Careers in primary industries


By Sophia Hoffenberg, Orange
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

In early 2017, Catherine Keniry relocated her family of six from Sydney to Orange to escape the rat race and provide her children with a country childhood.

As a passionate and driven Executive Officer to the Deputy Director General Research Excellence, with a wealth of experience across the molecular genetics industry, Catherine has embraced her role with Department of Primary Industries (DPI), reconnecting with agricultural science after a 20-year break.

Catherine’s role involves providing strategic and operational advice to the DDG Research Excellence, and supporting strategic projects to promote the adoption of best practice for finance, human resource management, performance improvement, IT, administration systems and processes. Research Excellence is tasked with shaping the future of research and innovation for DPI.

Growing up in Sydney she completed her undergraduate science studies at The University of Sydney, after which she was awarded a scholarship to complete her PhD in  cloning genes – fungal pathogen of canola at Cambridge in England.

As a woman who has always shown tremendous potential, Catherine has been afforded multiple professional development opportunities during her career; including, MGS Foundations of General Management, Mount Eliza Business School New Leaders Program and INSEAD Leadership for Roche.

Catherine’s highly successful career has seen her lead specialised teams within Roche, Genea and Sonic. Despite her extensive work in the Sydney corporate sector, she has always had an affiliation with the country and was drawn to the opportunity of working in the research excellence team from a strategic business perspective.

Catherine considers living in the country the gentle life, with the beautiful surrounds of Orange a treat to wake up to and the mere seven-minute drive to work a luxury. The work-life balance is better and easier than she’s ever had before; the flexibility allows Catherine to run the house and logistics of her children while her husband works four days a week in Sydney.

As part of her current role there is a strong emphasis on stakeholder engagement and communication, so Catherine is deliberate in talking to as many researchers across the 20 NSW DPI research stations as she can.

Looking to the future, Catherine is eager to play a role in driving growth in primary industries to ensure maximum efficiencies are gained whilst also being involved in ensuring policy is closely aligned with research and science. She is confident she can have an influence in the great changes that are approaching the agrisphere, employing her ability to access the ever-evolving emergent technology space through her strong technical and communication skills.

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Olympia’s insect journey


By Olympia Yarger, Fyshwick ACT
2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures  Rural Women’s Award Finalist
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

Passionate about rural and regional communities, Olympia Yarger is a farmer, innovator and leader in insect farming in Australia.

As the founder and CEO of Goterra, an insect farm based in Canberra, Olympia is committed to changing the landscape of livestock feed and redefining how we look at sustainable waste management solutions.

Olympia’s roots are firmly in farming—a love she developed from spending time on the family farm in Canberra, first settled by her Italian great grandparents. This passion translated to her career—working across many different agricultural industries. This included spending 14 years in America after marrying her U.S Marine husband, working with and supporting military families.

Olympia returned to Australia in 2014 with plans to start farming. Realising that the landscape had changed significantly, and the opportunity for purchasing and effectively running a small-to-medium sustainable enterprise was not available, Olympia began researching alternate farming options, which eventually led her to insect farming.

It was during this time that she realised a need to unlock access to and leverage the current food and agricultural waste in rural and regional Australia. She set about addressing this gap by designing a modular mobile system to process food waste onsite.

By 2016 Olympia had to move her business operation out of her garage and into a warehouse facility in Fyshwick to keep up with demand.

‘We grow our insects using food and agricultural waste from our regions—doing our part to keep food waste from going into Australian landfill and reducing odour and waste for agricultural enterprises in urban locations.’

Olympia’s business processed 20 tonnes of food and agriculture waste in 2017 and this year (2018) that figure will increase to more than 200 tonnes—turning those wastes into an alternative livestock feed compound for primary producers and human food products, like protein bars, crackers and cakes.

The business has been testing and developing its insect feed to ensure quality assurance across its insect for feed products. In 2018 Goterra insect meal will be commercially available as the company continues to scale to commercial capacity.

They also produce and supply nutritious insect meal and whole crickets for human consumption to restaurants and foodies across Australia. Notably, Goterra provided whole crickets and mealworms for Adelaide’s Open State event, which hosted an ‘insects as food and feed’ showcase. Delivering nutritious crickets, raised on grape marc from a local Murrumbateman winery, to attendees at the Adelaide event, showcased the importance of insect farming and how it is creating feed security for farmers, regional industry and communities.

With the breadth and range of the insect protein industry only just starting to emerge Olympia is committed to developing the processes and industry standards necessary to bring sustainable insect protein feeds to the Australian market.

She is working to educate people on opportunities to establish regionally based insect farms by developing an online education series and creating a digital handbook of best practice to grow the industry, to be delivered through the Insect Protein Association and other online farming platforms.

