Rural Women's Award

Rural Women's Award

Award Overview

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s pre-eminent Award for rural women. The Award identifies and supports emerging women leaders who have the desire, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities.

The Award acknowledges women's leadership capacity in effecting change and influence through connecting and collaborating, and creates opportunities for women to drive innovation and build resilience. The Award also encourages primary industries and their communities to embrace diversity in leadership to successfully navigate future challenges.

The Award supports women both financially and professionally. Each state and territory winner will receive a $10,000 financial bursary to implement their Award vision. Each winner also has the opportunity to participate in the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Company Directors Course and will be supported to develop an individual integrated leadership plan.

The Award is an amazing opportunity to further your leadership development, make a tangible difference and inspire others. The Award also links recipients with a positive and powerful alumni network of like-minded women across the country who are passionate about primary industries and rural Australia.

Who can enter?

The Award is open to all women involved in primary industries and/or rural Australia. No formal qualifications are required. Potential applicants can express their interest through the Expression of Interest process and gain access to mentors and feedback whilst undertaking their applications. 

The application process alone provides a leadership development opportunity for applicants to focus their passion

 What is the bursary?

The $10,000 bursary is awarded to each state and territory winner and provides the resources to bring to life a project or initiative that will benefit rural industries and communities. The project or initiative may contribute to key Award areas including:

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Community sustainability
  • Education
  • Productivity
  • Agribusiness
  • Regional development

The bursary can be used for formal training in leadership and business management; overseas study tours; establishing business plans or pilot programs; developing educational or promotional campaigns; networking at forums and conferences to grow your knowledge of industries and markets; developing training programs; testing information technology initiatives and publishing books.

The bursary cannot be used for buying capital equipment (without the explicit approval from RIRDC) or further tertiary education such as a Diploma, Masters or Doctorate degree

Expression of Interest

The Expression of Interest process aims to assist applicants by providing guidance and advice around the award program and development of an applicants award vision or project. It is highly recommended that all applicants engage in this process. Applicants are encouraged to contact your state coordinator who will guide you through the application process and provide feedback on your project idea.

How do I enter or nominate someone?

To express an interest in applying or to nominate an applicant call 02 6923 6917 or email Contact can also be made with the relevant state or territory Award coordinator.

Applicants will also need to complete the official entry form, addressing each of the selection criteria and include the name and details of two referees.

Referees will only be contacted if your application makes it to the final round. Email or post your entry to your state or territory contact.

What is the process and schedule?

Nominations for the Rural Women's Award open on 1 August and close on 11 November 2016.

Applicants will then be short-listed and interviewed in each state and territory. State and territory winners will be announced at formal state presentation events to be held in February to April 2017.

All state and territory winners will be invited to participate in leadership development opportunities, such as the AICD Company Directors Course.

State and territory winners will proceed to selection of the National RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winner and runner-up, to be held around September.

The National RIRDC Rural Women's Award Celebratory Dinner to announce the National winner and runner-up will be held in Canberra at a date to be confirmed. 

Your responsibilities to RIRDC

State and Territory Award winners will be required to sign an agreement with RIRDC and at the conclusion of their Award tenure will submit a report on their Award activities and achievements, including information on how the bursary was used. RIRDC will seek reimbursement of the bursary if the report is not submitted.

State and territory RIRDC Rural Women’s Award winners can expect to be interviewed by the media and where practical attend and speak at relevant public functions.

The National winner will be given an additional $10,000, and the National runner-up will be given an additional $5,000 bursary to assist in meeting national commitments such as speaking engagements. RIRDC and relevant state/territory agencies reserve ‘non exclusive’ rights to publish any material generated from successful applicants’ involvement in the Award.

How to Enter


The first thing you need to do is set aside some time to read the application form through thoroughly.

You must be involved in some way in primary industries and/or your rural community, whether you work in broad-acre farming or intensive livestock, cropping, horticulture, fisheries, forestry, natural resource management or related service industries.

