The Rural Town’s Web Package
Kate Schwager is partner in a cotton and wheat share farming enterprise outside Wee Waa in northern NSW and is Coordinator of Wincott, Australia’s largest network of women in cotton.
Kate was instrumental in developing one of the country’s first rural town websites for Wee Waa, to help promote the region’s agriculture and tourism along with the local businesses and communities it supports. The website www.weewaa.com became the central portal for the town and a major source of news and information covering the community as well as a major tool for businesses to promote their services and products.
Her commitment to agriculture and to the rural communities it supports led her to instigating the Rural Towns Package, an easy to use web development program which builds small town websites in a cost and user friendly way.
Kate’s project was to take the Rural Towns Package to communities across the state, as a means of promoting the importance of agriculture to rural communities and attracting tourists and with them much needed revenue to rural areas.
Her objective was that the websites be established by rural women, who have the necessary intimate knowledge of their rural communities, the towns, the businesses and the people, while offering them the opportunity of an alternate income source to their farming businesses.
The package was promoted to a multitude of forums in both New South Wales and Queensland, including the Country Women’s Association Annual Conference in Narrabri, the Australian Cotton Industry Conference at the Gold Coast and the Women on Farm’s Gathering at Grafton.
The package was also promoted across a number of media mediums, including the Australian Women’s Weekly, the Land, ABC radio, and Country Style magazine.
Some thirty five women in rural towns made inquiries about the package with some seven rural town sites established as a result of the package, including Cobar, Narrabri, Moree, Trangie, St George, Hughenden and Wee Waa.
The websites proved extremely successful to those rural towns involved on a number of fronts, with Wee Waa and Narrabri both recording 45-55 advertisers, all sites generating revenue over and above costs and Narrabri and Wee Waa achieving significant revenue results.
Kate believes the Rural Towns Package has been the catalyst for a number of positive outcomes.
She believed the package, for the cotton industry as a whole, improved the awareness of the industry and promoted a more positive understanding of its management practices along with improved publicity of Wincott-Women’s Industry Network Cotton as a network for resources, skills and knowledge, and the opportunity of a new business venture and alternate income stream for a number of rural women.
She also believed the package, for the community, brought the towns involved and their people to a larger and previously unknown audience, initiated networks and conversations between people inside and outside the towns and brought new investment and tourism into the towns and the broader regional community.
Kate, at a personal level, as a result of her twelve month tenure as NSW Award 2006 Winner dramatically improved her public speaking skills, her leadership skills and credibility as a leader within the industry as well as improved the financial prospects for her business.
The launch of the umbrella site, Southern Cross Communities, was scheduled to take place in 2008. The site would, for the first time, network the towns and communities involved, together with other towns in cyberspace. Southern Cross Communities would become a showcase of rural towns with the objective of promoting the large variety of agricultural industries in Australia.