Call goes out for country women blazing a trail
A search is under way for the unsung female heroes of country Australia; those women who make regional Australia what it is today.
An initiative of The Weekly Times, sister rural publication to The Australian, and retailer Harvey Norman, the Shine Awards will celebrate the achievements and contribution of women across rural and regional Australia.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said: “There is too often a perception that (farming) is a role carried out by males, and there is an underestimation of the value of the contribution women make as active farm business partners, whether in the office or in the paddocks. Frankly, it is a stereotype that we need to smash.”
Emma Germano, 32, a Mirboo North vegetable farmer and president of the Victorian Farmers Federation’s horticulture arm, is hopeful that times are changing.
“My strength comes from my Dad; he never differentiated on the fact that he had two girls, we were never told we shouldn’t have an opinion and we were always out working on the farm when there was work to do,” she said.
“I also didn’t come into these agricultural leadership positions because I wanted to fix a gender imbalance, make an equality statement, or because I was a girl; I just happen to be one.”
Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page expects the awards to be the “start of something big”. “We know from the work within our regional and rural stores that the women in these communities are a powerhouse; now is the time to let the light shine on the women that are deserving of recognition,” she said.
It irritates the president of the NSW Country Women’s Association, Annette Turner, that her organisation, with more than 9000 members, is still seen as being all about scones and tea.
She said the CWA had become one of the country’s most powerful lobby groups, campaigning on issues such as the rights of grandparents as primary carers and greater financial literacy among rural and regional women.
Over the next 12 weeks, The Weekly Times will highlight the stories of outstanding women in rural and regional Australia, and is calling for nominations for the inaugural Shine Awards.
“Being seen inspires others to stand up and shine too; it opens doors, it encourages others and it maps out the path to success,” said Weekly Times editor Natalee Ward.