Victoria's inspiring Rural Women's Award finalists

Four trail-blazing Victorian women are in the running for the 2024 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

The Award celebrates Australia’s rural women leaders from across a range of industries, including Victoria’s $20.2 billion agriculture sector, who use their skills to benefit their communities and rural Australia, and inspire others.

The Victorian winner will be announced in April and will receive $15,000 towards their project. They will also  go on to represent Victoria at the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement in Canberra later in the year where the national winner will be awarded an additional $20,000 Westpac grant and the national runner up, an additional $15,000.

This year’s finalists are:

Sarah Holmes, Mildura - EnviroEDU

Sarah founded EnviroEDU to promote environment, conservation and sustainability awareness in rural and regional communities. EnviroEDU aims to educate children at the grassroots level to help contribute to conserving our natural ecosystems.

What is your project and what impact will it have on rural communities?

My project, Inspiring communities for conservation, is about changing lives. We are raising awareness on the state of the environment in Australia, inspiring rural and regional communities to live more sustainably and empowering them to take action.

Empowering communities through education is key to conservation success in Australia. Our hands-on and interactive education programs provide communities with opportunities to truly connect with nature and want to take action.

Our programs extend beyond just saving threatened species lives – we engage the disengaged and inspire future environmental leaders. With an increase in anxiety, mental health issues and school disconnect since the pandemic we deliver an alternative means for educational delivery via outdoor classroom experiences which have proven to increase focus, concentration and engaged learning.

What does being named a finalist mean to you?

I am incredibly honoured to be named a VIC finalist and to be sitting alongside three incredibly passionate and inspirational women all advocating positive outcomes for their local and rural communities.

At a personal level, being a finalist helps our main project purpose “raising awareness and inspiring for conservation” has an increased audience reach and hopefully a win for the environment.

Why did you apply for the award?

The AgriFutures Rural Women's Award provides a fantastic platform that celebrates rural women in business and provides a community of cheerleaders – women supporting other women and a business community that I was inspired to be part of.

I am definitely not one for self promotion, but after some gentle encouragement, I took the plunge to showcase the tremendous outcomes our project has been having at both the community and regional level.

Greater project exposure increases the opportunity to share and spread our conservation messages. Our motto, 'Learn Local... Act Global', is about encouraging people to make small changes to lower their impact on the environment.

If everyone locally makes those changes, think of the positive environmental benefit at the state, national and even international level!

Grace Larson, Kyneton -  The Sisterhood Project

Grace formed The Sisterhood Project to mitigate the barriers of distance and affordability for parents and carers in rural areas. The Sisterhood Project aims to deliver free access to essential paediatric first aid training for vulnerable groups, to help curb higher child mortality rates in rural Australia.

What is your project and what impact will it have on rural communities?

The Sisterhood Project aims to deliver accessible first aid and health literacy training into rural and remote communities where children are most likely to die from preventible accidents and injures.

As a paediatric critical care nurse I have seen first hand the devastating effects this can have not only on the immediate family but the whole community.

Five classrooms full of children die from preventible injuries in rural Australia each year, this is compared to about two classrooms full in metropolitan areas. The approach for rural communities or for people from lower social demographic cohorts needs to be different than for families in inner city Melbourne as the issues and challenges are different.

We aim to reduce this figure in order to enable all rural children the opportunity to lead long and healthy lives.

We do this by partnering with local first aid providers and with organisations that are already supporting these groups in our community to address the unique challenges for someone to attend and learn at a first aid course; this could for example be financial, transport or through providing a culturally safe learning environment.

Why did you apply for the award?

As a Victorian finalist in 2023, the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award has already been transformative; giving me the opportunity to speak about what we are doing with The Sisterhood Project. We are hoping to spread our message about who we are so that we can further our reach and deliver courses to at least 150 rural families in 2024.

What does being named a finalist mean to you?

I’m honoured to be named a finalist this year amongst three other incredible ladies doing fantastic things for rural Australia. Even just the chance to meet other equally motivated and energised women on their missions is a great opportunity. It also means more people can learn about the sisterhood project and hopefully get involved with us.

Reeanjou Ram, Melbourne - iTrazo Tracetech

Reeanjou, based in Melbourne but raised in Fiji, founded iTrazo Tracetech to help bridge the gap between Australia’s rural producers and their metropolitan consumers. iTrazo offers digital traceability services to mitigate transport risks for producers and better inform customers.

Tell us about your project?

Our innovation lies in being Australia's first to offer traceability services with digital identities and data integration, leading the traceability sector in Australian agriculture.

iTrazo validates claims about product provenance, sustainability, ethical sourcing, biosecurity and product safety. This not only ensures compliance and ESG reporting efficiencies but also reinforces the integrity of Australia produce. Our solutions have been effective across various commodities, including seafood, red meat and fresh produce and various others.

As global markets expand, iTrazo acts as a bridge between rural producers and urban or international markets, fostering authentic, innovative relationships.

Our efforts aim to not just bridge gaps in the agricultural supply chain but to also foster a deeper understanding and trust between producers and consumers.

Our aim is make technology accessible and affordable to all agricultural producer no matter the size of their business and place the financial benefit for their hard labour back in their hands.

What does being named a finalist mean to you?

Australia's regional and agricultural communities have always made me feel valued and welcomed. I believe this is because they sense my genuine interest in understanding their challenges.

I've engaged with producers and participated in many regional agricultural events. However, being a finalist will help me deepen these connections and forge new ones.

I wish to boost iTrazo's engagement with agricultural producers, associations, researchers, and inventors. This will not only expand my network but also sharpen my understanding of where traceability services can make the most profound impact. 

Georgina Morrison, Hamilton - The Creative's Toolkit

Georgina formed The Creative's Toolkit to help position rural Australia as a hub for competitive creatives. The online academy aims to empower rural creatives to expand their profitable skillsets.

What is your project and what impact will it have on rural communities?

The Creative's Toolkit aims to empower rural/regional creatives with battle-ready skill sets, so they can forge modern careers that aren't limited by postcodes.

Through online courses, coaching and workshops, we teach profitable creative skills like social media, photography, small business administration – with more (videography, personal branding, website design, self-publishing and others) launching in 2024.

What does being named a finalist mean to you?

Being a finalist for this award is such an honour, and something I hope gives other creatives a lot of hope.

Nothing about my career has been ‘traditional’ or ‘by the book’, but I have followed my heart professionally. Regardless of the outcome, to be a creative recognised up against other finalists in big industries like environmental conservation, health, and technology, is something I’m very proud of and thankful for.

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