Sarah Powell, a South Australian mixed farmer, community leader and advocate for rural women and youth is the national winner of the 2015 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award.
The announcement was made by the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce in front of more than 250 industry leaders, politicians and past winners at a gala dinner at Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday evening.
Carol Bracken, a hazelnut grower from Glengarry in Tasmania was named national runner-up.
Sarah received $10,000 as part of the South Australian state Award earlier this year which will support her to develop the ‘Champions Academy’ pilot program, which will foster personal development through sport and mentoring, and teach aspiring leaders how to lead by example, act with integrity, think selflessly and demonstrate commitment. As the national winner, Sarah will receive a further $10,000 to enable her to develop her leadership skills and participate in speaking engagements.
Following a move from Cairns back to her roots on the Eyre Peninsular in South Australia, Sarah rediscovered her passion for regional communities. Shortly after arriving she established new relationships through social groups, including local sporting clubs. Seeing first-hand the decline of her local area, Sarah saw the potential of local sporting clubs as a mechanism to build future leaders, which she believes is core to keeping rural towns and regions alive.
Sarah’s Award bursary will go towards establishing leadership skills within her rural community, particularly in young people and women. It is hoped that building the leadership capability and participation of these groups will result in vibrant and sustainable regions and help rural communities own their future.
The bursary will also be used to develop a community leadership succession plan to continue to build strength and resilience in the local Wharminda community. Sarah hopes this project will become a model that can be replicated around Australia, ultimately delivering resilient agricultural regions and empowering small communities to ‘have a go’.
National runner-up, Carol Bracken is actively involved in the hazelnut industry and is a member of the peak industry body, Hazelnut Growers of Australia. Carol is a leader in her community, having been a councillor on the West Tamar Council since 2011, and is strongly supportive of women, being a member of Tasmanian Women in Agriculture and the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (Tasmania).
RIRDC Managing Director, Craig Burns congratulated Sarah on winning the Award and said her commitment to local rural communities and her desire to build the skills of women and young people in particular is an example of community leadership at its best.
“Sarah’s vision for the ‘Champion’s academy’ is based on grassroots community participation and the unique bond those living in rural communities have,” Mr Burns said.
“Sarah’s passion for rural communities is clear and her practical efforts to address the issues facing her local community are inspiring. Local towns and communities are at the heart of our primary industries, and to have people in rural Australia realise their potential and use the skills they have to improve and build their towns and regions is worthy of recognition.
“All of this year’s state winners are of the highest calibre and they will continue to lead and drive change in their respective communities and industries.”
The Award’s Platinum Sponsor, Westpac Agribusiness also congratulated Sarah on taking out the national Award.
“Westpac Agribusiness congratulates Sarah for the tremendous work she has done to support her local community and we are excited to follow her journey over the next twelve months and beyond,” said Susan Bower, Westpac’s Head of Agribusiness.
“Westpac Agribusiness is proud to support the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award. The recognition it brings is important, as women play a vital and pivotal role across business, industry and communities. They bring a diversity of thought and skills – and a drive for innovation and change.
“We congratulate all the state finalists on their achievements – the Award plays an extremely important role in identifying, supporting and enabling emerging female leaders.”
As the pre-eminent award for rural women in Australia, the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award identifies and supports emerging leaders who have the capability and resources to drive innovation, productivity and sustainability within primary industries and rural communities.
Applications for the 2016 Rural Women’s Award are now open. Rural women are encouraged to enter themselves or to nominate someone with a commitment and desire to making a real difference to their industry and community. Applications close on Friday 30 October 2015. Application forms can be downloaded from www.rirdc.gov.au/rural-women’s-award