Olympia believes rural industries, businesses and communities can leverage insect farming to become more agile and innovative in the development of products for food and feed, creating sustainability into the future.

As a new and emerging industry, Olympia says insect farming can provide multiple, dynamic opportunities for primary producers as either a new enterprise or a vehicle to valorise or manage their waste streams.

More information

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Hidden Treasures – Trudy Cooper


I share with you my story to encourage others to get involved in their community. Together we can do wonderful things to help, support and care for those around us. I believe the greatest blessing in life is to love and care for one another.

Deepwater is a small rural community with approximately 350 people that runs through the New England Highway.  Like most small rural places, lending a hand to your neighbour is the done thing and when someone is in need we work together. As a result, our volunteer services hold us together in tough times such as droughts, floods, bushfires, and tragedies.

I believe rural women play a large role in contributing to the resilience of our communities. Our skills are varied, we partake in several activities, the demands are huge, but I believe we all share a common love for our rural way of life.

The SES (State Emergency Service) volunteers have provided a very diverse set of skills to Deepwater and surrounding communities for more than 30 years. In 2006, I was privileged to join the friendly team of very proficient operators (the mentoring was second to none), and was trained in one of the diverse areas of the SES unit as frontline response to motor vehicle collisions in a rescue and first aid capacity.

As we live 40km from the nearest Ambulance service or emergence capable hospital, the Ambulance Service and SES collaborated to equip a number of personnel in November 2007 as ‘Community First Responders’, who provide initial emergency health care and answer 000 emergency requests.

This began our/my journey coming face to face with farming accidents, motor vehicle collisions, drug overdoses, cardiac arrests, suicides, broken limbs and sick little children, just to mention a few. Overall, we responded to approximately 120 requests for assistance in 2018 from rural and isolated communities. It was an absolute privilege to support, serve and care for the people in our community.

It must also be said that this service can take a toll on our volunteers, as most of the time we are attending to people we know such as friends, family or colleagues. Standing together in the difficulties of life and sharing the load is vital so that we can keep moving forward.

My husband Reuben and I help out with a number of other volunteer organisations including our local Anglican Church Services, as the congregation can no longer financially support a paid minister.  We feel strongly about maintaining our Christian presence and sharing joyful moments with everyone such as weddings and baptisms. Providing a caring place to hold funeral services is also vitally important to the health and well-being of our community.

For a number of years, teaching Scripture and Bible education at our local primary school has been a blessing to me, and I feel the children teach me more than I teach them. What joy and excitement I feel to see groups of beautiful young people peering into the Bible helping each other read and understand what they are learning about, they are all so hungry to learn. I don’t have words that can express how wonderful this is to me.

I feel very passionately about playing my part in the lives of our young people, they are the present and future.

Romans 8: 31 – 37 you may find interesting to read.
Living is to love and care for one another.
God bless you

Hidden Treasures
An annual initiative of the Department of Primary Industries’ Rural Women’s Network, Hidden Treasures recognises the outstanding efforts of women volunteers in NSW and promotes the valuable role of volunteering to the community.

You can nominate a friend, family member, colleague, community worker – any rural woman who you believe makes your community a better place to live. To nominate a Hidden Treasures volunteer you simply need to complete the Nomination Form and tell us a short ‘story’ about why your nominee is worthy.

All rural women nominated will be included in the 2019 Honour Roll to be launched at the annual NSW Rural Women’s Gathering in Walcha on 3 November 2019. To nominate a rural woman in your community, visit




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Editorial: Celebrating 25 years

Sonia & Audrey

Audrey Hardman OAM, Mandurama

I was delighted to be asked to write the editorial for this very special 25th anniversary issue of The Country Web. This issue celebrates 25 years of the Rural Women’s Network (RWN) and The Country Web, showcasing 25 inspiring women from rural NSW.

As we celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Network over the last 25 years, we must pay tribute to the small, passionate and dedicated team of rural women responsible for its incredible success, and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (formerly NSW Agriculture) staff who have supported the program. It is my great privilege and honour to tell the story of how the RWN and The Country Web newsletter was ‘born’, and to share the major impact it has had on the lives of rural women and their families throughout NSW.

The beginning …

The rural crisis in the 1980s, seriously threatened the financial security and well-being of rural families and highlighted the fact that rural women urgently needed a voice – a platform, communication network, and newsletter to exchange vital information. Responding to this crisis, the NSW Women’s Advisory Council organised and financed the NSW Rural Women’s Conference in Parkes in 1991, to assist women in a practical way through the provision of information and exchanging ideas.

