Rural women shine – Dubbo businesswoman wins 2018 NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award


2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award winner Jillian Kilby with Premier for New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, and Award Finalists; Ginny Stevens, Olympia Yarger and Shanna Whan at the 2018 NSW-ACT Award Gala Dinner & Announcement.

It was a gala night at NSW Parliament House to celebrate our inspirational rural women through the AgriFutures Australia NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award, hosted by Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair.
NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian announced Jillian Kilby from Dubbo as the 2018 award winner.
Jillian’s vision is to improve the commercial success of regional start-ups by increasing the capability, capacity and confidence of business owners, in particular, women living in rural, regional and remote Australia.
With her $10,000 bursary Jillian will conduct a Regional Start-ups Insight Study to better understand the needs of regional business owners, especially those who are on the cusp of starting a new business.
Her project lives within a bigger eco system to develop more effective space and services for new and growing business owners within Dubbo and the wider catchment.
Holding a Bachelor of Civil Engineering from the University of Sydney, a Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy from the University of Stanford, Jillian joins the Rural Women’s Award Alumni ready to learn, give back, and meet new people as part of this experience.
Jillian will compete for the National Award to be announced in September at Parliament House Canberra.
Minister Blair acknowledged the three exceptional finalists, Ginny Stevens (Mangoplah), Shanna Whan (Narrabri) and Olympia Yarger (Fyshwick ACT) for their vision, commitment and leadership to the primary industries sector and their regional communities. They each received a $1000 DPI Leadership Bursary to go towards business and skills development.

Ginny Stevens of Mangoplah wants to expand the ‘Active Farmers’ service to communities with little or no access to health care. She is working to create a series of case studies which will inspire other communities to join this fast growing network while raising awareness of the importance of physical and mental health in building stronger and resilient rural communities.

Shanna Whan of Narrabri aims to take the overdue discussion around ‘casual alcoholism’, along with real people, real stories, and relatable information into paddocks and homes via a ‘virtual meeting place’, so others can gather, chat, learn, and support each other.

Olympia Yarger of Fishwick ACT wants to educate people on the opportunities available to establish regionally based insect farms as a sustainable solution to manage food and agricultural waste. She plans to develop an online education series and create a digital handbook of best practice. Olympia is the Managing  Director of Goterra.

Read more about the 2018 NSW-ACT RWA finalists and their visions for primary industries and rural communities.

The Award is coordinated by NSW Rural Women’s Network through the Department of Primary Industries and supported by Westpac AgribusinessNSW Farmers, Office of Environment & Heritage and The Country Women’s Association of NSW.
To end the night, a special mention was made to Sonia Muir, NSW Department of Primary Industries Acting Group Director Education & Regional Services for her 26 years’ service to rural communities, during which time Sonia has had an ongoing engagement with the Rural Women’s Network and established the Rural Resilience and Young Farmer Business Programs.
Last year the Rural Women’s Network celebrated 25 years of creating connected, resilient rural women and communities. Sonia has supported thriving initiatives that have continued over decades such as the annual Rural Women’s Gatherings and ‘Hidden Treasures’ Honour Roll as well as pioneering the publishing of the flagship newsletter – The Country Web.
More recently she was instrumental in creating the start-up Visit My Farm website, designed to bring urban and farming communities closer and tackle a growing disconnection of people knowing where their food comes.
Sonia will soon leave the department to start her next amazing chapter to explore volunteering opportunities in South East Asia.
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Women in Rice Network

By Christine Williams, AgriFutures Australia. As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual

Connecting and empowering rural women to take an active role in rice farming businesses is the driving force behind a new Women in Rice network, established by the AgriFutures Australia Rice Extension team.

Women in Rice P1040928

The Women in Rice network aims to boost women’s contribution to a more profitable and sustainable rice industry.

The Women in Rice network aims to boost women’s contribution to a more profitable and sustainable rice industry by focusing on sharing knowledge, building skills to make good farm business decisions and growing confidence to take an active role in running the business.