If you don’t think you meet all the criteria and are in any doubt contact your relevant state Award coordinator or the national Award coordinator (under Contacts on this page).


Ask how you would use the Award and the Bursary to make a difference.

The main objective of the Award is to help you improve your business and leadership skills so you can operate at a higher level in steering the future of your industry, primary industries and in turn rural Australia.

The Award's main objective is to support women with either demonstrated or potential leadership capacities, who have the desire and commitment to make a greater contribution to their industries and communities.

The $10,000 Bursary is the major prize for each State and Territory winner to provide resources to develop your vision into a project or initiative that will support your professional development and will benefit primary industries and rural Australia.

The Bursary can be used in all sorts of ways, as long as you show how it will build a greater capacity within you and how it in turn will benefit primary industries and rural Australia.

Take time to define what you want to do with the Bursary and how you would go about it. Here are a few ideas of how past Award recipients have put the Bursary to use to get you thinking:

  • Build your leadership, business and management skills
  • Undertake an overseas study tour to grow your knowledge of innovations and markets
  • Attend conferences to grow your knowledge and networks with industry
  • Run workshops or a speaking tour in an area where you see a need and have expertise
  • Develop new value adding opportunities and markets for products
  • Write a book, a publication or an educational campaign
  • Develop new information technology of specific benefit to primary industries and its people

The Bursary cannot be used for further education such as a Masters or Doctorate degree or for buying capital equipment.

Step 3

Writing your application

Once you have read the application form thoroughly and are confident that you are eligible to enter the next step is writing up your application.

Contact your relevant state Award coordinator or the national Award coordinator (under Contacts on this page) to get in touch with past and current Award recipients.

Tip: Remember be specific and keep it simple. Limit yourself to what you know can be achieved in the 12 month time frame.


Application Form

Applications for the 2017 RIRDC Rural Women's Award are now closed.

Keep an eye on the website for details regarding the 2018 RIRDC Rural Women's Award.


The Rural Industries R&D Corporation is thankful for the support of the following Award partners:


Logo WESTPAC Agribusiness


Department of Agriculture


NT Govt logo
Logo NT Farmers
Logo - Tasmanian Government
Logo QLD Government
Logo Victorian Gov
Logo WA Gov


Logo Fairfax Agricultural Media
Logo ABC Radio
Logo RM Williams Outback


Each state and territory has its own Award coordinator.

New South Wales & ACT
Allison Priest
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Locked Bag 21, Orange NSW 2800
Phone: 02 6391 3620

Northern Territory
Debbie van der Rijt
Building 007, Charles Sturt University
Boorooma St, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650
Phone: 02 6923 6917 

South Australia
Emily Mellor
Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA)
Government of South Australia
GPO Box 1671, Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: 08 8429 0360

Western Australia
Gillian Booth
Department of Regional Development
Level 12, 140 William Street, Perth WA 6000
Phone: 08 6552 1913




Rebecca Williams
Agricultural Policy Group
Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE)
PO Box 44, Hobart Tasmania 7001
Phone: 03 6165 3070

Tracey Butcher
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
255 Ferguson Rd, Tatura, Victoria 3616
Phone: 03 8392 7119  

Karyn Manktelow
Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
GPO Box 46, Brisbane Queensland 4001
Phone: 07 3225 2770


National Award contact
Debbie van der Rijt
Building 007, Charles Sturt University
Boorooma St, Wagga Wagga NSW 2650
Phone: 02 6923 6917 

Related Links

  • Follow Rural Women's Award on Twitter
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  • Watch Rural Women's Award videos on YouTube
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Current Winners

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Current Winners

Sophie Hansen NSW

2016 National and New South Wales winner - Sophie Hansen

Sophie Hansen moved to Orange ten years ago where she lives and manages a holistic deer farm with her husband Tim and their two children. She studied print journalism at the University of Canberra then followed a career in feature writing for food and lifestyle magazines both in Australia and Italy.

