2019 Winners

2019 Western Australian winner - Belinda Lay

Belinda is based on a mixed grain and sheep farming enterprise. Her project is based around Internet of Things, a trial of sheep collars and how the data collected can be used. Her aspirations are to change the way livestock and technology is viewed, which has mainly concentrated around manual handling. Humans have adopted ‘fitbits’ to monitor bodies in real time – could the same be done for livestock?

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Born in Albany in the late 70s, Belinda is the eldest of 4 children. Belinda grew up as a “townie” in Beverley with her siblings and her mother. Small rural town living as the child of a single parent wasn’t particularly easy but she found solace in the regular visits to her Grandparents farm which led her to fall in love with life on the land and decide to pursue a future in this Industry.

Belinda recalls fondly her grandfather who played a big role in her life “he didn’t see gender, he just saw willing and able people”. It was her grandfather who taught her she could and she never imagined women would be treated any differently in Agriculture until she was much older and already hooked.

Belinda credits corporate farming for taking a chance on a town girl in beginning stages of her farming journey, being only one of a few in the district in the mid 90s to work on SK Kidman property ‘Neds Corner’ as a jillaroo. It was during this time she learnt basic stockwork, water, fencing and remembers sending golden coloured sheep across the hills after shearing and backlining with Eureka Gold.

 

A second job with the McVays on their cattle property including a feedlot included early morning musters, doughy brown eyes and wet noses of calves, tractor driving and more fencing followed by chaser bin driving one harvest for another Esperance Family.

It wasn’t until her relationship with now husband Deon that Belinda really hit her stride achieving personal goals such as learning to crutch in a cradle and the ‘piece de resistance’ driving a harvester.

Belindas’ roles have constantly evolved over the last 22 years to accommodate the changes that having a family brings. Belinda is responsible for the partnerships paperwork including all grain marketing but she also loves being in the sheep yards.

As a farmer, she constantly battles to reduce the mortality rates, particularly in lambing ewes and weaners. Adopting best practice management tools to prevent mortality has helped improve these rates, however there is still room for further improvement.

Belinda believes the industry is facing a number of challenges as society’s attitudes and perceptions evolve in regards to animal farming and accept a certain level of responsibility to change with it. Opportunities in using sensors and movement technologies could be the next management tool to take welfare and lamb survival to the next level.

As her youngest children have become more independent Belinda decided to take on a challenge not only to herself but to the wider industry, which led to her winning the WA Agrifutures Rural Woman of the Year Award for her innovative project implementing a new network system and importing tracking collars that give real time data on her sheep anytime of the day from any location via her mobile phone.

2019 South Australian winner - Deanna Lush

For Deanna Lush, a communicator and farmer from Palmer on South Australia’s Murray Plains, trust in agriculture and its producers is vital to the industry’s continued success. Deanna’s project involves establishing a network of ‘Trust in Ag Champions’ who will have the tools, knowledge and confidence to engage with non-agricultural audiences.

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She says it is a strategy for the ag industry to start to change the way it engages, particularly with those who do not understand or share a connection to agriculture, and is about bringing authenticity and transparency to that approach.

As co-founder of specialist primary industries communication, marketing and events business AgCommunicators, Deanna is passionate about ensuring Australia’s agricultural industries are recognised as progressive, professional and tech-savvy, and ensuring the vital role of producers is understood, valued and trusted by the Australian community.

Deanna is a strategic communication specialist working across primary production, natural resources and agripolitics. Her broad media experience includes rural, regional and metropolitan media across Australia. She has a rare mix of agricultural knowledge, political experience and communication ability, gained through her role as media adviser to the Minister for Water during the millennium Murray-Darling Basin drought.

She is a former editor of South Australia’s rural weekly the Stock Journal, and was a national commodity journalist specialising in the grain, sheep and wool industries, writing for all the Fairfax rural weeklies, including The Land, Stock & Land, and Farm Weekly.

Deanna is an award-winning journalist and has previously been recognised as the South Australian Rural Journalist of the Year and the Australian Young Leader in Rural Journalism, a national award recognising leadership potential in agricultural journalists. Her writing was awarded internationally as part of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ award for reporting of sustainable agriculture.

