Media Release

Celebrating the vital contribution of rural women

15 October 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, used today—the United Nations' International Day of Rural Women—to celebrate the vital contribution of Australia’s rural women in agriculture and in rural communities generally.

"Whether it’s driving farming enterprises, balancing the finances, donating their time to community organisations or working a second job to keep a steady income, women are an essential part of Australian agriculture. Just as importantly, women—whether on farms or in other occupations like health and education services—play an invaluable role in our rural and regional communities," Minister Joyce said.

"Just in relation to agriculture, more than 44,000 women in our rural communities make up the nation's farming workforce with many others working off-farm to support their families.

"In 2011, around 35,100 women had a job outside the farm—helping supplement farm income while also supporting the operation of the farm.

"Farming can have its good seasons and its bad, yet the bills keep coming, so we know many farming families rely on the regular income women in rural communities provide."

Minister Joyce said women in rural communities have a long history within Australia's agriculture sector which continues today.

"One great historic example is Mary Penfold, creator of Penfold’s Wines—Mary's husband was a doctor often away from home leaving Mary to manage the family farm—and she had the drive and tenacity to go on to create Penfold’s Wines in 1850," Minister Joyce said.

"In more recent history, I was lucky enough to attend the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women's Award where a number of intelligent, hard-working and innovative women were recognised for their contribution both to agriculture and to the rural communities in which they live.

"We also see women prominent in the field of agricultural research, and it was great to see the 2014 Science and Innovation Award for Young People in Agriculture top gong be awarded to an incredible woman, Dr Alison McCarthy, for her work in developing a truly innovative method for automated cotton irrigation and fertilisation. Dr McCarthy is one of the many rural women now excelling on the national stage of agricultural research and development.

"I hope the community will join me today in celebrating the vital contribution of Australia’s rural women to the agriculture sector, and to rural and regional Australia in many other roles."

The United Nations' International Day of Rural Women is celebrated on 15 October each year. For more information visit http://www.un.org/en/events/ruralwomenday/