The introductory information and networking event was held at the Coleambally Community Hall in June 2017.

AgriFutures™ Rice Extension Officer, Leah Garnett said women in rice farming businesses make a valuable contribution to the decision-making process, yet many industry events remained male-dominated. This new network aims to create a dynamic environment where women can learn and create a more connected community.

‘Centered on the theme of rice, future events will explore topics such as ag technology, best practice management of rice, the future of agriculture and key resources and opportunities that women can access to further their skills and networks,’ said Leah.

AgriFutures™ Chair and Riverina business woman, Kay Hull AM, was the guest speaker at the event and talked about the role of RIRDC in the rice industry and opportunities for women in rural communities.

‘There’s never been a more exciting time to be in agriculture. AgriFutures™ is investing in building the capability of the people who will lead us into a prosperous future and Women in Rice is just one way we are bringing people together, fostering leadership in the rice industry and driving change in rural industries’, said Kay.

Another highlight of the event included an ‘Ask an Agro’ session with Alleena Burger—a senior agronomist with BR&C Agents who has worked in the agricultural industry with a focus on rice for more than two decades.

Alleena spoke about growing up on a rice farm at Moulamein and how it fostered her interest in the crop, and how as a teenager watching the change from drill sown to aerial sown was pivotal to her career direction. She also spoke about how she used social media to keep up with new management methods and issues farmers experience each season.

Technology aside, one of the most exciting developments in the industry is greater acknowledgement of women’s role in agriculture—move that Alleena is embracing and proud to promote.

The Women in Rice network is open to all women with an interest in rice and farming. Keep an eye out for future events in the NSW Murrumbidgee and Murray Valley rice growing regions.

You can follow Rice Extension on:
Twitter: @RiceExtension
Facebook: @Riceextension

Posted in agriculture, Communities, Marketing, primary industries, rural women, Women in Focus, women's networks | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Secure your farm’s financial future for today and generations to come

by Jeff Caldbeck, Dubbo
As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.

The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) provides free and confidential financial counselling to a range of clients who are suffering, or at imminent risk of suffering, financial hardship. The program is designed to assist eligible clients create viable and sustainable financial solutions for their farm or small agricultural based business. There are three providers in NSW, each servicing a dedicated part of the state.

family on hay bail shutterstock_175723934Rural Financial Counsellors help clients identify options to improve their enterprise’s financial position and implement these options via an action plan. They can help plan your future in farming, guide you in cash flows, budgeting and forecasting, support you to develop and maintain strong relationships with your commercial lender(s), and help you access government assistance.

Counsellors are also in the ideal position to assist you as you plan to, or are receiving Farm Household Allowance (FHA).

RFCS can work closely with you and the Department of Human Services by giving you free access to skilled professionals to work through your financial situation and build financial self-sufficiency. Clients currently receiving FHA can request to be referred to their local Counsellor or alternately can access one of the three Head Office Teams located throughout NSW (see contact details opposite to make an appointment with a RFCS).

Rural financial counsellors do not provide family, emotional or social counselling or financial advice—but they can provide referrals and information. The counsellor will provide financial options and support to help you make the right decision for your business.

Rural Financial Counsellors are highly mobile. That means they can meet you on farm, in a town near you, or in their office. Whatever works best for you and your needs.

RFCS NSW Central Region
t: 1800 940 404 e: w:
RFCS NSW Southern Region
t: 02 6452 5850 e:  w:
RFCS NSW Northern Region
t: 02 6662 5055 e: w:

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Parenting: Staying connected with your teenager

As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.
Raising Children Network.

As teenagers (13-18 year olds) become more independent, they often spend more time away from home.  It might also feel like your child is less interested in talking to you. But there are plenty of things you can do to maintain a strong positive relationship and stay connected with your teenager.


Adolescence is a time when parents and children begin to spend more time apart. This is partly because teenagers need to explore relationships with friends and others outside their family, which helps them:

– develop a sense of independence
– understand their place in the world as young adults
– work out their own values and beliefs.