In 2017, Deanna completed a Churchill Fellowship studying communication and engagement methods to improve the understanding of agriculture between rural and metropolitan audiences.As part of the fellowship, she travelled through the United States, United Kingdom and Canada and her report was published in February 2018 for the Churchill Trust. She delivered numerous presentations across Australia and across all food and fibre sectors on her Churchill recommendations to build trust in agriculture.

Her work on trust in agriculture won the Australian Farm Institute John Ralph Essay Award in October 2018. In 2019, she was recognised as an emerging South Australian business leader in the InDaily 40 Under 40 Awards.

Deanna holds a Bachelor of Journalism and a Graduate Diploma in Business Administration. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and maintains an active membership with the organisation.

She also coaches and plays netball for the Mannum Roos Netball Club, is a founding committee member of her local farming systems group Murray Plains Farmers, a committee member of Rural Media SA and board member of Foodbank South Australia.

Deanna and her husband Steen Paech farm in South Australia, cropping cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and running sheep and “a handful” of cattle over 4500 hectares at Palmer.

2019 Victorian winner - Claire Moore

Concerned about the challenges facing bee populations across the world, Claire Moore has been studying bee keeping in her spare time for the past twelve years. Claire is on a mission to inspire Australian bee keepers to increase their hive numbers and expand their commercial bee keeping operations while also exporting Australia’s healthy and clean bees to the world.

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Claire grew up in a very small town near the Great Ocean Road called Bellbrae and attended Geelong College later moving to Melbourne where she completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in political science. When she graduated, she started working in finance and spent twelve years working as an assistant stock broker.

Claire met her partner Paul while volunteering making sandwiches for homeless people in inner city Melbourne. Paul is a horticulturalist and is always in the backyard. Claire purchased her first hive (which she still has) in 2007. Naively, she brought the hive home in the back of a two door hatchback with bees escaping while driving down the Eastern!

Claire and Paul have always been passionate about sustainability and they converted their backyard into a massive veggie patch with fruit trees, bees and chickens. Their backyard has been featured in newspapers and on television many times as a model of suburban sustainability.

While working full time, Claire went to beekeeping clubs after work to learn more from commercial beekeepers. She would see her work mates eyes glaze over when she spoke about bees and the mailroom politely asked if she could have her queen bees posted “elsewhere” after nearly giving them a heart attack when her hives needed re-queening.

Always fascinated by queen breeding, Claire decided early on she would prefer to be a queen breeder than a beekeeper for honey.

When her first child Hugh was born in 2011 the couple purchased ten acres in Kyneton. Claire wanted to be a full time keeper and Paul was tired of inner city traffic going garden to garden. In 2013-14 they designed and built a sustainable house that was a finalist in the UN World Environment Day Green Build Awards on their ten acres and moved to Kyneton permanently. They’ve also had two more children, Freya in 2014 and Wren 2016.

Claire and Paul began investigating different regenerative farming practices once the firm Claire was working for closed its doors in Australia and that’s when she moved into bees full time. But it’s not been all smooth sailing. Claire’s Mother died of cancer in mid 2016 and in September 2016 Paul developed epilepsy and had a tough time finding the right medication and spent the next eighteen months getting his seizures under control.

The couple started a pastured egg business and now run 1200 hens (We were lucky enough to be the first farm in Victoria to obtain a low density pastures piloultet permit) and they attend farmers markets nearly every weekend.  The business is going fabulously, but the passing of Claire’s Mother at 68 has reinforced to Claire that life is short. Chatting in the palliative care ward, Claire’s Mother said “I don’t have time for cancer, I still have so much to do”.  That’s when Claire decided she had to get going on her beekeeping and queen breeding dreams (I have had them for twelve years!) and to apply for the Rural Woman’s Award.

2019 Tasmanian Winner - Anh Nguyen

Anh has worked in the engineering field for more than ten years in Asia, North America, and Australia before making the switch to agriculture. Anh started Vine-Ai with an ambition to make farming management efficient, smart, and sustainable. She holds a PhD in Civil Engineering from University of Massachusetts, USA, and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from University of Ottawa, Canada.