With over 15 years’ experience in journalism and food writing, Sophie’s work focusses principally on primary industries and producers. She has authored and photographed a book of recipes and stories and for the past four years has written and photographed for her popular blog of the same name; Local is Lovely. In addition to this, she runs food photography and styling workshops and a series of events on her farm including farm kitchen lunches, tours and cooking demonstrations.

As someone whose primary income depends on agriculture Sophie understands how the success of any business hinges on a positive marketing and media profile. Empowering people to use social media platforms successfully opens up new opportunities and provides long term benefits to farming businesses and rural communities.

Sophie’s award ambition is to provide communities the skills they need to take advantage of social media channels to tell their stories, connect with peers and new customers and invite the world into their kitchens and onto their farms. She wants to share her experiences and skills in using social media to promote agribusiness and encourage more rural women to become active and collaborative members of online and actual food communities.

Sophie will use her $10,000 to develop an innovative online learning course called ‘My Open Kitchen’. My open kitchen is designed to assist anyone involved in primary industries to use social media channels to build 'social capital' which in turn will deliver transparency, engagement, trust and ultimately financial returns for primary producers.

Sophie believes that the flow-on benefits to primary industries are broad and range from improved sustainability of regional agribusinesses to increase vibrancy of smaller rural communities and build stronger consumer awareness and engagement in primary industries across the country.

Martina Matzner

2016 Northern Territory winner - Martina Matzner

Martina’s ability to see the opportunities that working in horticulture could provide and the need for a female perspective in a male oriented environment has resulted in a career in mango farming spanning 20 years. She began working at Acacia Hills Mango Farm as an Integrated Pest Management Consultant in 1996 and has since worked to become Farm Manager in charge of 50,000 trees and up to 130 staff.

Martina has been at the forefront of technological advances for the mango industry, working with the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and the University of Central Queensland to implement innovations such as water telemetry with soil moisture probes and near infrared technology. Under her management, Acacia Hills has pioneered technology such as heat sums for crop forecasting and the introduction of mechanical hedging to the NT.

Martina’s passion for agriculture has resulted in her appointment as the Director of the NT Farmers’ Board, while her interest in the community has led to her involvement in the ‘NT Sentenced to a Job’ program aiding low security prisoners to return to society.

Martina’s project aims to make a career in food production a more attractive proposition for young people. She has seen first-hand how rewarding a life in the food production industry can be, and yet throughout her own career, she has identified a significant decline in young people choosing to work in agriculture/horticulture.

Martina will use the $10,000 to take her passion for the industry and share it with students to engage young people in the idea of a career food production and combat the perception that occupations within this field are not valued by society.

To do this, she will liaise with Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Schools in the Northern Territory to discuss mango production and organise visits to the Acacia Hills Mango Farm to view modern day horticultural practices. She also intends to work with the Charles Darwin Horticulture Faculty to develop a unit on Efficient Management of Water Resources in a modern Mango Farm with onsite visits by students to give them experience in industry.

Emma Robinson

2016 Queensland winner - Emma Robinson

Emma Robinson has an immense passion for the beef industry, owning and operating three grazing properties in North and Central Queensland with her husband. Emma plays an active role in all aspects of their business and prides herself on being innovative in her practices and an advocate for family agriculture. While Emma has completed a Master of Science in Strategic Thinking and previously held extension and policy roles within the former Department of Primary Industries, it is in family farming that her true passion lies. 

It is this passion which has seen Emma take up various advocacy roles to promote the industry and respond to agricultural challenges and opportunities. These roles have included Director of the Beef CRC for Genetic Technologies; Director of the AgForce Cattle Board and Chair of the AgForce Charters Towers Branch. Emma is also an active member of her local community, working with organisations including her local school of Distance Education the local branch of isolated children and parents.

In addition to this, Emma has undertaken a number of consulting and research projects and in 2015 completed a Winston Churchill Trust Fellowship into beef supply chain innovation.  The Fellowship, which included travel to the UK, USA and Canada, highlighted the value of producer co-operatives and their potential to help family producers achieve greater scale, and efficiency.