But your child still needs a strong relationship with you to feel safe and secure as they meet the challenges of adolescence.

Staying connected is about building closeness in a relationship by being available and responsive to the other person. It’s more than just spending time around each other—after all, family members can sometimes share the same physical space without really connecting.

Connecting can be casual, which involves using frequent everyday interactions to build closeness. Or connecting can be planned—this is when you schedule time to do things together that you both enjoy.

If you stay connected with your child, you’ll be in a good position to pick up on any problems that your child might be having. Your child is also more likely to come to you with problems.

Keeping it casual and staying connected

Casual connecting is a way of using everyday interactions to build closeness and positive relationships. The best opportunities for casual connecting are when your child starts a conversation with you—this generally means they are in the mood to talk.

Tips for casual connecting:
– Stop what you’re doing and focus on the moment. Even for just a few seconds, give your child your full attention. Connecting works best when you send the message that right now, your child is the most important thing to you.
– Look at your child while they are talking to you. Really listen to what they say. This sends the message that what they have to say is important to you.
– Show interest. Encourage your child to expand on what they are saying, and explore their views, opinions, feelings, expectations or plans.
-Listen without judging or correcting. Your aim is to be with your child, not to give advice or help unless she asks for it.
– Just be there—you might be in the kitchen when your child is in their bedroom. Teenagers benefit just from knowing that you’re available.

You can also actively try to create opportunities for casual connecting, but don’t push it if your child doesn’t want to talk. Trying to force a conversation can lead to conflict and leave the two of you worse off.

Planning your connections

Planned connecting involves scheduling time to do things with your child that you both enjoy. Busy lives and more time apart can make it difficult to spend fun time together. That’s why you need to plan it. Teenagers aren’t always enthusiastic about spending time with their parents, but it’s worth insisting that they do – at least sometimes.

Tips for planned connecting:
– Schedule time together. You need to find a time that suits you both. Initially, it can help to keep the time short.
– Let your child choose what you’ll do, and follow their lead. This will motivate them to want to spend time with you.
– Concentrate on enjoying their company. Try to be an enthusiastic partner and actively cooperate with what your child is doing— the activity itself is less important than shared fun and talking with your child.
– Be interested and accepting, rather than correcting your child or giving advice. It’s not easy to give up the teaching and coaching role, but this is a time for building and improving your relationship. So if you see a mistake or an easier way to do something, let it go without comment.
– Keep trying and stay positive. At first, your child might not be as keen as you to take part in these activities, but don’t give up. Keep planned times brief to begin with, and they will come to enjoy this time with you.

Overcoming obstacles to connecting

If your child avoids spending time with you, make the most of everyday opportunities to connect—like chatting while you’re driving. If your child is reluctant to spend scheduled time with you, try the following:

– Keep it brief to begin with—try a cup of coffee at a favourite café after school, for example.
– Let your child choose the activity—even if you do have to sit through a teenage romantic comedy or action movie!
– Don’t give up—it might take a little while but the more time you spend together, the more you can both relax into it.

If your child refuses to talk with you about what they are doing you and your child might feel closer if you make the most of casual conversations during the day. Every little chat is an opportunity to listen and talk in a relaxed, positive way.

If you feel you’re the only one who’s making an effort don’t despair. If you’re kind and considerate with your child, this can help create goodwill and positive feelings. Often, simple things make a big difference—for example, saying please, giving hugs, pats on the back, knocking before entering a bedroom, cooking a favourite meal, providing treats or surprise fun activities. This approach creates a more positive environment, even if your child isn’t joining in. Make a point of doing kind things, even when you don’t feel like it. If you wait to feel positive before you act positively, you might never do it.

