I rise to speak to and support the motion of the Hon. Clare Scriven. I commend the Hon. Clare Scriven for putting forward this motion, which recognises the role rural women play in their communities. As a member of a regional community myself, I know the effort and sacrifice that goes into their contributions. I am proud to be here today to speak to this motion, which celebrates these women on their merits in an indispensable sector of the South Australian economy and community.
Agribusiness generates an estimated $15 billion in economic activity. What is often overlooked is the role women have as business people, their trials and successes, which generate growth and keep our regions alive. They provide security and jobs in no different way than rural men. Recognising the International Day of Rural Women acts not just to encourage more of their success through public awareness, it also encourages young girls and women about to enter the workforce to consider a career outside the city office in one of the strongest and most rewarding industries in this state.
I speak to all women out there when I say that gender is no barrier to a rich and engaging life in agriculture, where you can work and live on the land that sustains our communities. The Marshall Liberal government realises the importance of this, and is committed to promoting the contributions and achievements of rural and regional women in South Australia. The government is currently developing a new Women’s Leadership and Economic Security Framework to encourage and support the advancement of women in South Australia.
This includes all women, as we recognise the value of our state’s growth sectors, including food, wine, agribusiness, energy, mining and tourism. This framework will outline the road map for the South Australian government to partner with the private sector to achieve the best outcomes for our state and to ensure that South Australian women are supported to thrive.
Women comprise 41 per cent of the agricultural workforce but only 18 per cent of management roles and 2.3 per cent of CEO positions. There are vast amounts of opportunities for women farmers. Visible Farmers, a unique campaign supported by the federal Coalition government and the National Farmers Federation, is helping to change perceptions and inspire new generations of women to help shape the future of Australia’s sustainable food production. Their goals include:
building a positive profile of women in agriculture by highlighting their contributions and achievements;
empowering women to find their voice and helping them to connect and engage with each other; and
inspiring and encouraging women to enter the rural workforce and help narrow the gender gap in Australian agriculture.
The National Farmers Federation itself is also doing its part to change the statistics around women in leadership roles. Its program Diversity in Agricultural Leadership is in its third year and mentors aspiring female leaders in agriculture. These initiatives are ensuring that our thriving and enduring women out there are able to tell their stories, and their stories are proof that hardiness and grit are in no short supply in our regions.
It is not just farming where women excel. Tourism, fisheries and natural resources are all areas populated with talented women. Outside of primary producers, women also occupy the jobs that are crucial to the continued functioning and wellbeing of towns and communities across rural Australia. They are more than competitive across the board in STEM, business and health. Whether it is vital service jobs or providing critical health care in remote areas, the expertise they hold is in critical demand where supply and access can mean life or death.
The participants in the annual Rural Women’s Award are an example of the breadth of expertise and diversity of skills applied by women in the rural context. Jointly supported by state and federal government departments, it is open to all women over the age of 18 who are involved in rural and regional communities, businesses and industries. For 20 years, projects in varied fields such as psychology, commerce, tourism, health and sustainability have competed for a grant of $10,000 at state and national levels.
A similar grant prize is awarded by the South Australian Research and Development Institute. The Science Bursary for Women is targeted towards female university graduates undertaking further studies in agriculture, fisheries, natural resources management or forestry science. This award was established under a Liberal government in 1994 to celebrate the centenary of suffrage in our state.
It supports a long tradition of freethinking and innovative women in our community, innovative women such as Caroline Schaefer, a fellow South Australian Liberal member of the Legislative Council from 1993 until 2010 and a strong advocate for rural South Australia. From a farming background and having grown up on Eyre Peninsula, Caroline was a farmer for 30 years before becoming the state’s first female Minister for Primary Industries. To this day, she continues her lifelong passion of being an advocate for our regions, having tackled the full range of issues these communities face. To quote Caroline:
I have encouraged rural women to take their places in public life. My message has been ‘If I can do this so can you’. One of my basic beliefs is that we must strive to leave our space in the world a better place for us having been there.
It is women like Caroline that we celebrate, not only on occasions such as International Day of Rural Women but on every single day for their outstanding contributions to our communities. Looking forward, I see great opportunity for our rural and regional areas. We have the talent and the networks, but it is up to us to continue to cultivate and promote the success of these women. It is our loss should we not help bring the best out of our communities.
International Day of Rural Women is a reminder that, when it is said that man has mastered his environment, this means women too, in the feeding and clothing of Australia and the rest of the world through exports to working a sunburnt country into fertile land and the provision of crafted products of a premium that is uniquely South Australia. For all that our regions do for us there is always more we can do for them. Acknowledging this day in the council is a way to rally behind the practicality and resourcefulness of rural South Australian women and cheer on their victories.
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