowed women and men that offer a safe space for honest discussions about the harsh realities of losing a partner.

Michelle’s organisation Grief Connect is dedicated to providing support and counselling throughout the South West of WA and nationally through online telehealth. Michelle has also set up the Grief Language Project, promoting grief education, communication skills and grief management strategies. Michelle plans to use the WA AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award grant to extend the reach of her program, tap into professional advice and promote her work.

Watch Michelle’s story