The National Rural Women’s Coalition is a peak lobbying body directly influencing policy at a national level, giving rural, regional and remote women the chance to be heard.
The National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC) was established approximately 12 years ago in response to a call from the Office for Status of Women to establish a National Rural Women’s Secretariat. An initial consortium of seven national rural women’s groups came together in 2001 to lead the discussion and plan for how the group would function. On November 1, 2002, the NRWC was established and is one of six national women’s alliances that continues to be funded by the Australian Government. Today the NRWC is made up of representatives from the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA), Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA), Country Women’s Association of Australia (CWAA), Indigenous Rural Woman Representatives, National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), the Women’s Industry Network ¬ Seafood Community (WIN-SC) and an independent board member.
Current program manager Karen Tully has had a long association with the land and issues facing rural communities and it was the objectives of the NRWC that attracted her to the organisation. Karen grew up on a property near Tara and has lived in Charleville in south western Queensland for 25 years. Karen believes she has the best of both worlds and reflects that for today’s rural women there are more opportunities to work from home due to changes in technology and workplace flexibility. “Last week I was at Parliament House for a number of meetings and a roundtable which the NRWC co-hosted with Economic Security for Women,” she says. “Then, I get back on the plane and return home to the mulga lands, with the rich red dirt and the clear blue skies – my heart is embedded here.”
A key charter of the NRWC is to ensure that issues facing rural women are heard in Canberra. “A recent example is whereby we invited rural women to have their say on the Paid Parental Scheme and the unique set of circumstances that can apply to women who may not be paid a wage as such, but have key roles in agricultural production,” says Karen. A number of projects of the NRWC have arisen out of the need to equip women with the information and skills needed in times of severe hardship. Recent projects include the Weather the Storm Disaster Preparedness Kit that was developed as a direct result of devastation that arose from the Victorian bushfires and the Stopping Violence Against Women Before it Happens Toolkit. To further empower rural women, NRWC also runs an annual e-Leaders Program allowing women to grow their leadership skills and build capacity in their business or community. A free monthly inspirational webinar series is also offered called A Cuppa WithTM. A networking platform of the National Rural Women’s Network also exists as a way for rural women to meet, share ideas and stay informed on key issues, events and projects.
Words by Kerryn Suttor