More information

The Raising Children website offers up-to-date, research-based material on more than 800 topics spanning child development, behaviour, health, nutrition and fitness, play and learning, connecting and communicating, school and education, entertainment and technology, sleep and safety.
Facebook: Raising Children Network


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Women’s Health: social connectedness, confidence and wellbeing

As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health

Our social connections – made up of the people we know, friends we confide in, family we belong to and the community in which we live – are so important to our overall health.

Social support refers to the emotional and practical advice, love, help, resources, information and empathy we give and receive among family, friends and community.

We all have a need to belong and to feel connected to others in some way. Experts say there is compelling evidence that the social connections we form with individuals, family and community significantly affect our health and wellbeing. A lack of social connectedness creates a risk to health, particularly mental and heart health. However, to build or maintain social connections requires a level of self-confidence that many women say they don’t have.

Portrait of smiling female friends holding coffee mugs while sitting at table

When our need to feel connected is satisfied we have an increased sense of wellbeing and show a more positive outlook on life. Conversely, having few social connections and being socially isolated leads to feelings of anxiousness and can result in becoming mentally and/or physically unwell.

Why is feeling socially connected so important?

Dr Russ Harris (author of The Happiness Trap) explains that being socially connected was essential to our survival in earlier times when society functioned as one large group.
The survival of the group depended upon social cohesion in order to hunt, fight and avoid danger. Alienation from the group resulted in threats to survival: starvation, exposure to the elements or predators. This link between survival and social connectedness remains ingrained and may partly explain why our physical and mental wellbeing is so intricately connected to belonging to social networks.

Social connections and physical health

Social connectedness and belonging have been shown to have a significant effect on physical health, particularly heart health. A study showing those with adequate social relationships have a 50 per cent greater likelihood of living longer compared with those with poor or insufficient social relationships. Connectedness is interpreted as a reward by the brain and is associated with the release of one of the happiness hormones, dopamine.

On the negative side, depression, social isolation and lack of quality social support are risk factors for the onset of physical diseases, such as heart disease. The presence of depression can be both a cause and a consequence of lack of social support.

Women and social connectedness

Women may be more vulnerable to social isolation. One recent study found that women of all ages were more likely than men to have no family member they could confide in. Women’s risk of social isolation is also related to their increased risk of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

According to Jean Hailes psychologist and Head of Translation Dr Mandy Deeks, relationships are centrally important to women’s sense of wellbeing.

‘Many women define themselves by their interpersonal relationships and have an emotional need for intimacy and connectedness. When these relationships are satisfying women have higher levels of emotional wellbeing and self-confidence.’

Social confidence

Part of the cause of women’s social isolation may be a lack of social confidence, which can prevent them from taking part in social events or developing social connections. According to Jane Fisher, the Jean Hailes Professor of Women’s Health at Monash University, many women show signs of social anxiety.

‘Social anxiety or overconcern about social approval is widespread among less-confident women. More confident women find social connections easier to make and maintain, and shyer or more anxious women can have the opposite experiences,’ says Professor Fisher.

One way women can lower their risk of social isolation is to increase their level of social confidence. Research shows that those with higher levels of self-confidence have more or better quality social connections, further increasing self-confidence.

Young women

Young women have many social groups in their lives such as family, school friends, peers and community groups. Being part of social groups for young women has an important protective effect and lowers the risk of problems such as emotional distress, drug taking, social maladjustment and suicidal thoughts.

Young women with higher levels of social connectedness show higher levels of wellbeing such as optimism, hope, coping, happiness, and life satisfaction. However, young women may lack the social skills and confidence to make social connections.

Mid-life women

Women in the middle years can experience life events that may affect their levels of social connectedness. Challenges such as children at different ages and stages, and perhaps changing work roles can reduce the range of their social networks. Also, for some women menopause can impact mood, anxiety and confidence levels, possibly leading to increased social isolation.

Older women

Growing older can increase the likelihood of becoming socially isolated. For example, as mothers, women may lose their connections with their children as they move out and begin their own lives. As women age they face a number of losses such as leaving the workforce, the death of life partners and the loss of physical health. All of these cumulative losses can increase the risk of social isolation.

