I am saluting the women profiled in this article because I grew up in a regional town in mid-west Australia and have never forgotten the grit, determination and resilience of the women who just made things happen in our town. I am acutely aware that women in regional, rural and remote communities are often facing barriers that women in more urban environments do not, and that this situation has been exacerbated by the global pandemic.
So, I am pleased to share the stories of Ten Terrific Advancing Women Heroes who are quite literally powering their local economies in regional, rural and remote Australia.
This article was originally published by Femeconomy
Overlay the COVID-19 pandemic to the drought, bushfires and floods of the last two years, and you begin to appreciate the extraordinary challenges faced and overcome by Rural Business Women, who are the bedrock of their communities and families wellbeing. Supporting rural women in business directly impacts economic security, women’s workforce participation, economic and social outcomes.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation research found, “businesses run by women in rural and regional areas have a significant local economic impact on employment and incomes, and add to the breadth of a region’s business mix. The income derived by regional businesswomen across Australia is in the order of $1.2 billion per annum. Regions with many women active in their own business appear to have a broader base to their economy and are likely to be more resilient as a result. This resilience can only improve the capacity of a community to deal with changing situations—droughts, natural disasters and economic downturns—and stimulate a greater flow of cash through the business sector.”
Rural businesswomen living and operating their businesses from drought-affected, very remote Queensland shared with us their experience. Many of these women are multi-skilled, and undertaking a “quadruple shift”. On top of running usually multiple growing and successful businesses, they are managing child care, family life, assisting on family farms and performing unpaid community leadership roles.
Any small town is powered by volunteer committees and the women who spend years on them. Over the past 5 years, a great deal has been achieved by committees in town, and I have been lucky enough to be a part of the change. Volunteer determination has delivered The Quilpie Sport and Recreation facility, a modern fully equipped gym with a virtual fitness wall.
It also resulted in a change of management for the local daycare centre Mulga Mates, which now boasts a qualified Kindergarten teacher. The gym and Mulga Mates have both increased skilled employment opportunities locally and provided a pathway for women in the community to upskill.
Rural people need an opportunity to come together, but most importantly they need to be in a safe environment that will allow them to engage in conversation and learn a few simple tools to help combat and deal with depression, for themselves and the people that they look after.
We run workshops that are set up in a particular way, and we always talk about rural mental health at the start of the workshop. We try to have a counsellor in the workshops wherever possible, so people get to put a name to a face. It also gives the counsellor the opportunity to network with people in the community. They can then do follow-ups after the event to have the second conversion with someone who we may have recognised in the workshop might need some extra time and care.
The people of the Outback are often very direct but have a nature that considers other people’s immediate needs, and their personal priorities are dropped if another person needs vital assistance. They are often prepared to give the most important gift – their time. Due to the hardships we all face in the Outback’s harsh environment and cycle, there is an unwritten understanding that someone not from the area may appreciate a helping hand or perhaps a kind introduction to local social events and groups. I believe these qualities are what make people in the Outback great ambassadors for tourism.
Food and animals combine to bring Corella closer to an ideal place to relax and find fun or inner peace. I try to bring people back to the simple aspects of life, the natural flows of the Outback environment, the easy pleasures that a connection with a wide range of friendly animals and good food brings. The experience provided by the variety of domestic animals and wildlife remind us that we are interdependent with the natural world and its unique cycles, and without this interdependence, our lives would not be possible.
I do believe that you have to learn to pivot and create alternate streams of income-based around your core business. My core business is my photography which I have been doing for the past 10 years. I also offer mentoring and workshops in the photography space and also the creative photography process, which is the cyanotype workshops that I offer. I do all of this under the KLP creative co-banner. Most recently I am also offering dried botanical art and arrangements which I sell online and in a beautiful local boutique gift store.
Since I’ve opened my newborn studio in Charleville I have had clients that travel 2 to 3 hours to have their newborn photographed. While they are here, they are hopefully calling for a coffee, getting their groceries, buying some clothes and supporting our community economy in the process.
