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Empowering women in agriculture: leaders celebrate International Women’s Day

8 March 2017

Two of agriculture’s highest profile leaders are using this year’s International Women’s Day to celebrate the significant contribution women make to the sector.

National Farmers Federation President Fiona Simson and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Chair Kay Hull AM lead two of the nation’s most influential rural-focussed organisations and have both pioneered careers as passionate and pragmatic farm advocates.

The NFF's first female president in its 37-year history and before that the first woman to lead the New South Wales Farmers’ Association, Ms Simson said agriculture had never been merely a ‘blokes-only’ domain.

“For as long as farming has been a part of the Australian landscape women have been contributing to our nation’s primary production. However, it’s not been until very recently that we have begun to publicly acknowledge and value their contribution.”

Before assuming the role of RIRDC Chair Ms Hull represented the electorate of Riverina in the Commonwealth Parliament for 12 years; she was the first female NSW National elected to Federal Parliament and the first female Chief Nationals Whip. When joining Parliament in 1998 Ms Hull said less than 20% of the elected officials were female.

“It was certainly very male-orientated. By 2010 the figure had increased slightly too more than 25% and to today it is just under 30% - still a long way from parity,” Ms Hull said.

Ms Hull said initiatives such as RIRDC’s Rural Woman of the Year Award had made inroads into recognising the ingenuity, innovation and leadership efforts of regional, rural and remote women.

“Since the awards began in 2000 almost 100 regional women have been officially honoured as state or national winners and many others as finalists. A major part of the award is the linking of award recipients with a positive and powerful alumni network of like-minded women from across the country.”

Ms Simson said inspiring more women to get involved in farm advocacy was also a priority for her during her tenure as NFF President.

“Women bring a new dimension – a more holistic perspective to policy conversations. Having an equal gender mix at the farm policy table can only be positive for the sector.”

“We have come some way towards achieving this but there is still a lot more work to be done.”

Ms Hull was also the first female to chair of the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) when she was appointed during 2014.

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