This conference provided the platform for more than 600 articulate, motivated, passionate rural women, who converged on Parkes from all areas of NSW, to voice their concerns and share ideas. In response to recommendations from the conference, and with support of the then Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Women, and the Premier, a commitment was made to establish a Rural Women’s Network Program to further strengthen the communication between rural women and ensure they were well connected and had access to the information, support and services they needed.

The RWN program was established in 1992 and operated through its three staff members and a State Advisory Committee (SAC) drawn from major rural networks in NSW. What a privilege it was to Co-Chair the RWN SAC with the then Director General of NSW Agriculture, Dr Kevin Sheridan AO. His commitment to the establishment, development and delivery of the RWN program, and his constant support and guidance to the team until his retirement, contributed significantly to its success.

Margaret Carroll was appointed RWN Coordinator in May 1992 and with her passion, energy and excellent organisational and networking skills, she worked tirelessly setting up the network and delivering programs to build women’s confidence, capacity, knowledge and leadership skills.

Sonia Muir joined the team as Editor of the newsletter in 1993 and under the guidance of this creative, multi-talented woman, The Country Web developed into the most outstanding, unique and widely read publication—one that played a key role in the recovery from the rural crisis. It still meets all the challenges and changes in agriculture and rural affairs today, under the inspired leadership of Allison Priest.

I marvel at the incredible growth and recognition the Network has achieved for rural women and their families over its 25 years. The experience, knowledge and confidence rural women have gained and the support networks that have been established, have resulted in rural women leaders emerging in every area. These women are role models whose vision and enthusiasm has inspired others to take the first step out of their comfort zone and to actively contribute to our agricultural industries and communities.

The Rural Women’s Network has achieved many things since it’s establishment in 1992, some of which are highlighted in a special timeline on pages 30-31. There is an overwhelming sense of pride and satisfaction as we celebrate 25 years of the incredible achievements of the RWN and The Country Web newsletter.

A very special thank you to Sonia Muir for her 25 years of dedicated service to rural women, families and communities. Her time in the RWN and then as the Manager of DPI’s Business & Social Resilience program has seen her lead the RWN, Rural Resilience Program and Young Farmer Business programs to build the business and social resilience of women, their families and farmers across rural NSW.

It is a testament to Sonia that we still have the RWN program 25 years on, a brand that has endured the many organisation and political changes to enable rural communities to adapt and thrive in the ever changing agricultural environment. I wish Sonia the very best in her retirement as she and her husband Gordon, both head overseas to Burma to volunteer their time and skills to communities in need.

I congratulate Allison Priest on her appointment as Senior RWN Coordinator and for her ongoing role as editor of The Country Web newsletter. Also, a very big congratulations to Kate Lorimer-Ward on her appointment as Deputy Director General Agriculture.
The Rural Women’s Network is in good hands.

On behalf of the rural women of NSW, I would like to thank the Department for honouring the commitment to establish the RWN program and for continuing to deliver The Country Web free to women in NSW. Rural women now have connectivity and a voice. What a fantastic example of government and community working together!

Posted in agriculture, business, Communities, Families, farming, resilience, rural women, The Country Web, women's networks | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Women leaders: Lorraine Gordon

lorraine rural

Lorraine Gordon
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

As a businesswoman with significant experience at a senior executive level across Australian agriculture, Lorraine has achieved success in her agricultural management endeavours.

Currently, Lorraine is the Program Director for Australian Government’s Farm Cooperatives & Collaboration Program, referred to as ‘Farming Together’. She is also the Director of Strategic Projects for Southern Cross University, acting as a conduit between industry and research, and the Associate Director of the Organics Research Centre, delivering sustainable and regenerative agriculture to the world.

On her weekends, Lorraine is a beef cattle trader from Ebor in the New England Tablelands of NSW turning out up to 1000 steers per annum. She is also Director of Moffat Falls Pty Ltd and Yaraandoo which operates a number of successful tourism, agricultural, and health businesses in both the New England and North Coast Regions of NSW. Her company has been running mental health respite retreats for carers for more than 16 years, providing structured well-being respite programs to more than 2000 carers, and providing them with coping tools.

Lorraine is currently completing a PhD in Ecological Economics through the University of New England. She has three amazing boys aged 23, 21 and 14 who she believes are her real legacy to the world.

What motivated you to become involved?
The more you give, the more you receive. I have always been an active community person, however my community has now stretched to all of rural Australia. I like to make a difference where ever I put my efforts. If I’m not making a difference I move on to where I can. I like to be at the cutting edge of new ideas and movements.

What do you get out of being in these roles?
Extensive networks of ‘can do’ people. Experience in many industries and sectors and an ever increasing ‘box of tools’ to address the most complex, wicked problems that face civilisation. Each experience builds my capability for the next challenge I will need to face. For some reason I seem to be attracted to challenging projects that have the capacity to disrupt the status quo.