Emma’s vision is to champion producer co-operatives as an alternate business model, building on the research of her Fellowship. She believes that producer co-operatives can enable family beef enterprises to leverage opportunities of increased scale, efficiency and market influence necessary for long term prosperity. Emma aims to raise the profile of producer co-operatives by sharing information, building new knowledge and developing a critical mass of producers who are interested in co-operative business models.

Emma will use the $10,000 bursary to consult and network with co-operative experts; develop a social media platform to profile producer co-operatives and share resources; and facilitate a producer forum to educate people on the benefits co-operation can have for family farming.

Robbie Davis

2016 South Australia winner - Robbie Davis

As the CEO of Potatoes South Australia and a successful beef cattle producer, Meningie farmer and businesswoman Robbie Davis has a lot on her plate. Robbie has had a diverse career spanning continents, having previously lived and worked in agribusiness in southeast Asia. Through this experience she gained invaluable insights into global markets, before establishing her own agribusiness consultancy. Robbie is an active member of the Australian agricultural sector, having been involved in a number of industry committees and boards as both a Director and CEO.

Robbie is passionate about improving Australia’s reputation for premium agricultural produce within the international market. In particular, Robbie’s dream is to reduce the amount of food waste generated from the horticulture supply chain. Millions of dollars are lost each year through agricultural food waste from the supply chain in Australia, with horticulture contributing approximately half of the waste. Her position within the potato industry has illuminated this issue, and Robbie is now determined to do what she can to help reduce it.

Robbie will use her $10,000 bursary to investigate how the South Australian potato industry and wider horticulture sector can increase productivity through the reduction of food waste and loss in the supply chain. She intends to examine the technologies that are being used internationally to reduce losses that occur during food production, and determine which of these technologies could be introduced in Australia.

Robbie believes that identifying key areas from which food is lost and making a targeted effort to lessen waste from these areas is the simplest way to increase productivity from the horticulture sector.

Rebecca Duffy

2016 Tasmania winner - Rebecca Duffy

Rebecca was born and raised on a sheep and cattle property on King Island, Tasmania.  When she was in grade nine, her father planted a small block of vines on the farm, and like the vines, Rebecca’s interest in a career in wine making took root.

Rebecca pursued her passion to mainland Australia, where she worked in the wine industry for eight years, before returning to Tasmania in 2006 to run Holm Oak Vineyards. At the time of her arrival, the vineyard was six hectares in size, had no functional winery and a tiny cellar door. Over the past nine years, Rebecca’s management has seen her purchase and plant an extra eight hectares of vines and grow production from 1500 cases of wine per year to 12,000.  A winery has been built, a bottling line installed and the cellar door expanded.

Rebecca’s involvement in the wine industry is not confined to her own business. She is also a director of Wine Tasmania, the secretary of the Tamar Valley Wine Route group and through her support and guidance she acts as a mentor for newcomers hoping to establish a solid business within the industry.

It is Rebecca’s passion for promoting the industry as a whole that has inspired her project. Rebecca aims to do a national and international cellar door study tour with the aim of creating a new, exciting and dynamic experience for customers that offers more than just a tasting.

Rebecca intends to use her $10,000 to visit cellar doors and wineries in the Napa Valley in the USA and Cape Town in South Africa as these two regions are regarded as the most successful wine tourism regions in the world.  She will also consult with Australian wineries that have implemented innovative ideas at their cellar doors, to gauge an idea of what they have found to be successful or unsuccessful.

Upon her return, Rebecca intends to share her knowledge with other wineries in the region and recommend opportunities for other cellar doors in the Tamar Valley to create one of the best wine tourism routes in the world.  She will also present her findings from the study tour at a Wine Tasmania event in order to share her experiences with the entire Tasmanian wine industry.


