It was a gala night at NSW Parliament for four enterprising rural women making a difference, with Jo Palmer from The Rock taking out the 2019 NSW-ACT Agrifutures Rural Woman of the Year award.
Before the announcement, the 2018 winner, Jillian Kilby, of Dubbo, said winning the award had "triggered everything that's happened to me in the last 12 months". The empowering moment she won the award had led to positions on boards and emboldened her to run for preselection in Dubbo.
She said in business she had learnt two major things - how to work in partnership, and also how to deal with failure. "Our success is due to our partnerships," she said.
"This event creates a platform not just for one winner, but for four women."
The other 2019 finalists were Ellen Downes from Canowindra, Lisa McFadyen from Condobolin and Karin Stark from Narromine, all of whom were using online platforms to further their business ideas.
Jo Palmer set up her online service, Pointer Remote Roles, so that women in the country could link up with employers in the city to find work they could perform at home, after doing this herself several years ago, a move she did while on maternity leave, that gave her her business idea.
When accepting the award from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Ms Palmer said she recently saw 59,000 jobs advertised on SEEK, and asked herself, 'surely there are some women in country NSW that can do those jobs'.
She said the underemployment of women was a big cost to growth and the economy and that "putting women to work makes good business sense". "We should be asking these employers to consider a remote employee to further their business."
Ms Palmer won a $10,000 bursary to help improve her business.
The other finalists are all working to make their business lives a success and wished Ms Palmer well.
Ellen Downes and her husband Stuart from Canowindra are involved with AgEDGE, a not-for-profit group that helps farmers discuss their business plans and who meet every three months to "review the performance of their business, set goals, and discuss current business challenges".
Lisa McFayden from Condobolin is the founder and CEO of Secure Impact "a rural property and agri-asset marketplace for farmers". She says a large majority of farms will be sold or passed on to family in the next 10 years but many farmers had no succession plans in place. Her business linked farmers with accountants and solicitors and confronted the sometimes difficult issue of succession planning. Thinking about this early was important, she said.
Karin Stark, Narromine, is "a farmer, mother and environmentalist" and is helping drive farmers into considering renewable energy options on farm though her work with ReAqua. She informs farmers about the benefits of solar pumping for irrigators and the potential it has for reducing emissions and costs. Her partner's family farm installed the country's biggest solar diesel irrigation pump. She said showing farmers how renewable energy work was important, but there were not a lot of examples yet to show them the path to success.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said the award gave the finalists the chance to know that "the sky is the limit" for their business ambitions.
"We hope this will catapult you to achieve what you want to achieve," he told the finalists. "Everyone here tonight walks away a winner."