Have you experienced any obstacles?
I have experienced many obstacles! Having worked in government, universities and for large corporates, they don’t always move at the pace that I like to get things done. I have had to learn to be patient. I spend the time getting all the stakeholders on board and on the same page from the grass roots up so that the change is a smooth transition.

Pushback from conservative folk who don’t like change or disruption to their norms. And, pushback from those protecting their patch at all costs. I aim to be collaborative not competitive. I tend to go round sharp objects and obstacles as I am highly strategic and focused on the vision. Outcomes driven really.

Where do you get your support?
My family, particularly my children. My friends. My farm which energises me and is the basis of who I am. And of course I absolutely couldn’t do it without my staff and team. This is particularly evident in the performance of ‘Farming Together’. We were supposed to support 2000 farmers, fishers and foresters. We supported 28 500. We were supposed to give expert support to 100 of the best group projects in the country, we gave expert support to 730 groups. We were supposed to fund 15 of the best projects, we funded 51. This extraordinary legacy called ‘Farming Together’, could not have been achieved without a team of dedicated people working towards a common vision.

What is your message to other women wanting to be more involved in decision-making?
Know your craft and then have conviction to put your ideas forward. Be confident in your persona, your voice and your tone. Be inclusive not exclusive. Put your name forward for a start. Too many women say they are not experienced enough or don’t have the right qualifications. If in the criteria they don’t have one of the dot points, they don’t apply at all! Sorry but the fellas always say yes, even if they can’t do the job! Show your passion, it will energise the room. No one has ever learned anything without having a go and making the mistakes, so just have a go.

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Life is a patchwork quilt

Mary Hollingworth, Glen Innes
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

What is your background?
I grew up in a noisy Catholic family with a strict father. For as long as I can remember, I was responsible for something or someone, and as the eldest of seven children under nine years there were always many jobs to do.

We had a property east of Glen Innes and my father worked long hours for what seemed like little reward. When I was 11, my mother went back to full-time work due to the 1970s cattle recession. As the eldest I seemed to be the one responsible for all of my siblings. It was always a case of making do, missing out, or making something out of nothing.

In my final two years of school I had the opportunity to go away to boarding school. For me, recognition and rewards seemed to come with another job completed or success at school so that’s what I strived for. I remember how exciting it was to have a store bought dress layered with frills for my Year 12 formal at the princely sum of $15. I still wear it today and I still love frills.

My first job was at the local pharmacy, followed by a stint in Sydney before returning home to be married at 19. While raising three children I worked the property with my husband; drenching, mustering, spraying, pulling calves and doing paperwork.
Ten years ago I landed a dream role as the administration assistant for the Australian Celtic Festival based in Glen Innes. In my ‘spare time’ I volunteer in the community, participating in local groups and working bees and catering for a myriad of organisations. This work has been truly rewarding.

What did you want to be when you left school?
My parents thought I was smart enough to be a doctor and so this was the view I took. Deep down however, I felt from my strict Catholic upbringing that marriage was the ultimate success, and so I wanted to be the mother that I always wanted to have. Getting married seemed to be the pinnacle of success, so it was with great sadness that my marriage did not stand the test of time. Now, many years later, I know that marriage is only one of many life choices, and one that is best enjoyed with another career.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self, knowing what you know now?
Believe in yourself and accept the help and guidance offered to become educated, with the ability, courage and knowledge to make wise decisions. Don’t be in a rush to be an adult and enjoy being a teenager. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The harder you work the luckier you will be in life. It is the simple things that matter most in life. And finally, it is in giving that we receive.

Who has inspired and supported you along the way?
My great Aunt Gaga has always been my mentor. She was remarkable in all regards and in my eyes could do anything; from cooking, changing oil, sewing and mending family relationships. She always loved, encouraged, thanked and taught me. She laughed with me and made me feel like she had all the time in the world for me. Gaga had this amazing ability to see opportunities where there seemed none, and this was her greatest gift to me. From her resting place above, she is part of the fabric of my daily life and has truly shaped who I am today.

My children continue to inspire me and bring me great joy as they carve out their own lives. I am so proud and inspired by the new initiatives and practices they implement, their ability to make the intergenerational changes of a family business work, and the choices they make for a balanced rural family life.

Special female friends are a wonderful part of my life and each friendship is a gift and blessing in itself. It seems that a chat, coffee, cry and some chocolate can fix most things. The great joy of female friendships inspires and supports me daily.

What have your experiences taught you?
To always be positive and look for the opportunities in every chapter of life, even the ones that seem overwhelming. That small things, small gestures, and small acts of kindness are big things and their value should never be underestimated. I have also learnt the value of really making do by upcycling, and saving up for something really special.

