The 2022 Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women's award has been won by a magazine publisher looking to connect regional and rural women's voices.
Strathfieldsaye resident Kimberley Furness won a $15,000 bursary to bring her independent publication OAK Magazine which highlights the great things that other female entrepreneurs are doing in regional and rural Australia.
Ms Furness hopes to spend her bursary to grow her publication to expand into audio outlets.
"It will support an audio version of the magazine that would bring our published stories to life for women who have visual, physical or cognitive impairment, learning difficulty or low literacy," she said.
"It would also reduce the feeling of isolation.
"Our front covers, and stories within the pages of the magazine, give a voice not only to rural women but also minority groups within our cohort including women of colour, women with a disability and people from the LGBTIQA+ community."
Ms Furness said she wanted to lift the stories from the audience's pages to their ears, after launching her podcast A Friend In Mine in 2020.
"I've seen the positive impact from these episodes such as a woman being inspired to open a new art gallery and creative space in rural NSW to support local artists and attract visitors off the highway and into their tiny town," she said.
OAK Magazine is an independent quarterly print publication launched in 2017 which Ms Furness said focuses on women evoking change in their communities.
"With less and less regional media outlets, OAK plays a role in being able to re-connect people back to their community," she said.
"One third of Australian women live in rural, regional and remote areas, and they play a crucial role in strengthening rural communities.
"We've come to realise our rural postcode isn't a barrier but an opportunity."
Ms Furness was among three finalists, which also included Nikki Davey from Glenmore who is a co-founder of Grown Not Flown, a digital platform supporting the slow flower movement.
The third finalist was Deborah Bogenhuber from Irymple who is supporting 30 new migrant farmers to access land, water, tools and training to grow food via her co-op Food Next Door.
She now is a finalist for a $20,000 bursary at the national awards, which will be announced in Canberra in September.
Regional Victoria Parliamentary Secretary Danielle Green, who presented the Victorian award, said the diversity of the finalists showed great potential.
"Victoria's innovative rural women are at the forefront of driving change across the country," Ms Green said.
"I congratulate Kimberley Furness for winning this year's award and look forward to seeing what she achieves."
Westpac's northern Victoria regional general manager Laura Mattiazzi said the awards were a catalyst to grow their futures within the many different sectors of agriculture.
"Not only does it champion their projects, but it also allows these inspiring women to discover new opportunities and connect with others through the Rural Women's Award networks," Ms Mattiazzi said.
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