Hunters and Gatherers – a Better Way of Understanding the Information Needs of Rural Australia
Robbie has a dual investment in rural Australia, as a producer, running a farm business involved in wool, meat and grains and as a communication consultant, running a national and specialist public relations agency catering to clients who need to communicate with rural, regional and remote Australia.
Robbie’s vision is for a vibrant and tenacious rural Australia, full of opportunities for a healthy future for the next generation of primary producers and regional communities and with it a stronger voice for rural Australia.
She believes a better understanding of the issues driving rural communities and their people, will allow both public and private sector organisations to better target the delivery of products and services required to sustain rural Australia.
Her proposed activity involved the development of a network of ‘hunters and gatherers’ of social, economic and biophysical information throughout rural and regional Australia.
The overriding objective of the project was to establish and evaluate the way in which the ‘hunters and gatherers’ concept could be implemented to assist in improving two-way communications with rural, regional and remote Australia. The project would fill what is a serious void in accurate, reliable and current information on rural Australia and would set up an enduring framework for reliable data collection from rural communities.
Information collected was to include:
- Economic -Economic drivers, key industries, employment trends & key business developments.
- Social -Health, education, telecommunication and other services.
- Cultural and Demographic – Aboriginal, women & youth issues.
- Political – federal, state & local.
The ultimate aim of the proposal was to have a “hunter-gatherer” network, with over 1,000 villages, towns and rural cities, each with a district population of 2,000 or more, throughout Australia feeding into the information network.
A draft Strategic Plan was completed and included an analysis of relevant sociological research, an examination of previous rural and regional communication initiatives and consultation with government, media, business, social and technology organisations. Importantly the plan reinforced the need for accurate and timely data and has won strong support from key public and private sector organisations.
The specifications for the gathering, amalgamation and analysis of data were completed and were used as the basis to prepare a briefing document for the ‘hunters and gatherers’, to ensure uniformity of materials gathered, to provide for direct comparison and meaningful analysis.
Initial assessment of a range of rural communities within New South Wales, deemed suitable to be involved in the pilot program, along with a preliminary analysis of potential participants in each area, was undertaken. A pilot program, involving rural communities targeted within New South Wales, was scheduled for implementation in late 2003. The success of the pilot program was critical to the future roll out of the program, both within New South Wales and Australia wide.
Robbie believes the implications of the concept would be significant for the way in which private and public sector entities relate to rural and regional Australia. The delivery of this information will allow government agencies, business and industry organisations to develop policy, programs and services, which not only meet the needs of rural and regional areas, but will also be embraced by the people living within those communities.
Robbie believes passionately that for rural and regional Australia to prosper and grow, rural women must be given the opportunity to be economically empowered and financially independent. She believes her project when fully operational would allow over 1,000 women the opportunity to have an additional income through information collection, income that was previously not available to them.
In the twelve months of the Award Robbie learnt more about what life is really like in the bush and has been truly humbled by the experiences the Award has given her. The overwhelming key learnings during the year include:
- Women are the silent partners yet they are the glue that hold families and communities together.
- Young women are around but too busy to be seen.
- Women in the bush are aging and tired but remain resilient and passionate.
- Women in the bush are wise.
- Farming families are not encouraging their children to return to the farm.
- Life on the farm is becoming ever more challenging for all involved.
Her personal goal is to be as generous and as gracious with her new learnings in life, by passing these on to other women on her journey in life, and repay the compliment of women to her over past years.