Some of my biggest and hardest lessons can be summed up in the prayer of St Francis of Assiss, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’. This is such a powerful mantra and truly has given me graceful courage during some very dark days. Yes the challenges have at times seemed insurmountable, but the love of my children has paved the way in moving forward.

I have also learnt the tremendous value in seeking professional guidance, from financial and personal help, to help from service providers such as the Rural Women’s Network. These services are invaluable to rural women and families and for many of us we owe them such a debt of gratitude.

What has been your biggest triumph?
Being a mother is my biggest triumph. I remember each pregnancy and birth as if it was yesterday. I truly love being a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother.

What does being a rural woman mean to you? 
For me, being a rural woman is like creating a splendid and crazy patchwork quilt. You start with a pattern but pretty soon the pieces don’t fit and you alter, adjust or take it out altogether. The original pattern may have been perfect but probably lacked soul. My ever changing pattern has given me untold opportunities and has enriched my life in a way I never dreamed possible.

Being a rural women means I am resilient, resourceful and reliable. Relationships are paramount, distance is no barrier, weather will always feature in the conversation and, like a girl guide, I am always prepared for the unexpected. Mostly though, it means I am richly blessed every day in my rural life.

Where to next?
Days ahead will be shared with family, friends and community—the reasons for the seasons of every day of my life. And I have now found the marvellous joy of friendship with a soulmate, so it seems life is truly wonderful for this rural woman.

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Sober in the Country: the conversation we need to have


by Shanna Whan, Founder of Sober in the Country
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

If you haven’t yet heard of Sober in the Country (#SITC), it’s a rural conversation, and indeed a movement, that’s happening right now and gaining steady momentum since its inception in April by one of our NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award finalists, Shanna Whan.

The idea was first born four years ago, and it’s a very personal commitment Shanna made, and one that she said is aimed to bring some serious and overdue discussions about the toxic rural booze culture to the table.

As a recovered alcoholic who nearly lost her life five years ago, Shanna knows all-too-well the reality of lack of support, awareness, and education for her working peers and professionals when it comes to the hugely complex arena of addictions in rural and remote Australia.

As a country woman, born and bred and raised on the land, she describes herself as a very typical rural woman: including her free-range ‘bush kid’ childhood, boarding school, university, and a career in Australian agriculture.

However her life took a nasty turn when she was a young woman entering adult life. Over a 12-month period, from the age of 18, she was raped and then sexually assaulted four times. As a self-described ‘exceptionally naïve and socially inept’ young woman she said she was utterly overwhelmed, ill-equipped to cope, and fell into the age-old cliché of self-blame, shame, fear, and self-destruction.

It was at this point alcohol entered Shanna’s life. She created what she calls an alter-ego of sorts: a confident, brash, ‘wild’ country girl who loved to party and pretended she was carefree and brave. When in actual fact, the total opposite was true.

‘What I discovered as a young woman in the early 90s was that there was minimum support of any kind for anything at all I’d experienced in an isolated setting. There was no internet or online support networks. But there was plenty of alcohol in the country-party scene—not to mention an ever-ready army of other young rural people who loved to party hard. In a social-media-free era, we were all free to behave like lunatics with no real regard for consequences.

‘What happened to me was that I became a walking, talking cliché. I was a damaged and traumatised young woman who hid behind a veneer to survive.’

Shanna went on to be successful in her career in agriculture and then onto being self-employed as a freelance photographer. She forged ahead despite her ongoing and escalating battle with many personal demons.

But she said her toxic relationship with alcohol, binge-drinking, and denial progressed steadily over the years in the background.

‘What started out as partying hard in my 20s to escape pain, eventually over a 25-year period, became high functioning alcoholism. A battle with infertility in my late 30s sent me spiralling over the edge. And ultimately, it all almost cost me my life.’

In 2018, Shanna is healthy, well, fully recovered and is finally learning to live life properly. She is married to ‘the best bloke in Australia’ as she calls her husband Tim.
She graduated in 2017 as a health coach, and she now uses her life experience and qualifications to speak openly and candidly about her alcoholism and subsequent life of sobriety as to help others break through and seek support.

‘What I realised after a lifetime of fighting, is that I am just one of many, many rural Australians who needed, but could not access decent help.

‘I now understand that rural Australia actually has a big pervasive drinking problem.

‘The alcohol abuse I speak about, write about, and study is rampant in our remote settings.

‘We have a national identity built around the fact that we measure a man by how many beers he can drink on a Friday night. It’s just what we ‘do’ in the country. And it comes with a massive raft of mental and physical health problems that we simply aren’t talking about.