Building social confidence

Professor Fisher suggests taking a positive approach to building social confidence by worrying less about what others think of you and focusing on the benefits that social connections bring.

Social media and connectedness

The negative aspects of social media are known, however, online social contact can be a good way to connect with people, particularly people with barriers to attending social events such as living in rural and remote areas, low income, physical limitations, poor self-confidence or roles such as mothering and being a carer. Research indicates that social media can be a good way to connect with groups, particularly with those who share common interests.

Tips to increase social connectedness


– Be less critical of yourself and others in social situations
– Join a group (e.g. book club, painting group or environmental group)
– Practise looking more confident— maintain eye contact and appear interested and engaged
– Seek out groups on social media who share similar interests and values
– When in social situations talk to people about their areas of interest and find mutual connections
– Don’t avoid social situations. If you feel nervous, take a friend with you to social gatherings

More information

Jean Hailes offers a range of free email newsletters to keep you up-to-date and informed on women’s health topics. Find out more on their website.

t: 1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642) w:

Posted in anxiety, Depression, free resources, Health, mental health, rural women, RWN, suicide | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Women leaders: Kristal Kinsela

As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.  In the lead up to International Women’s Day, we share multiple award winner Kristal Kinsela’s story. 

Kristal is a proud Aboriginal woman, descendant of both the Jawoyn and Wiradjuri nations. She has more than 10 years’ experience in education and training, organisational and workforce development, supplier diversity working across Government, Corporate and Not-for-Profit sectors.


Kristal Kinsela, NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year 2017

As Director of Indigenous Professional Services, Kristal assists clients to increase their productivity, performance and Indigenous engagement through strategic leadership, coaching, training and facilitation.

Kristal is passionate about creating lasting pathways and growing the capabilities of Indigenous businesses and individuals. She contributes at the interface of Aboriginal business development and government and business procurement.

In 2011 Kristal provided mentorship to Aboriginal teenage girls through the Birpai Aboriginal Land Council. She has also run teenage motivational and leadership camps to educate young Aboriginal women about their rights, and the skills required to navigate society, prejudice and stereotypes.

A multiple award winner, Kristal was awarded NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year in 2017 and 2017 Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year, recognised for her outstanding contribution in working with Indigenous communities, Indigenous businesses, leaders and women across Australia.

Kristal was recently announced the Sydney Ambassador for Indigenous Women in Business; a not for profit network to connect and support Indigenous women who run their own businesses.

What boards/committees are you currently on?

I am Director/Partner at Indigenous Professional Services, Director, Holiday Coast Credit Union, an Inspire Rare Birds Mentor and the Sydney Ambassador for Indigenous Women in Business.

What motivated you to become involved?

I am in my second term as Director of Holiday Coast Credit Union. What really encouraged me to get involved with this board was to learn more about governance, strategy and financial literacy. I love that Holiday Coast has a community commitment which aligns with my values.

I am passionate about women, and the other two roles came naturally because of this passion to support and advocate for other women in business.

What do you get out of being in these roles?

It is amazing to see women realise their potential, and I feel I win when they win. It just feels good when I help other people accomplish what they are trying to achieve.

Have you experienced any obstacles?

I’m a very determined woman. I wouldn’t say that there have been obstacles that have got in the way, but there have definitely been some challenges.

I have broken many rules when it comes to societal perceptions of what women can and can’t do. Added with that, I am breaking down stereotypes of that of an Indigenous woman.

Where do you get your support?

I keep a close circle of family and friends around me. My business partner Katina is a mentor and a great sounding board. I also have a number of like-minded business friends who I can talk too about business challenges.

What is your message to other women wanting to be more involved in decision-making?
Believe in yourself and just do it. I think ultimately, it is about confidence, backing yourself, and finding your voice.

I also believe in choosing your battles. Sometimes you have to give to gain in decision making. Let the little things slide, and fight for the important stuff.

I found the Australian Institute of Company Directors program a great learning experience to work on boards, and it has assisted in other areas of business life too.