In all of the businesses I have been involved with staff, and their wellbeing and growth is the core of success. One of my key beliefs is treating staff the way that you want to be treated. If you empower your staff and treat them well, they will be engaged. Conversely, I have seen in other environments that I have worked in, if people are working with poor leadership and being treated poorly, they won’t be motivated to work, which has a negative impact on the business and engagement with customers. I am proud to have put 5 apprentices through my business and been able to support them on their professional and personal journeys.
My vision for the region is a multitude of flourishing outback community-minded businesses, of various sizes offering a wide range of services, on and offline. My vision is for the people to be brave and support each other. It has been amazing seeing the creativity within businesses as a result of the drought and COVID. I want to support people to find their niche. Previously microbusinesses weren’t taken very seriously. But when you do the research, microbusinesses are the backbone of Australia.
I also have a vision to bring more people to Barcaldine and make each rural town more liveable. There is so much opportunity to live and work more cheaply here, and I say, have more ‘life’. It is more empowering out here because you can be your own boss, be flexible and there are more opportunities to make change happen.
When we bought the newsagency, I knew we needed something else other than newspapers and magazines and I had a vision of what the shop could do for Winton. So I went into homewares, giftware and garden art. I could see the potential and the need for our small community.
We also diversify the business through other contracts. The newsagent is also a Bus Queensland agent and since August 2018 we have had the contract to deliver Australia Post mail to the surrounding sheep and cattle properties. When we bought the Newsagency in November 2018, we were pregnant with our second child and in the process of selling my parents business, so it was a busy time. With the Australia Post contract, Dave has to do a 600km round trip twice a week, so he is out of action from the Newsagency for two days a week and it is a seven days a week business. In tourist time, that is a lot of pressure.
I truly believed a venue like Elegant Emu would not only be successful but was necessary in a place like Adavale. Determination and deciding that not creating Elegant Emu was absolutely not an option. And a strong desire to make real positive change in my life and community. Providing an experience that is about people, living life, fun and not just coffee.
To me there is no excuse not to be passionate about Fair Trade. People matter, people are the world, the economy, the fabric that is what we create the world to be, and who we are as individuals. There is no way anyone can justify exploitation, disrespect or removing any person’s human rights.
The creation of Yoga Rites Outback was inspired through conversations with my community and after listening to their needs. I was teaching weekly yoga classes in my local community and when the wet season arrived or the participants were caught up in station life, this meant that I couldn’t travel to town to teach and they missed out on this time to themselves to relax and recharge. So I said I would start recording classes and share them online. My vision for Yoga Rites Outback is to ensure that no matter where you live, you have access to a yoga practice, healing breathwork and mindful meditations to support you in your day to day life.
Through conversations and listening to the needs of the community, I have gone on to study pre/postnatal yoga and children’s yoga. I have been working with the mothers and early education centre for 4 years now, and the primary school from the preps to grade 3 for two years. The focus is always around understanding and controlling your emotions, as well as improving their self-confidence and self-worth. I have received lovely feedback from the teachers and parents of the children and love hearing how they take my lessons into their home life.
I have managed over the past eight years to grow Cunnamulla Cabins using just my cash flow with another four cabins, to another four budget rooms, ten ensuited caravan park sites, twelve metre pool, camp kitchen, outdoor theatre, shop and takeaway business. The entire area has been landscaped by me with trees that struggle to grow in this harsh climate and grassed areas, but they make the park so much more inviting.
In a business, some things are a lot harder in small towns, but these are weighted to the positive for the benefits. It is incredibly easy to get around town, although distance to the next town is a long way. It’s harder to find staff, but easier to find helpers in an emergency. We have great internet coverage and access to lots of water, which is a blessing during the hot summers. I like that you can be part of Local Council, a business person and a volunteer. There is so much to be done in a small town, so you will always find something to do that you love.
Everything I do is grounded in my personal mission and purpose to contribute to creating a gender-equal world in both sport and business. I want my son and daughter, my nieces and nephews to inhabit a world where women and girls are valued and respected and equal. I want them to inhabit a world where men and boys can rid themselves of the shackles of toxic masculinity. I want them to live in a world where every human, no matter how they identify, can reach their full potential.
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