Shanna said she’s basically doing for the booze culture what Jeff Kennett did years ago for mental health.

‘I started a conversation, and it has grown and grown and grown. Because as it turns out, so many people relate to alcohol abuse in their lives. And so many agree it’s time we talked about this.

‘But we have fierce stigmas to overcome and massive boundaries still to cross.

‘Folks tend to think that a problem with alcohol equals being homeless or drinking during the day. The reality is so much more insidious than that in our so-called educated and polished homes. It’s the ‘wine o’clock culture’ for Mums and the ‘beers with the boys’ culture that I am bringing to the table.

‘For example, I have been speaking recently with a young father who has chosen to give up alcohol as it was the cause of endless financial, emotional, relationship, and work problems in his life. He’s the happiest and healthiest he has ever been. He is an absolute legend.

‘And yet despite people being well aware of how close to chaos his life had gone and gossiping behind his back, his work and sporting colleagues still give him a hard time about not drinking.

‘He said that the usual reaction from rural blokes is that they call him soft or hopeless. Rarely will anybody step up and say ‘well done’ or support him in his choice.

‘This is the reality of the culture we have on our hands in many cases, and it’s really not okay.

‘In a rural setting, when somebody has the disease of cancer, we stop everything to rally around and help that person. We need to start addressing the disease of addiction with the same weight and support. Not with condemnation and judgement.

After appearing on national television, national radio, and multiple publications, as well as being invited to speak at events across the state, Shanna’s raw brand of authenticity, humour, and honesty is striking chords.

‘It’s quite a bizarre paradox I am trying to take on here in rural Australia’, she says.
‘In a rural setting, we are totally fine about our mates getting fall-down-drunk on a regular basis, and in fact encourage that behaviour. We have people in their 40s black-out drinking like university students, drink-driving, and progressively destroying their health.

‘And yet, when somebody steps up and admits they’re not okay and need help, we become awkwardly silent about it.

‘As somebody who has experienced the full range of all these difficulties, stigmas, and complexities, I am now sharing it all. And it astonishes me daily how far and wide the conversation is reaching.

‘Softly-softly we are making progress in a very important discussion about our rural relationships with booze, and how we need to be healthier and more aware. It’s happening.’ ■

More information
Facebook: @shannakwhan Instagram: @sober_in_the_country w:

Posted in Depression, Families, Health, inspirational, resilience, rural women, stories, women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Been Laid


Interview with Sarah Sivyer, Just Been Laid
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual

We interview Just Been Laid Founder, Sarah Sivyer who wanted to start something that would be complimentary to her family’s existing beef business and really appeal to people who remember what eggs used to taste like.

Tell me about your childhood?

My father is a fourth generation beef and dairy farmer. His family settled here, at Eccleston, in the 1830s. Mum was Founding Director of Maitland Regional Art Gallery and patron of a crazy number of community groups. This meant that my brother and I spent a lot of time helping out at community events.

I was an absolute nerd who loved maths and chemistry. When I wasn’t studying I was trying to squeeze in as many sports as possible.

One of the best decisions I made was to study chemical engineering and commerce at The University of Sydney. This opened up doors that I never knew existed and it also meant I was able to live at The Women’s College. This is where I met ‘friends for life’, who continue to push me to grow, and it is also where I met Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce. As Principal of the college, she inspired us all to dream big and to know that we could have it all, maybe just not all at once.

What did you want to be when you left school? Has this changed?

In year six I thought that Captain of the Australian Cricket Team or being the Prime Minister looked pretty good! In all seriousness, I was always going to head back to the farm.

Before returning to farming, I spent 12 years working in London, Switzerland, Chicago, Sydney and Bunbury in Western Australia. I worked in roles that took me from helping to develop Syngenta’s global food security strategy for Asia and Africa, to working with Australian farmers as the beef analyst at Rabobank, to learning the skills necessary to implement a culture of continuous improvement while at BHP.

Last year, I founded Just Been Laid (JBL)—an egg subscription business where customers sign up online for super fresh weekly eggs. These eggs, which are always less than 72 hours old from chickens grazing on pasture, are delivered to subscribers at partner café hubs across the Hunter. As a farmer, the subscription model enables a more predictable cash flow as payment is debited from customer accounts each week in advance of delivery. Subscribers have the flexibility to pause or suspend their subscription with customers also being able to choose to donate their eggs at any time to OzHarvest, to ensure those in most need, receive super nutritious food.

What would you say to your 18-year-old self knowing what you know now?

Be open to opportunities. Differentiate yourself and look to continually learn. I’ve taken as many opportunities as possible to learn. A highlight has been receiving a scholarship to study a Masters of Business Administration at Oxford University. The opportunity to surround myself with people from all over the world, studying anything from numismatics (the study of coins!) to international human rights, opened my eyes to the power of diversity of thought.

