National RIRDC Rural Women’s Award finalists announced

James Nason, 06/05/2016

Seven women, all who share a passion for the rural industries and communities in which they work, are in the running to take out the 2016 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award.

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award is the leading award of its type and serves to acknowledge the vital role women play in rural businesses, industries and communities.

Each of the finalists will deliver a project as part of their Award that will benefit rural people and rural industries. Each of the seven women – one from each state and the Northern Territory – will receive $10,000 to help complete their project, with the national winner receiving an additional $10,000.

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award also provides the seven state winners with ongoing personal and professional development opportunities, including access to a network of Award alumni mentors.

The national winner will be announced on 24 August at the 2016 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award National Celebratory Dinner, to be held at Parliament House in Canberra.

RIRDC Managing Director, John Harvey congratulated the seven finalists on winning their respective state Awards and now being in the running for the national Award.

“All seven finalists are of the highest calibre and regardless of who takes out the national Award I am sure we will see all of them further develop their leadership potential and continue to drive change and inspire their communities and industries,” Mr Harvey said.

Westpac Agribusiness is the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award’s Platinum Sponsor and Steve Hannan, General Manager of Westpac Agribusiness congratulated the seven finalists.

“Westpac Agribusiness celebrates people who are making a difference in the sustainable future of Australian agriculture and agribusiness at a local, state and national level. We are proud to be a part of the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award,” Mr Hannan said.

“These deserving state winners are a diverse range of exceptional representatives of their industries and communities and play a pivotal role in driving innovation and change to the benefit of agriculture and rural, regional and remote Australia.

“Westpac has a strong commitment to supporting individuals who are able to lead their communities, bring about change, drive innovation and build resilient rural communities. These women are worthy recipients and we wish them all the best for the National Award and look forward to continuing to support each of them in the future.”

The 2016 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award state winners and their projects are:

New South Wales state winner – Sophie Hansen, Orange
Sophie will develop an innovative online learning course called ‘My Open Kitchen’. My Open Kitchen is designed to assist anyone involved in primary industries to use social media channels to build ‘social capital’ which in turn will deliver transparency, engagement, trust and ultimately financial returns for primary producers.

Sophie believes that the flow-on benefits to primary industries are broad and range from improved sustainability of regional agribusinesses to increase vibrancy of smaller rural communities and build stronger consumer awareness and engagement in primary industries across the country.

Northern Territory state winner – Martina Matzner, Humpty Doo
Martina will take her passion for the horticulture industry and share it with students to engage young people in the idea of a career food production and combat the perception that occupations within this field are not valued by society.

To do this, she will liaise with Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Schools in the Northern Territory to discuss mango production and organise visits to the Acacia Hills Mango Farm to view modern day horticultural practices. She also intends to work with the Charles Darwin Horticulture Faculty to develop a unit on Efficient Management of Water Resources in a modern Mango Farm with on-site visits by students to give them experience in industry.

Queensland state winner – Emma Robinson, Charters Towers
Emma will consult and network with co-operative experts; develop a social media platform to profile producer co-operatives and share resources; and facilitate a producer forum to educate people on the benefits co-operation can have for family farming.

Emma’s vision is to champion producer co-operatives as an alternate business model. She believes that producer co-operatives can enable family beef enterprises to leverage opportunities of increased scale, efficiency and market influence necessary for long term prosperity. Emma aims to raise the profile of producer co-operatives by sharing information, building new knowledge and developing a critical mass of producers who are interested in co-operative business models.

South Australia state winner – Robbie Davis, Meningie
Robbie will investigate how the South Australian potato industry and wider horticulture sector can increase productivity through the reduction of food waste and loss in the supply chain. She intends to examine the technologies that are being used internationally to reduce losses that occur during food production, and determine which of these technologies could be introduced in Australia.

Robbie believes that identifying key areas from which food is lost and making a targeted effort to lessen waste from these areas is the simplest way to increase productivity from the horticulture sector.

Tasmania state winner – Rebecca Duffy, Rowella
Rebecca aims to do a national and international cellar door study tour with the aim of creating a new, exciting and dynamic experience for customers that offers more than just a tasting. Rebecca intends to visit cellar doors and wineries in the Napa Valley in the USA and Cape Town in South Africa as these two regions are regarded as the most successful wine tourism regions in the world.  She will also consult with Australian wineries that have implemented innovative ideas at their cellar doors, to gauge an idea of what they have found to be successful or unsuccessful.

Upon her return, Rebecca intends to share her knowledge with other wineries in the region and recommend opportunities for other cellar doors in the Tamar Valley to create one of the best wine tourism routes in the world. She will also present her findings from the study tour at a Wine Tasmania event in order to share her experiences with the entire Tasmanian wine industry.

Victoria state winner – Dr Jessica Lye, Melbourne
Jessica’s project focuses on enhancing biosecurity preparedness for the vegetable and potato industries. She will undertake an overseas study tour to visit research institutions and growing operations to gain information on key high priority pests and emerging pest threats. The tour will focus on New Zealand, the United States and South America to gain knowledge about pest management, eradication strategies and biosecurity practices used in other countries. The learnings from the tour will be communicated back to industry.

Jessica believes that the core component of preparedness is through facilitating transfer of knowledge about exotic plant pests and overseas farm biosecurity practices to Australian growers, particularly non-English speaking growers. Through sharing the knowledge she gains from her tour, Jessica hopes to encourage biosecurity champions and networks throughout the vegetable and potato communities that exist throughout rural Australia.

Western Australia state winner – Kalyn Fletcher, Kununurra
Kalyn’s project is called “Tropical Agriculture – Learn, Promote, Support”. She will conduct a study tour of the Cerrado Region of Brazil to learn from a successful tropical agriculture industry. The knowledge and insights she gains from her tour will be shared with stakeholders in her region to help promote and support the growth and success of tropical agriculture within Australia.

Kalyn sees Northern Australia’s plentiful undeveloped land, available water, sunny blue skies and proximity to emerging markets as an amazing opportunity for tropical agriculture. As climatic conditions change and Australia looks to shift more of its agricultural production to areas with more abundant and secure water, Kalyn believes that tropical regions will play an ever increasing role in Australia’s agricultural success.
Source: RIRDC: More information about the Award and longer profiles of each of the finalists can be found at’s-award


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