Cara Peek has been announced as the 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women's Award recipient. 
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The Broome-based lawyer and advocate was awarded for her work in driving employment opportunities for First Nations people in remote Australia through the organisation Saltwater Country.

Saltwater Country is an Indigenous-led not-for-profit that uses rodeo sports and country music events to re-engage at-risk Indigenous youth with their pastoral history.

“We want to roll out clinics and workshops across the Top End and then hopefully across the nation,” Ms Peek said.

“We are also aspiring to have a junior rodeo and bespoke camp draft experience.

“I believe women in remote and regional communities are highly valuable yet consistently underrated,” Ms Peek said when accepting the award.

“Yet it is the power of this award that will help change that narrative. We are our greatest strength and collectively we are unstoppable.”

Cressida Cains named runner-up

Cressida Cains sits on a log.
Artisan sheep cheese producer Cressida Cains, from Robertson in the NSW Southern Highlands.(Supplied: AgriFutures)

The runner-up is artisan sheep cheese producer Cressida Cains, from Robertson in the Southern Highlands, who has launched not-for-profit digital support hub Dairy Cocoon, which aims to help fellow small dairy farmers to develop, brand and sell their own products.

The platform aims to help fellow small dairy farmers develop, brand and sell their own products.

Ms Cains grew up in the Southern Highlands which was once a thriving dairy district.

“Increasingly small dairy farmers were leaving the industry, people I knew were shutting their gates and walking away from their farm,” Ms Cains said.

“I wondered if there was a way that I was able to help small dairy farmers, perhaps give them some motivation and tools, for those interested in transforming up the value chain and value-adding.”

Ms Cains said she aimed to give farmers the tools to transform their operations to be “price setters” rather than “price takers” in the industry.

She also runs award-winning Pecora Dairy with her partner Michael. They were the first in the country to be licenced to make raw milk cheese.

Long wait for 2020 national finalists

The virtual ceremony was live-streamed from Wagga Wagga on Wednesday, with Agricultural Minister David Littleproud presenting the awards.

More than 500 people tuned in to the event, which is usually held at a gala dinner in Canberra.

It had been a long wait for the seven 2020 state and territory finalists vying for the national title, with the awards ceremony postponed last year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The state and territory winners received a bursary last year to develop a project that will hopefully benefit rural industries and communities.

The awards program has been run by research and industry organisation AgriFutures Australia for more than two decades.

Joining a 300-strong award alumni

AgriFutures general manager Belinda Allitt said the award finalists had joined an alumni of more than 300 women.

“It’s a very established, long-standing award that really celebrates and acknowledges the role women play in coming up with programs and ideas that ultimately benefit rural and regional Australia,” Ms Allitt said.

“It has been a longer journey than usual for our current state and territory winners due to the last couple of years but … we’ve finally been able to announce our national winner and runner up.”

The 2019 Rural Woman was Wagga Wagga’s Jo Palmer who founded the online platform, Pointer Remote, connecting people to remote working opportunities.

The other finalists were:

Elisha Parker: QLD

woman smiling and in a field
Elisha Parker is the co-founder of the marketing and advertising website, Cattlesales.com.au.(Supplied: AgriFutures)

Elisha Parker is the co-founder of the marketing and advertising website, Cattlesales.com.au.

The website makes it possible to list cattle for sale via any sale point and incorporates smart searching tools to improve the searching process.

Amy Kirke: NT

Amy Kirke with her arms folded.
Marine biologist Amy Kirke of the Northern Territory.(Supplied: AgriFutures)

Marine biologist Amy Kirke is working to encourage women and girls around Australia to seek careers in Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM), particularly in remote communities in the Northern Territory.

She has created a program to bring sustainable fisheries and science education to schools in these communities.

Karen Brock: TAS

woman smiling while leaning over a row of flowering plants
Plant tissue specialist Karen Brooks, of Tasmania.(Supplied: AgriFutures)

Plant tissue specialist Karen Brock produces more than a million genetically improved plants every year from her home in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.

Her project is focused on her work to reduce plant input costs as well as producing disease-resistant and climate tolerant plants, and crops that produce higher yields per hectare.

Kelly Barnes: VIC

woman squatting in red dirt parting a working dog
Dunkeld woman Kelly Barnes, Victoria’s finalist.(Supplied: AgriFutures)

Dunkeld woman Kelly Barnes has started a working dog training school to help combat isolation and mental health issues in rural areas.

She is educating farmers on how to handle, manage and bond with their dogs, to help to reduce the stress, in much the same way as therapy dogs and assistance dogs.

Stephanie Schmidt: SA

woman with long hair smiling and standing with a open landscape behinf
Clinical psychologist and farmer, Stephanie Schmidt from Worlds End.( Supplied: AgriFutures)

Clinical psychologist and farmer Stephanie Schmidt, from Worlds End, is the founder of Act For Ag, an online toolkit offering practical strength and resilience training for farmers, businesses and families.

B.C. dairy farmers are working against time to get milk to processors to meet market demand following the catastrophic flooding that washed out portions of the highway to the coast.

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