Jessica Lye

2016 Victoria winner - Dr Jessica Lye

Jessica is the national manager of scientific affairs at AUSVEG, an industry representative body for vegetable and potato growers. Prior to this, Jessica’s career focussed mainly on academia, having previously held positions as a teaching associate and researcher at Monash University. While she was born and bred in the city, Jessica’s management of the AUSVEG Vegetable and Biosecurity program has sparked a passion for agriculture which has taken her to rural areas all across the country.

Jessica’s work has made her acutely aware of the changing landscape of biosecurity, which became evident throughout 2014 and 2015 when there was a bombardment of pest incursions across the industry, highlighting the insufficient resources available to deal with them. Through her work Jessica has seen firsthand how communities and industries respond to biosecurity threats and she is keen to help provide the information needed to understand and prepare for threats, and provide practical ways to prevent pests, diseases and weeds entering farms in the first place.

Jessica has subsequently become increasingly involved in raising awareness of best practice for pest, weed and disease management throughout all levels of the agricultural sector. An advocate for biosecurity and a passionate science communicator, she has visited numerous farms, spoken at many grower and stakeholder seminars and is continuously writing articles, releasing e-bulletins and participating in radio interviews to inform producers about biosecurity risks within the vegetable and potato industries.

Jessica’s proposed project focuses on enhancing biosecurity preparedness for the vegetable and potato industries. To this end, she will use her $10,000 on an overseas study tour to visit research institutions and growing operations to gain information on key high priority pests and emerging pest threats. The tour will focus on New Zealand, the United States and South America to gain knowledge about pest management, eradication strategies and biosecurity practices used in other countries. The learnings from the tour will be communicated back to industry.

Jessica believes that the core component of preparedness is through facilitating transfer of knowledge about exotic plant pests and overseas farm biosecurity practices to Australian growers, particularly non-English speaking growers. Through sharing the knowledge she gains from her tour, Jessica hopes to encourage biosecurity champions and networks throughout the vegetable and potato communities that exist throughout rural Australia.


Kalyn Fletcher

2016 National Runner-up and Western Australia winner - Kalyn Fletcher

Kalyn is from Kununurra, East Kimberley. She grew up on her family farm in the Ord Irrigation Area and upon completing a Bachelor in Agriculture Science and a Bachelor in Agribusiness, worked for AWB Ltd in Goondiwindi Queensland. She then returned to Kununurra with her husband and for the past 10 years has raised their three young boys and managed the family businesses RB Dessert Seed Co and The Hoochery Distillery.

Kalyn’s business RB Dessert Seed Co. is focused on wholesale seed production for crops such as hybrid sorghum, hybrid maize, herbs and vegetables. The company supplies seed to growers across the Ord Irrigation Area and the wider Kimberley Region. Kalyn’s other family venture, the Hoochery  Distillery, prides itself on its commitment to using local products where possible, and has produced international award winning rum and liqueurs. Kalyn’s management has seen both of these businesses grow and prosper.

Kalyn works closely with industry on new crop development, producing seed and conducting research trials for many emerging crop species. In addition to this, she has implemented a sorghum breeding program which focuses on the production of forage sorghum varieties suited to tropical conditions. Kalyn’s passion for promoting the industry has resulted in her establishing an agricultural tours operation to promote the Ord Irrigation Area and industry to visitors to the region.

Kalyn’s experiences living and working in Northern Australia have given her first hand insight into the unique challenges and opportunities that arise from conducting agribusiness in tropical regions. Kalyn sees Northern Australia’s plentiful undeveloped land, available water, sunny blue skies and proximity to emerging markets as an amazing opportunity for tropical agriculture. As climatic conditions change and Australia looks to shift more of its agricultural production to areas with more abundant and secure water, Kalyn believes that tropical regions will play an ever increasing role in Australia’s agricultural success.

Kalyn’s proposed project is called “Tropical Agriculture – Learn, Promote, Support”. She will use her $10,000 to conduct a study tour of the Cerrado Region of Brazil to learn from a successful tropical agriculture industry. The knowledge and insights she gains from her tour will be shared with stakeholders in her region to help promote and support the growth and success of tropical agriculture within Australia.

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