Who has inspired/supported you?

Recently, I’ve been very grateful for my exposure to other Nuffield scholars. It has been really helpful to spend time with people from industries across all walks of rural life who want to interrogate your business, your ideas and your opinions. People who are respectful but willing to challenge you so that you can better yourself, your business and your industry.

What have your experiences taught you?

I like to surround myself with the most diverse thinkers possible. When talking strategy I speak with everyone—from my mum, to the children of people that might buy my product, to CEOs.

A quote from Sheryl Sandverg, ‘Done is better than perfect’, was (and still is!) a very hard lesson for me to learn. As a small business owner I’m always trying to find a balance between having a premium quality product, logistics processes that create convenience for our customers, and an overall customer experience that makes customers want to recommend our product. Being able to outsource some components to experts,
such as the creative elements, which is not my strength, has helped me to focus on the critical issues and figure out what to let go.

I’ve realised that how you respond at a time of crisis can be the inflexion point in your business. My business’ growth strategy is driven by people advocating for my product rather than formal paid advertising. I hope that others believe in what we are trying to achieve and if people can see that their feedback is used to rectify a mistake or improve a process, then I hope this helps our customers to feel they can trust further in the integrity of our brand.

What’s something about you that people don’t know?

I’m a closet sponge cake maker. My grandmother taught me when I was very young and it was something we did together. Being an egg farmer is great for the habit!

What has been your biggest triumph?

Proving the Just Been Laid subscription concept has been so satisfying. We’ve been able to validate a business model where you really can ‘do good by doing good’. Finding that middle ground, with an absolute premium quality product for our customers, creates a more predictable and reliable cash flow, is great for the environment, and most importantly, it aims for best practice animal welfare.

What does being a rural woman mean to you?

Opportunity! I feel a real energy around living in a rural community at present and I feel like things are lining up to create momentum for regional communities to grow and provide an ecosystem where small businesses can thrive.

Where to next?

I am in the middle of a Nuffield Scholarship, which has been wonderful. Being able to spend time with farmers from across the globe who are looking for best practice in their industry and also looking at other industries to see what can be learned is brilliant. I would highly recommend a Nuffield Scholarship to those looking for some inspiration, or for their next challenge.

Business wise, I can’t wait to figure out what is next. Whatever it is, it will involve continuing to close the gap between farmers and consumers, and at the same time looking to business models that can help farmers secure cash flow in advance of products being delivered as a risk management tool—basically a permanent kickstarter model crossed with an evolution of community supported agriculture.

Posted in agriculture, Families, Innovation, Rural Australia, rural women, RuralWomen, small business, stories, women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My mother’s way

Julie-Knight-colour-lowresby Julie Knight, Kooma Aboriginal woman
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual

For 30 years Aboriginal woman Julie Knight has built a strong rapport among non- Aboriginal and Aboriginal people through her volunteer work within Bourke and the surrounding area.

Julie was instrumental in securing funding for the first night patrol in Bourke, which involved a group of local Aboriginal women, under the name of Naddri Ngalli (meaning ‘My mother’s way’), getting kids off the street and reducing the crime rate by taking them home or to alternative safe houses. She also self-funded cultural camps where she would take disadvantaged kids who had never been out of Bourke to camps in coastal areas of NSW and QLD. As an advocate for women and men in domestic violence situations, Julie facilitated the inclusion of men in the Reclaim the Night program and set up the first campaign against domestic violence in sport in Bourke, which has since spread across Australia.

We asked Julie to tell to tell us more about her journey so far and what being a rural woman means to her?

‘I grew up in little place called Weilmoringle in North West NSW which was a sheep station with a Public School and Post Office/ Shop. The station owner donated a small package of land to the Aboriginal people, which I grew up on. I had the happiest childhood and am so thankful for that land that was donated to our people. I come from a fifth generation of people who lived, owned and worked on sheep properties.
‘My Dad and brothers were all shearers and have done every kind of work required on a sheep station. Growing up we were trained from as young as four years old. It was a lifestyle my family lived. Dad taught us that hard work and having a good attitude would give us a good rapport with employers.

‘I had a great cultural upbringing. As a child, once the farm work was done, I would spend hours with my extended family walking the river and land, looking for native fruit and plants, being connected to community and country. We loved getting the sap from the trees which we called ‘gum’. We were raised on traditional meats such as kangaroo and emu, which we still enjoy today at our family get-togethers.

‘I have lived in Bourke for 38 years and raised six very talented children who love sport and music. When I left school I wanted to be a secretary—that seemed ‘big’ for a young Aboriginal girl at the time.

