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.

Gala Dinner & National Announcement

The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner & National Announcement is a celebration of the inclusive and courageous leadership of women involved in Australia’s rural and emerging industries, businesses, and communities, culminating in the announcement of the 2020 National Winner & Runner Up.

Hosted by 2019 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award National Winner, Jo Palmer, the evening will be attended by Alumni, government officials, industry and private sector representatives, friends, family and media.

Date      Wednesday, 25 August 2021
Time      6.30pm
Venue   Great Hall, Parliament House
Dress    Black Tie
Cost      $230 (individual ticket) or $1,800 (table of 9). Includes a 3 course meal, drinks and entertainment.

Gala Dinner & National Announcement Alumni Travel Subsidy Scheme

The Rural Women’s Award Alumni Travel Subsidy Scheme (RWATSS) provides financial assistance for Rural Women’s Award (RWA) Alumni to travel to Canberra and attend the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement and Alumni Lunch held in Canberra on Wednesday, 25 August 2021.

RWATSS applications are assessed by AgriFutures Australia, and all decisions are final. A maximum of 20 subsidies will be allocated each year. Subsidies will be allocated to individuals a maximum of once every five years.

Key dates

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 at 8.00am AEST: Online applications open
Monday, 21 June 2021 at 5.00pm AEST: Online applications close
Early July 2021: Success applications contacted
Mid July 2021: Subsidies will be paid once a formal agreement has been executed

Travel subsidies of up to $1,000 will be provided for RWA Alumni to travel and attend the Gala Dinner and National Announcement and Alumni Lunch. However, please note:

  • A ticket to the Gala Dinner must still be purchased by successful individuals.
  • RWA Alumni awarded a travel subsidy must attend the upcoming Gala Dinner (and Alumni networking lunch the same day) in Canberra, otherwise the subsidy must be returned to AgriFutures Australia.
  • RWA Alumni awarded a travel subsidy may be required to pay a small role at either event, if called upon.

Alumni Committee of State Chairs

Applications are now open for the RWA Alumni Committee of State Chairs, which will replace the current AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Alumni Advisory Panel.

Applications open: Tuesday, 8 June 2021
Applications close: Friday, 2 July 2021
Successful applicants announced: at the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Alumni Lunch in Canberra on Wednesday, 25 August 2021.


The committee will be made up of 1 x State Chair per state/territory, along with their corresponding committee.

Once they are selected, they will be responsible for pulling together their own small State Committee, made up of Alumni volunteers.

The Rural Women’s Award Alumni Committee of State Chair’s will work collaboratively with each of the relevant state/territory agencies.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Sit on the state/territory selection panel each year to work alongside applicants and provide support along the way.
  • Promote the Award and new Alumni initiatives.
  • Promote the new Rural Women’s Acceleration Grant.
  • Drive connections within the Alumni and with other women’s focused programs in each state/territory.
  • Help with fostering connections across Award Alumni in their state/territory.
  • Help facilitate and organise events for Alumni in their specific state/territory.
  • Live and promote program values.

Selection Criteria

In the application form, there are questions around impact, commitment, and future vision for Alumni at a state/territory level, as well as an endorsement from two Alumni peers.

  • Impact
  • Commitment
  • Future vision
  • Endorsement from two Alumni members from your state/territory who endorse your application.

Current Rural Women’s Award Alumni Advisory Panel Members are ineligible to apply for a Rural Women’s Award Alumni State Chair position.

Who can apply

  • Applicants must have an existing project, business or program which is live and up and running, or will be live within three months of the application being submitted.
  • The existing project, business or program falls into one or more of these categories: Community, Collaboration, Commercial
  • The existing project, business or program must align to the values of the Award
  • Applicants need to be over 18 years old and identify as female
  • Applicants must be Australian citizens or permanent residents
  • 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
  • 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.


Date Activity
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
Wednesday, 25 August 2021 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement
Thursday, 26 August 2021 2022 applications open
Friday, 8 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 Industry, Tourism and Trade
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

Lara McPherson
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions
02 6059 0222

Liz King
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
07 3096 6505

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