Posted in boards and committees, Community Hero, inspirational, Leaders in Heels, leadership, NSW Rural Women's Network, Rural Australia, rural women, Women leaders, women's networks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Four rural women shining in the regions 

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair has announced Jillian Kilby from Dubbo, Ginny Stevens from Mangoplah, Shanna Whan from Narrabri and Olympia Yarger from Fyshwick ACT as the four finalists for the 2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award.

Image of four women standing in a garden smiling at the camera

2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award finalists from L to R: Olympia Yarger (Fyshwick ACT), Ginny Stevens (Mangoplah), Jillian Kilby (Dubbo) and Shanna Whan (Narrabri).

The Award identifies and supports rural women who have the ambition, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to our regions.

“I am very pleased to announce this year’s ambitious and dedicated finalists, who already make an important contribution to our regional communities,” Mr Blair said.

“Each applicant has submitted their innovative project which outlines how their initiative will drive change and improve our primary industries and regional communities.

“These women play a huge role in building confidence, both in the rural sector and their community. I know everyone will be inspired by these regional heroes.”

They join a vibrant NSW-ACT alumni of over 40 past award winners and finalists committed to making a difference to regional communities and primary industries.

The winner of the 2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award will receive a bursary of $10,000 along with professional development opportunities.

The Award winner will be announced in April at Parliament House in Sydney. The three remaining finalists will receive a $1,000 Department of Primary Industries bursary for skills and leadership development.

The NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award is co-ordinated by the NSW Rural Women’s Network through the Department of Primary Industries and supported by NSW Farmers, Office of Environment & Heritage and the NSW Country Women’s Association.

The NSW-ACT winner will compete for the national award later this year at Parliament House in Canberra, where the winner will be awarded an additional $10,000 bursary and the national runner-up an additional $5,000.

#RWA2018 #NSWRWN #RuralWomen

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How to grow your business

As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.

Whether you’re just starting out with a great business idea or looking to expand and grow your business, NSW Department of Industry’s Business Connect services can help you on your journey to business success.

There are different ways to grow your business, from launching a new product or service, to devising a marketing strategy to increase sales, or investing in new technology or equipment to achieve productivity and efficiency gains.

Expanding your business often requires access to finance, more staff and ensuring that you maintain great customer service while seeking out new customers or markets. Growing your business means making time to work on your business instead of in your day-to-day activities.

We spoke to Angie Gordon and Cath Young about their experiences working with a business advisor who helped them to plan the next stage of their businesses.

My Bearded Pigeon—Etsy success

Cath Young Bearded PigeonCath Young (pictured) has built two successful businesses. The first sells cushions and wall hangings through her Etsy e-commerce site My Bearded Pigeon. The second is a business advising others on how to do the same.

A mother of two from Bellingen in NSW, Cath started My Bearded Pigeon in 2010 and is now considered one of Australia’s leading Etsy entrepreneurs. The rapid growth of her business has seen her take on two employees, including her husband Neil, to keep up with demand.

Cath began her business selling cushions and wall hangings featuring old-world maps printed on organic cotton fabric. The quality of her products and the imagery used to market them achieved recognition in several international media outlets. Subsequently, a large proportion of her sales come from overseas buyers in the USA and UK.

Becoming one of Australia’s top Etsy sellers has brought Cath further success. In 2016, she was contracted by a local business education provider, to deliver a series of talks on successful selling on Etsy.

To develop this opportunity, Cath enlisted the services of her local business advisor who helped her create a business plan. The plan mapped out the steps required to fulfil the contract and structure costs, so that her time and expertise were appropriately rewarded.

With the continued support of the business advisor, Cath is developing a new business providing mentoring services to people looking to create Etsy stores.

Etsy is a global e-commerce site which allows sellers the opportunity to work from home, enjoy flexible hours and access a global market place. The e-commerce site sells handmade art, craft and vintage wares and now has 54 million members and 22 million active shoppers across the world.

