The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s leading award acknowledging and supporting the essential role women play in rural industries, businesses and communities. The Award provides a platform to inspire and support Australian women to use and develop their skills to benefit their industries and communities.


Over the past 21 years, the Award has gained a significant profile, and is recognised as a program of influence among parliamentarians, industry, media and Award alumni. Each state and territory winner receives a $10,000 bursary for innovative ideas and projects, access to professional development opportunities and alumni networks.

AgriFutures Australia is committed to the future growth and advancement of the Award as a means of identifying, celebrating and empowering women. The Rural Women’s Award is one of many AgriFutures Australia initiatives ensuring our rural industries prosper now, and into the future.

2020 Program

Due to the uncertain environment with COVID-19 and the ongoing social distancing protocol that is in place, AgriFutures Australia have made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement that was due to be held in The Great Hall at Parliament House, Canberra on Tuesday, 15 September 2020.

The 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award State/Territory Winners, will remain as their State/Territory Winner until September 2021 when the National Winner and Runner Up of this cohort will be announced at a gala event at Parliament House. This means that the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award will not open applications in September 2020 for the 2021 program. Applications will open again, directly following the gala event in September 2021 for the 2022 program.

AgriFutures Australia will work with all of the women in the 2020 cohort to roll out an engagement, media and capacity building program course of the next 12-18 months so their projects can continue to flourish over coming months.

As 2020 marks 21 years of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, AgriFutures Australia are also developing a book to celebrate the Award’s 21st birthday and to showcase the inspiring women who have participated in the Award since its inception. The book will feature State/Territory Winners from 2000-2020 and will be available digitally in September 2020.

Who can apply

  • The Award is open to all women involved in rural industries, rural and regional businesses and rural and regional communities
  • Location is no barrier. If you want to create impact, innovate and make a difference and/or contribute to enhancing the prosperity of rural and regional Australia, then we want to hear from you
  • Women must be over the age of 18, and Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • No formal qualifications are required
  • Detailed Award guidelines can be found here.
  • If you know someone who should apply for the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, please email their name, contact details, and project area to

When we refer to “rural industries” we mean agriculture, forestry and fisheries.


June 2020 – June 2021 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award virtual program takes place
Monday, 19 July – Thursday, 22 July 2021 2020 State/Territory Winners participate in a three-day workshop and National Selection Panel interviews
August 2021 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement

2022 applications open

October 2021 2022 applications close
October 2021 – March 2022 2022 phone, and face-to-face interviews take place with the state/territory Selection Panel. State/Territory Winners announced
July 2022 2022 State/Territory Winners participate in a three-day workshop and National Selection Panel interviews
September 2022 2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement

2023 applications open



AgriFutures Australia is thankful for the support of the following Award partners:

Platinum Sponsor
Media Partners
Supporting Agencies


Each state and territory has its own Award Coordinator:

New South Wales & ACT
Allison Priest
Department of Primary Industries
02 6391 3620

Northern Territory
Samantha Nowland
Department of Primary Industry and Resources
08 8924 4265

South Australia
Meredith Robinson
Department of Primary Industries and Regions
08 8429 3387

Western Australia
Rob Leicester
Department of Primary Industries & Regional Development
08 6552 2018 | 0419 921 056

Sue Weedon
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
03 6777 2233

Gemma Heemskerk
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
03 9938 0161

Katie Barrett
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
07 3096 6770

National Award contact
Angela Wakeman
AgriFutures Australia
02 6923 6917 

2020 State/Territory Winners

Cressida Cains, NSW/ACT

Cressida is a Southern Highlands dairy farmer who is passionate about promoting a profitable and secure future for Australian dairy farmers.

Her project involves creating an online platform and support hub that includes business tools, information and education called Dairy Cocoon that will assist dairy farmers to develop and produce their own unique branded products.

Elisha Parker, QLD

Elisha is the Co-Founder of, a marketing and advertising site with an interactive catalogue for sales and auctions.

Her project is based around broadening the scope and reach of, which includes developing her website’s functionality to allow agents to catalogue lots at bull sales, complete with videos and supplementary data.

Kelly Barnes, VIC

Kelly is a farmer from Dunkeld who is passionate about boosting the resilience of her local community by building connections through animals.

Her project involves building a Working Dog Training School in Dunkeld with the aim of bringing people together, not only to improve their dog handling skills but also to break down social barriers and aid mental health.

Stephanie Schmidt, SA

Stephanie is a Clinical Psychologist and farmer, who is passionate about building resilience in regional Australia to support communities.

Her project is centred around developing a resilience program made specifically for farming couples, families and individuals, with the aim of see psychological flexibility grow throughout the rural sector.

Cara Peek, WA

Cara is a Broome-based lawyer, entrepreneur and social innovator who is passionate about driving opportunities for rural and remote people to empower the Aboriginal community.

Her project aims to progress the Saltwater Academy, which celebrates the heritage of the Kimberley Aboriginal pastoral industry and provides related emotional, economic and cultural initiatives, including training and employment opportunities.

Amy Kirke, NT

Amy is a Darwin-based Marine Biologist who is passionate about sustainable industries and education with emphasis on supporting and uplifting women in her community.

Her project aims to provide rural communities with much needed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) engagement through science workshops, particularly focussing on the remote areas of the Northern Territory.

Karen Brock, TAS

Karen is a Winkleigh-based specialist in plant tissue culture who is passionate about plant tissue culture and food security production systems.

Her project will be focussed around her work to reduce plant input costs as well as producing disease-resistant and climate tolerant plants, and crops that produce higher yields per hectare.

Alumni Advisory Panel

When AgriFutures Australia relaunched the RWA Alumni in July 2018, we committed to creating an Advisory Panel which will ensure the Alumni program is powered by Alumni, for the Alumni.

The Alumni Program has been designed so that it can engage everyone (who wishes to participate) in shaping it. Alumni contribution is vital in stimulating the program as a community.

Opportunities to interact through the program have been designed flexibly with this in mind: from the online community to national initiatives, to training, mentoring and informal collaborations.

The purpose of the RWA Alumni Advisory Panel is to advise AgriFutures Australia on priorities for investment within identified initiatives and the direction of activities (such as identifying topics for professional development activities), based on consultation with the wider Alumni community.

Priorities of the RWA Alumni Advisory panel are:

  • Working with the RWA community to identify topics for professional development activities
  • Selecting and supporting participants in the mentoring program
  • Leading and co-ordinating initiatives to raise the profile of the Award and the Alumni
  • Building the community through engagement on Facebook and at events

RWA Alumni Advisory Panel Members:

  • Lillian Lever, 2001 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award QLD State/Territory Finalist
  • Mary Retallack, 2012 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner Up and SA State/Territory Winner
  • Jacqueline Wilson-Smith, 2017 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award QLD State/Territory Winner

Related Resources

Meet the 2020 Winners

Meet the 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women's Award winners.

Read more

Meet the 2019 Winners

Meet the 2019 AgriFutures Rural Women's Award winners.

Read more

Meet the 2018 winners

Meet the 2018 AgriFutures Rural Women's Award winners.

Read more

Meet previous winners

Meet the winners of the AgriFutures Rural Women's Award from previous years.

Read more