Rural women head to Canberra to get the facts from politicians 16 Nov 2011

Not satisfied with witnessing the political process from afar through radio, TV and newspapers a group of 30 rural women decided to learn first-hand about what makes politicians and government decision makers tick and converged in Canberra last week to do just that.

The ‘Women Affecting Change’ delegation, which included women from the Barkly Tablelands in the Northern Territory to Devonport in Tasmania, was an initiative of Barb Grey, Australian runner up and Queensland winner of the 2011 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award.

The women’s visit to Canberra involved a series of workshops on understanding the workings of parliament, government decision making, building relationships and effective communication.

The delegation also met with the Hon Dr Mike Kelly AM MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, other parliamentarians, senior advisors and chiefs of staff, and attended a luncheon at Parliament House hosted by Senator Claire Moore and Senator Sue Boyce to celebrate International Rural Women’s Day.

“The delegation exceeded all my expectations, due largely to the exceptional calibre of our 30 rural and regional women leaders and the generous support and commitment of so many parliamentarians and government and industry leaders,” Barb Grey said.

“Support and assistance to effect the ‘Women Affecting Change’ delegation came from so many quarters, not least being the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and the $10,000 bursary provided through the Award.

“Our delegation of rural women has now returned home significantly better informed about government decision making and the political process, having built new and positive relationships with Members of Parliament and government - contacts that will help support a better understanding of the issues confronting rural industries and regional communities.”

Barb Grey is an irrigated cotton grower from Mungindi and Vice Chair of the Mungindi Cotton Growers Association. Her RIRDC Rural Women’s Award ambition was to implement a pilot education program to empower aspiring rural and regional women leaders, through building a strong understanding of the political process and government decision making, to enable a stronger and more effective voice for rural industries and regional communities. Barb’s ambition is to see the ‘Women Affecting Change’ delegation become an ongoing educational initiative and an annual event on the federal parliamentary calendar.

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s pre-eminent award for rural women. The Award supports women with demonstrated leadership capabilities who have the desire and commitment to make an even greater contribution to their industries and communities. State and Territory winners will receive a $10,000 financial bursary to implement their Award vision and State and Territory winners and runners up will have the opportunity to undertake the Australian Institute of Company Directors Company Directors Course and be supported with 12 months of facilitated individual strategic leadership support.