Cath was invited to participate on Etsy’s Independent Seller Advisory Board, which meets every six months in New York.

From Gilgai to Vegas

Angie Gordon is one of two female motor trimmers in the country. Her passion for car restoration bordered on obsessive and she wanted to share her unique talent for creative motor trimming of hot rod, vintage and classic cars. Her only problem was that she was working in a shed in the tiny northern NSW regional community of Gilgai.

It wasn’t until Angie received support from a business advisor that her dreams became a reality. Angie’s local advisor helped her develop a digital and social media strategy that changed everything. Within two months, Angie’s flair and excellence had been showcased to the world and demands for her services followed closely.

‘Requests for custom trims came pouring in from Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and New Zealand. I went from nothing to a full working business and I’m flat out. All it took was a website and Facebook profile to be absolutely inundated with work,’ Angie said.

The business advisor catapulted Angie Gordon’s business, Angie’s Custom Trim, to the world’s premier automotive trade event, SEMA in Las Vegas. Angie was thrilled.

‘The invitation was the greatest compliment of all. SEMA showcases the best of the best.
It was fantastic to be asked to work in such great company.’

Angie’s Custom Trim creates custom upholstery for restored and classic motor vehicles as well as for planes, trucks, boats, golfers and other one-off products.

She learnt her trade from her parents, working in the family business for 20 years, but her creative mastery and fine-tuned eye for detail pushed her to branch out on her own.

Business Connect is a NSW Government funded program to help your business grow.  Experienced Business Connect advisors are available to help new and established small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) start and grow successfully.

For more information:  1300 134 359

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Connecting through Pizza

by Sophie Hansen, Lidster
As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.

There’s a wood-fired oven at our local community hall. Most of the year it sits quiet and cold but every now and then we get together to hold loud, chaotic pizza nights. And that’s what happened last Friday.


Because the oven hadn’t been used for a while, we warmed it slowly, fearful of the roof cracking. So two days before the event itself a fire was set, then a handful of us took turns to drop in over the next two days, stoking it up as we drove past. The wood was donated by a local firewood supplier.

The evening’s organisation wasn’t what you’d call military precision but it came together driven not by a million phone calls or spreadsheets, but by goodwill and the kind of community common sense that just gets things done.

We had over 100 takers on the night; strangers rolling out dough together (which was provided by the local mill), newcomers meeting their neighbours for the first time, kids helping on the topping production line and the voluntary bar committee enjoying a brisk trade too.

Our little gathering raised some much needed funds, but more importantly, it brought us together on a cold winter’s night to cook, eat, drink and talk.

Food is the connective tissue for any country community. Whenever there’s a bushfire, sausage sizzle, funeral, working bee or celebration—at some point you’ll generally find people gathered around a table of provisions. And it’s not just the eating that is the important part; it’s the contributing. It’s the feeling of usefulness and satisfaction we get from bringing along a plate of tasty food. It’s the thought that our contribution might please someone, might help somehow, might offer a moment of pleasure on a sad day or delight a child on an already happy one.

These kinds of community events are precious, and I think more wanted than ever. With social media’s prevalence in our lives there’s the temptation to think that we’ve caught up with friends because we’ve seen their latest post on Facebook, but that’s just scratching the surface. When life is so busy, the news so scary, budgets are tight and pressures on our businesses are so heavy, encouraging everyone to go to that pizza night, to get involved and make something and then clean up afterwards is important; because these are the moments that make our communities tick and remind us that it’s more fun to get out of the house and see your mates than to stay at home on the couch.

I spend much of my time working with social media platforms. Instagram in particular has had a huge impact on my work and social life; delivering unexpected opportunities and friends around the world which I am grateful for. But more and more I am noticing that these online friendships can only go so far. And whether we realise it or not, if they have any future, they are on an inevitable trajectory towards the real deal—actually meeting in person.