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Dr. Anh Nguyen pioneers in the application of smart technology using automation and the Internet of Things in the agricultural sectors with the vision to help rural agriculture across Australia to save cost and improve production output.

Dr. Anh Nguyen owns and manages Torch Bearer Wines Estate based in Tasmania leading the way in permaculture and biodynamic farming as a show case for sustainable farming into the future.

Her career as an environmental engineer and scientist spans from developing novel water treatment technologies to waste and wastewater management. She was the key researcher at University of Massachusetts Amherst where she conducted research on advanced water treatment and developed indexes to evaluate and benchmark different commercial products.

 

During her time at Siemens Water Technology in the USA and Australia, she was a senior researcher working in new product and new process development in drinking water treatment and membrane bioreactor for wastewater treatment.

She also researched and developed low cost and sustainable wastewater technology and waste management for rural communities in Vietnam.

Her pioneering research in membrane technology has credited her with a patent in new material for water treatment application.

She has published in numerous top tier journals and international conference proceedings as well as gained awards at international conferences.

Her life passion for the environment, sustainability, and entrepreneurship has led her to choose Tasmania and agriculture as her next frontier for advancing engineering application in sustainable agriculture.

Dr Anh Nguyen graduated with high distinction from the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam.

She received her Master of Science in Engineering from University of Ottawa, Canada, and Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Engineering from University of Massachusetts Amherst USA.

She is a fellow of Vietnam Education Foundation, a prestigious fellowship program funded by the National Academy and the USA government.

2019 Northern Territory winner - Zoe Malone

Zoe Malone has lived in Darwin for more than a decade and has spent most of her life in rural and regional Australia. She is passionate about the role people and communities play in creating strong and vibrant regions. Zoe recently completed the Australian Rural Leadership Program and reconnected with the shared challenges facing communities across Australia.

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Zoe grew up in regional Victoria where her family had a strong involvement as volunteers in many grassroots organisations which helped support and enrich their local community. Having been involved with grassroots and volunteer organisations from a young age, she is passionate about the important role volunteers play in connecting people in regional communities.

Zoe recognised that many grassroots community groups struggle to keep up with increasing governance and accountability demands, putting pressure on a decreasing pool of volunteers. For her Rural Women’s Award project, Zoe will work with community groups to produce a suite of useful resources to support better-informed decisions about governance, streamlining requirements and connecting them to useful tools and information. These resources can be shared with and used by volunteer and community groups across regional Australia.

 

By simplifying the process and time spent on governance, volunteers can spend more time on the things that make a difference to in their community; and the reason they volunteered in the first place.

While there are already lots of governance resources available, Zoe feels that most of these take a top down approach and focus on larger organisations with paid staff and those with significant risks and responsibilities – leaving a gap in the support available for grassroots community groups.

In bringing her project to life, Zoe will initially seek feedback from a diverse range of community groups and volunteers to understand the current needs and range of circumstances and will engage with governance experts to explore solutions, test different ideas and start developing resources.

The toolkit may involve a checklist, prompt questions, support tools, templates and guides to help identify governance priorities and support in becoming a stronger organisation. These tools will then be tested with a broader range of community groups to investigate whether they can be applied across different contexts and offer real value to volunteers in addressing their challenges.

The materials will then be refined and made available online and for volunteers and organisations to share through their networks.

2019 Queensland winner - Natasha Roebig

Natasha aspires to leave a positive legacy for the Queensland beekeeping industry and believes that innovation and education are the keys to the future of sustainable farming.

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As a beekeeper, Natasha sees a need to promote ethical apiary practices and disease prevention and management. She wants to encourage a new generation of beekeepers into the industry, especially women and youth. In this quest, she has dedicated much of her time to mentoring and up-skilling industry newcomers.

Her Jimboomba business, Bee All Natural, has been instrumental in encouraging knowledge sharing and industry connections and takes great pride in consistently building a solid foundation for networking and to promote empowerment. The educational platform will provide the opportunity for beekeeping enthusiasts to contribute new ideas, gain knowledge of native Australian Bees and European Honey Bees, technological advancements and will be instrumental in engaging their communities.