‘At the age of 17 I joined the workforce taking up a voluntary Youth Worker position assisting the Youth Development Officer at Bourke Shire Council. I then worked in positions with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Widjeri Housing Cooperative, Social Security, Community Services and Nulla Nulla Local Aboriginal Land Council in administration and community service roles. Currently I am the Deputy CEO for Bourke Aboriginal Health Service.

‘I have always been inspired by my family who no matter what obstacles they face, they have always stood courageous and kept going. I have learnt much along this journey, but being caring and assisting others is the balance that keeps me going.

‘In 2000 I trained as an Aboriginal Leader in Hawaii with 54 other Indigenous people from across the world and won a prestigious award for my presentation on Aboriginal people of Australia. This, along with being nominated by my community for the annual Hidden Treasures Honour Roll have been two of my biggest triumphs.

I am a proud Kooma Aboriginal woman who has much to give and to achieve, so the journey will need to stay sweet.

Posted in Aboriginal women, Cattle, Communities, Domestic Violence, education and training, Families, rural women, Volunteering, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farm Table

at010-copy.jpgAirlie Trescowthick, Deniliquin
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

What is your background?
I grew up on a mixed farming property just south of Holbrook in the southern Riverina with my parents and older brother. Holbrook is a highly productive area and I enjoyed the livestock side of the operation the most. It was an idyllic childhood full of beautiful memories—riding horses, paddock BBQs and paddy melon fights, warm Friday nights at the local pool, and making cubby houses around the garden. It brings back beautiful smells and feelings just thinking about it.

I now live with my fiancé on his mixed irrigation and livestock farm north of Deniliquin in the Riverina. I split my time between building and running Farm Table and working in and on the farming business.

What did you want to be when you left school? Has this changed?
The last few years of school and my first year of university coincided with some of the harshest times on farm for my parents (and countless others) during the millennium drought. As a result of this, and my competencies in other areas, I was never encouraged to consider a life on the land.

When I left school, I really had no clue as to what I wanted to do. I was always a generalist and enrolled myself in a double degree at the University of Melbourne.
I have always loved and appreciated my upbringing and life on the land, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I was about 25, after my first three years working in a corporate environment. I knew I wasn’t on the right career path and I felt a draw back to the land— to be a part of the industry that I had grown up in and that I owed so much. I took steps to enter the industry by furthering my formal education in agriculture, working on our family property, and working in different roles within the ag sector.

Who has inspired and supported you and what has been their impact?
My dad is one of my biggest mentors. This was solidified after spending a year working by his side. He is a respected and hardworking farmer who runs an efficient and productive business. We have a relationship defined by mutual respect. His confidence has been a key driver in me feeling capable enough to work fulltime in farming and agribusiness.

Pip Job has also been an ongoing source of inspiration to me over the years. Her technical farming knowledge is so strong and she is a respected producer. But, beyond that, she brings clear vision and a measured approach to the bigger issues plaguing our industry. She has been a source of professional and personal support for me.

What have your experiences taught you?
Studying overseas in North America taught me the importance of family and home. I love the opportunity to get away and experience new things, but the country is where I am happiest and most fulfilled. Leaving full-time employment to develop Farm Table was an incredibly difficult decision. You sometimes feel a bit hopeless because your life is no longer validated by a twice-monthly pay check! It remains a challenge as building a service for farmers that overcomes key information challenges is a certainly a big task, but I’m incredibly passionate about the route I’ve taken and impact I will make.

What’s something about you that people don’t know?
My best friend in the whole world lives in Chicago. Greta is a city girl and I am a country girl, but there is no divide between us. Although we are poles apart with very different interests, we are each other’s greatest support.

What has been your biggest triumph?
To be honest, hopefully my biggest triumph is still ahead of me … Until I finish building Farm Table and provide a useful and time-saving service to Australia producers, I will not feel I have succeeded!

Farm Table - Homepix Photography0661

What would you say to your 18-year-old self knowing what you know now?
Be patient and be kind to yourself—it will all be OK in the end. Work hard, be open to opportunities that come your way, and don’t be scared to change course.

What does being a rural woman mean to you?
Living and working in surrounds that inspire and ground me is the most wonderful thing. I’m so proud to be a rural woman; we are strong, independent, family-oriented, values-driven, and innovative.

Where to next?
I’ve thrown everything into Farm Table with the hope that by the end of 2018 Australian producers can access an extremely useful free tool to assist them in their businesses. I hope this platform will continue to evolve and grow with Australian agriculture, connecting people and disseminating knowledge.

Farming is my ultimate passion and it’s what I want to grow with my partner to create a future for the children we’re yet to have. I’ll be focusing my energy on my partner’s farming business as well as my parents.

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