Meet RIRDC Rural Women's Award finalist Jackie Jarvis as we count down to the announcement of the national winner on September 24
WESTERN Australian finalist, Jackie Jarvis, is producing a series of video "postcards" to highlight the potential for refugees to ease rural Australia's chronic labour shortage.
The $10,000 bursary she received for winning this year's WA Rural Women's Award has allowed her to employ a professional film maker to start capturing the good news stories of how refugees have been successfully resettled in the WA bush.
She said much of the debate about refugees was focused on asylum seekers who arrive by boat but thousands come here each year under Australia's UNHCR humanitarian program.
Many have worked in subsistence agriculture in their former home countries making them well suited to taking up jobs in Australia's farm sector rather than struggling to find work in big cities like Perth, she said.
As well as operating a boutique winery and vineyard business with husband Matt in WA's famed Margaret River district, Jackie also gained first-hand experience with agriculture's labour drought in her just-relinquished role as State manager for MADEC Australia, a not-for-profit employment, training and community development agency providing seasonal workers for the horticulture industry.
Overseas backpackers have been helping fill the void on horticulture farms for the past five to 10 years but they move on after a few months and farmers have to re-train new workers.
So Jackie started connecting refugees struggling to find jobs with farmers looking for long-term workers. Burundi refugees, Erick Ngezahayo and Goiton Hagos, found work on a dairy farm at Scott River, in south west WA. Other refugees were offered jobs in Carnarvon and the Wheatbelt under a pilot program funded by the WA Office of Multicultural Interests.
Jackie is hoping her video "postcards" showing how well the refugees have settled into their new rural lives will inspire others to offer them jobs and careers in the bush.
She is an immigrant herself, coming to Australia in 1970 with her British parents as a toddler.
Jackie and her husband both worked in the finance industry and only expected to stay two years at Margaret River when Matt took up a position as a bank manager.
But they stayed and bought 40 hectares in 1997 and planted a vineyard and built a winery.
To read more about the finalists in the 2014 RIRDC Rural Women's Award click here