A trio of WA’s most inspiring women have been announced as finalists in the 2023 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Awards and are now vying for a $15,000 prize to help make their dreams become a reality.

Joy Sherlock of Dongara, Kate Mitchell of Narrikup and Michelle Moriarty of Eaton, were this week announced as finalists for the annual award that aims to acknowledge and support the role women play in rural industries, businesses and communities.

All three pitched their ideas to AgriFutures Australia and are now in contention to be named the WA winner at an awards ceremony on March 16, with the State representative then in the running for the national Rural Women’s Award.

The WA winner will receive a $15,000 business development award to help develop their project and access to professional development opportunities and alumni networks, following in the footstep of the winners before them.

Denmark-based farmer and online business operator Louise O’Neill, who is committed to improving the mental and physical wellbeing of rural communities, took out the 2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award for WA.

She travelled to Canberra for the national awards at Parliament House on September 6, with Tasmanian rural motherhood advocate Stephanie Trethewey taking out the national gong and Victorian editor Kimberley Furness, from Bendigo, named national runner-up.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development director general Heather Brayford congratulated the three finalists and said they brought a range of skills to benefit agriculture, education and wellbeing in regional Western Australia.

“This prestigious award celebrates the outstanding contribution and commitment these women have to their respective fields across rural and regional WA,” Ms Brayford said.

The finalists and their projects are:

Kate Mitchell of Narrikup. Credit: Supplied;DPIRD

Kate Mitchell, Narrikup

Kate aims to create first aid programs and resources aimed at youngsters from kindergarten to Year 10, which are relevant to country life that teach young people to be confident when learning and administering first aid. She also hopes to establish a rural paediatric health hub that parents and caregivers can access if they need support and information for a range of health topics, particularly for families that need support when a child has been newly diagnosed with a condition.

Michelle Moriarty of Eaton. Credit: Supplied;DPIRD

Michelle Moriarty, Eaton

Michelle hopes to reduce social isolation for widowed people by providing support groups that offer a safe and non-judgemental space where widows can have honest discussions about the harsh realities of widowhood. She wants to bring a sense that “I am not alone, there are others like me and there is hope”. Her project will develop the operational structure and expand both the current WA Young Widowed Support Group and the Grief Connect Over 55s Widowed Support Group. The project will develop online real-time interactive peer support groups and create events that promote physical wellbeing and mental health.

Joy Sherlock. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

Joy Sherlock, Dongara

Joy hopes to use unique tools to increase the understanding of farmers’ individual property/paddock soil nutrient balance and associated factors and to assess the way this impacts the uptake of nutrients by crops or pasture. Her project will include a pilot program that can be used to leverage and add value to other projects. It seeks to illustrate the benefits and ease with which producers can be drought-resilient and mitigate risk across all facets of their business.

WA’s AgriFutures Rural Women’s Awards are supported by DPIRD, the Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network of WA, CBH Group and Westpac.