I regularly organise, attend, follow and dream of one day attending all sorts of creative workshops around the world. The past few years I have noticed that these sorts of events are on the rise and book out within hours. They are popular because people just want to get together. While on the one hand we are inundated with connectivity thanks to social media, the more we connect online, the more we crave actual connection—we just want to be in the same room and share ideas and we want to know that there are people ‘out there’ who get us and get what we do.

Country towns like yours and mine, we already have infrastructure in place for these sorts of connections and gatherings. We probably have access to a community hall with a great kitchen in which great things can happen. More than likely our town has a sports team or 10 to support, regular working bees to maintain the park or sports fields, and fundraising bar nights for the school.

So my message is simple, ‘use it or lose it’. Hold that pizza night or pot luck dinner just because, and see the good things that come of it. And while I really do appreciate the effort any kind of community gathering requires, after watching ‘my community’ cooking, eating, drinking and catching up over pizzas, I’m more convinced than ever of the enormous benefits these events provide. Bringing your community together over or because of food, is an important and good thing.

If you would like the recipe for the pizza dough and pizza sauce you’ll find it on Sophie’s Blog:

Ed: Sophie runs a podcast and e-course called My Open Kitchen. The 7 week course is delivered in ‘modules’, designed to teach and inspire farmers, growers and creative foodies to use social media to build new networks, grow their businesses, take better photos, write better captions and connect with people.  For more information or to register visit:


Posted in Communities, food, RIRDC rural women's award, Rural Australia, rural women, Volunteering | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lived experience of mental health can open new doors

by Johnathon Harms
As featured in the 2017 Country Web Annual.

Women in rural and regional Australia will be only too familiar with the limited access to mental health support services. These problems are all the same, only worse, outside the metropolitan areas, where access, isolation and stigma can be heightened. All too often, the families and carers are the only ones willing to take responsibility for ensuring that a person experiencing mental illness, or a significant psycho-social disability of some kind, receives the care they require.

Little Girl Blowing Dandelion SeedsOur Health system is a great acute system, well-tailored for treating short acute illnesses, but not well designed for providing long-term support for mental health conditions or long terms psycho-social disability.

All too often such caring is left up to the female relatives to provide, placing demands on a person or a family who struggle to ensure their loved one is not deprived of a vital service.

The need to get better at providing support for disabilities and chronic health conditions at the ‘primary care’ level (that is care in your home through your GP) has caused a number of important changes to our system recently, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the expansion of Primary Health Networks (PHN’S).

The NDIS provides non-clinical disability support for people with permanent disabilities to live in the community and systematically fills a gap partially filled by a hodge-podge of state and commonwealth schemes up till now.

The Commonwealth government has also asked PHN to look at developing service models like the ‘healthcare home’ to improve the range and quality of care available to help avoid deteriorating health and expensive hospital admissions. Many people experiencing mental ill health would benefit from similar regular support in the community.

While the PHN can commission new clinical mental health services, most of the non-clinical supports required for people to live in the community will exclude those with a recent diagnosis whose condition is not considered ‘permanent’.

Many receiving the NDIS funding in country areas are finding it hard to locate the appropriate support services to buy with the money in their NDIS ‘package’. This service shortage is a great opportunity for ‘consumer’ and ‘carer’ peer workers to register on sites that allow NDIS participants to hire them directly instead of going through service organisations.

Peer workers are people who use their lived experience of caring or recovery to help support other consumers or carer ‘peers’.

In this instance, no ‘peer’ training is needed, just a police check and First Aid certificate.

Peer workers of all ages can work directly with the participants which is great outcome for both the workers and the NDIS participant.

More information
Mental Health Carers NSW Inc is a non-government organisation providing advocacy and support for families, relatives and friends of people who experience mental illness, living in NSW.

Information & support line:
1300 554 660 (free call)
t: 02 9332 0700 (Mon-Fri, 9 am to 5 pm)

Posted in anxiety, Depression, Domestic Violence, Drug support, Health, mental health, Rural Support Workers, rural women | Tagged | Leave a comment