Call goes out for coun­try women blaz­ing a trail

The Australian - - THE NATION - SUE NEALES

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.

Emma Ger­mano

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