2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women's Award Finalists

Rebecca Barnes, Ballina

Finalist of the 2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women's Award

Rebecca Barnes, Ballina

After an international career in finance and insurance Rebecca Barnes moved to the northern NSW coastal town of Ballina 20 years ago seeking a career and lifestyle change that would allow her to balance work and family.

When research led her to realise the nutritional benefits and untapped potential of Australian native foods Rebecca and her business partner established Playing with Fire Native Foods.

An industry leader Playing with Fire Australian Native Foods grows, processes, manufacturers and supplies native foods both domestically, to local farmers markets, gourmet food shops and high end restaurants, and internationally to Asia, USA and Europe.

Australia’s native foods are rich and vibrant in colour taste and nutrition. There are now 15 commercialised varieties available which are in very high demand due to the growing interest from chefs, foodies, nutritionists and the international markets. This presents a favourable opportunity to reignite this small but vibrant industry.

With demand currently outstripping supply due to the growing interest from chefs, foodies, nutritionists and international markets Rebecca believes the industry is at a critical point for advancement and needs to expand to ensure its survival.

If successful, Rebecca will use the bursary to showcase the industry through a 2-day industry conference. The event will provide a platform for industry leaders to showcase the latest uses, research, markets and growing techniques and participants will get to taste the foods and discover their enormous potential whilst learning about the ways they can enter this small but vibrant industry.

Rebecca is also passionate about encouraging and supporting the participation of Aboriginal people in the industry by giving them opportunities to share their extensive knowledge and skills and to play a key role in growing the industry.

Emma Doyle, Armidale

Finalist of the 2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women's Award

Emma Doyle, Armidale

Emma Doyle lives in Armidale in the Northern Tablelands region of NSW and is employed as the sheep and wool lecturer at the University of New England (UNE). She is passionate about retaining highly educated, competent women in Agriculture and empowering them to consider leadership roles in industry.

Emma completed her PhD and began working as a lecturer 10 years ago. She is currently the only sheep and wool lecturer at the UNE which provides specialised sheep and wool units across Australian to 10 other Universities.

The position is supported by the Wool industry, through the Australian Wool Education Trust. The specialised wool units are the only of their kind in Australia and are studied by students from 10 other Universities as well as UNE. Emma is passionate about the Australian Sheep industry and thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to be part of the industry through education and research.

Emma is in a unique position to support professional women in Agriculture, as one of few academic women in the School of Environmental and Rural Science at UNE. Emma has mentored young undergraduate women through their studies and early career and is focused on retaining these highly educated, competent women in Agriculture.

If successful, Emma would use the bursary to develop a pilot mentoring network for female agricultural undergraduates from UNE to assist in reducing the gender gap and increase the retention of women in Agriculture.

As part of the pilot ten final year undergraduates at UNE will be formally mentored by young women who have graduated from UNE within the past 5-10 years, to encourage a path for them to aspire to. She also plans to develop a web presence to enhance relationships and e-mentoring to support the women further. She hopes that women involved in the program will go on to become mentors themselves, over time increasing the community of women in leadership roles in Agriculture.

Emma believes for Agriculture to be sustainable and profitable into the future, investment needs to be made in both innovative technologies and diversity of people in decision making roles.

Following on from the pilot, Emma plans to have a fully developed model that can be transferred across industries such as cropping, meat and livestock, grains, dairy and cotton.

Sandra Ireson, Booligal

Finalist of the 2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women's Award

Sandra Ireson, Booligal

Sandra Ireson is from the Riverina town of Booligal in NSW. She 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 both sheep and 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 of 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.

Hayley Purbrick, Deniliquin

Finalist of the 2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women's Award

Hayley Purbrick, Deniliquin

Hayley Purbrick’s passion is for communication, people and agriculture. Hailing from the Riverina town of Deniliquin, her work is empowering smaller communities to think outside the square and adopt an innovative approach in managing the every changing landscape of farming.

Growing up as the fifth generation of Tahbilk Winery, Hayley studied her Bachelor of agriculture at the University of Melbourne, followed by a Diploma in Applied Commerce (Accounting). She now works part time as Tahbilk’s Environment Manager from Deniliquin with her husband and two children while growing her community work ‘The Riverina Collective’.

Hayley has a vision to create vibrant small town communities across regional NSW filled with people who think like entrepreneurs through her social enterprise ‘The Riverina Collective’.  Her aim is to influence cultural change from the grassroots up and to encourage people to see opportunities and take action.

She sees an opportunity to create a platform for women to connect with each other and build resilience through sharing stories and learnings and also sharing ideas on the issues we all face in rural and regional communities.

If successful, Hayley will use the bursary to develop the Think Big component of ‘The Riverina Collective’ initiative.  Think Big will provide a series of tools to support creative thinking including a video series which captures creative people in their rural landscape and provides their tips and challenges, and a website which hosts a range of information to assist exploration of creativity for community benefit.