On the International Day of Rural Women, Thursday, October 15, we recognise the powerful driving force behind our rural industries and communities.
Our rural women are resilient and enterprising but most importantly, they are passionate.
It is this passion which ensures no issue is lost, no voice is left unheard and that our agricultural industry remains connected and front of mind, especially during challenging times.
The United Nation's aim of the day is to recognise the contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.
I'm in a fortunate position, as chair at AgriFutures Australia, to engage with these passionate rural women every day.
We are a diverse organisation supporting the future prosperity of Australian rural industries and regional communities by identifying and nurturing research and innovation opportunities that are synergistic across rural sectors.
We invest in research which enhances the profitability and sustainability of our levied rural industries and we support new and emerging rural industries.
Both sexes deserve recognition but I find women are more likely to dance in the shadows
Many names come to mind when I think about whom to acknowledge on International Day of Rural Women.
Both sexes deserve recognition but I find women are more likely to dance in the shadows and I feel passionate about capitalising on opportunities such as this day to bring to light their achievements.
This year alone our organisation has worked with some incredible female, rural figures.
One of them, Jo Kelly, is an impact engineer spearheading the development of Australia's seaweed industry.
Australia has ideal growing conditions and a huge export opportunity for high value bioproducts from native Australian seaweeds, but currently, there are no commercial scale seaweed ocean farms operating here in Australia and no strategic plan for industry development.
Jo is the driving force behind the development and expansion of this blue economy opportunity.
Meanwhile, in the lab, working on a treatment for ulcerative colitis, an incurable inflammatory bowel disease which affects more than 75,000 people in Australia, is Lauren Chartier.
The Adelaide PhD student is investigating if emu oil can be used as a therapy for ulcerative colitis and colitis-associated colorectal cancer.
Cara Peek, a Broome-based innovator and a Yawuru/Bunubu woman, was named our 2020 WA Rural Women's Award Winner and will invest her Westpac bursary towards progressing the Saltwater Academy.
This will provide training and employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians while celebrating the heritage of the Kimberley Aboriginal pastoral industry.
And within AgriFutures Australia, we have 38 incredible female staff members (82 per cent of the entire organisation) working to deliver large research projects across our levied rural industries such as rice, Thoroughbred horses, export fodder, tea tree oil and chicken meat.
These project outcomes will grow the long-term prosperity of Australian rural industries.
Our team also work on capacity building programs such as our flagship Rural Women's Award and global agrifood tech events like evokeAG.
Adding to this, our board is also made up of 50 per cent women, fulfilling our pledge to support women in agriculture to develop their leadership skills, experience and confidence.
It's not about fulfilling gender quotas; it's about how we can best represent the diversity we have in our agricultural industry and how we can work together to benefit our rural and regional communities.
Our job, or lifeblood
For all of these women mentioned above, it's not just a job. Agriculture is our lifeblood.
We are passionate because we live and breath in the communities which we are striving to nurture and grow.
In a constantly changing world, we all remain committed to collaboration and innovation with the industries, producers and growers driving and shaping agriculture now and into the future.
Some of this passion shines through in our new AgriFutures Rural Women's Award Book which we are using as an occasion to mark the Rural Women's Award 21st anniversary.
The book and programs like the AgriFutures Rural Women's Award shine an even brighter spotlight on the initiatives being driven by rural women and which make sure no rural industry or community is forgotten.
Hats off hashtag
But there are other ways you can be involved on, International Day of Rural Women - October 15.
We have launched a hashtag #hatsofftoruralwomen across our social media channels.
I encourage you to use this hashtag and share the stories of the rural, regional and remote women you work with and who inspire you.
I take my hat off to all the incredible women in agriculture, who live in our rural communities and who remain so passionate in the work they do despite enduring so many hardships.
Keep thinking bigger. Keep sharing your voices, and throw more fuel onto the passion that is already there.
- Kay Hull AM is chair of AgriFutures Australia