Natasha has worked in finance for the same global engineering company since she was twenty, leading a large national team and creating a strong professional network, helping to shape careers. Her husband Jason is a safety specialist who has mostly worked fly-in, fly-out roles. They stumbled into the world of honey and bees six years ago when their daughter Miranda, 6,was born and diagnosed with the skin condition eczema.

 

Natasha used steroid creams to treat the eczema, but it was thinning her skin and her hair was falling out, so they started to look for natural alternatives. Their doctor and naturopath put them onto beeswax and raw honey and they bought a hive and developed a body balm using honey and beeswax and their daughter’s skin started to improve.

What started as a hobby then grew with the honey they were getting out of the hive the best they’d tasted. They began selling it from home and at markets and people loved it. Countless hours of research and limited interactive beekeeping opportunities encouraged their passion to drive educational outcomes. Their bee business took off from there.

Working in partnership with the apiary industry, Natasha is establishing an interactive training facility in South-East Queensland, promoting innovative research and ethical and sustainable beekeeping practices. The facility will provide a safe and inclusive space to encourage information sharing, mentoring and networking amongst professionals and hobbyists. The training facility, which has growing support within its location of Jimboomba, has become a credible source for relevant regulatory updates and will work closely with Australia’s Biosecurity ensuring all beekeepers are well informed and on board with securing our futures’ beekeeping industry.

Bees used to get a lot of bad press but people now understand how essential bees are to pollination and helping fruit and vegetables grow.

Their focus is on education and giving back to the community. They have recently partnered with the Australian Technology and Agricultural College campus, providing educational pathways for tertiary years ten to twelve having access to the college’s state of the art classroom facilities. Natasha is currently reaching out to Disabilities Australia and to local mental health and PTSD support groups, cementing her mantra being “No Barriers to Beekeeping”.  Her family’s Apairy in Jimboomba is to become an important training base, being the honey production and workshop facility where anyone can come and interact and learn about bees.

2019 New South Wales \ Australian Capital Territory Winner - Jo Palmer

Jo is a connector and loves witnessing the amazing things that happen when people come together. It is this love of connection that was the driving force behind her establishing Pointer Remote Roles – an online platform that facilitates remote work opportunities by connecting businesses all over Australia with talented professionals living in regional, rural and remote regions.

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Growing up in the Snowy Mountains, Jo Palmer trained as a teacher in Wagga and then worked and travelled overseas before returning to Australia with her husband to the Riverina, where she now lives with their two daughters.

Jo is a connector and loves witnessing the amazing things that happen when people come together. It is this love of connection that was the driving force behind her establishing Pointer Remote Roles – an online platform that facilitates remote work opportunities by connecting businesses all over Australia with talented professionals living in regional, rural and remote regions.

 

The network of highly qualified and experienced professionals who live in regional, rural and remote areas in Australia is enormous and much of this talent is sitting idle or underutilised, particularly in women.

Remote work is the key to future employment with today’s workforce moving towards flexible working hours and locations.

The concept of Pointer Remote Roles evolved as Jo began to look at her network of highly qualified, professional friends living in regional areas who were being underutilised. The Australian workforce was missing out on this talent as there was no easy way to connect with these professionals. Pointer Remote Roles provides a valuable pathway for companies, corporations and government agencies to fill positions with the best candidate for the job, regardless of where they live.

Jo’s project is to create a portal within Pointer’s platform that will help to alleviate road blocks that hold many rurally based professionals back from engaging with remote work. The portal’s resources and training will also educate and support businesses to adopt remote employment. Barriers such as a lack of confidence and understanding of new technology will be addressed through online resources, training and formal certifications for professionals looking to engage in remote work as well as for business owners managing remote employees.

Related Resources

2019 Winners

View of the profiles of the RWA Winners from 2019

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2018 Winners

View of the profiles of the RWA Winners from 2018

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2017 Winners

View the profiles of the RWA Winners from 2017

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2016 Winners

View the profiles of the RWA Winners from 2016

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2015 Winners

View the profiles of the RWA Winners from 2015

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