FOUR women have been recognised for their contributions to regional WA and announced as State finalists for the 2018 Australian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award.
Sophie Dwyer, Darrylin Gordon, Paula Pownall and Carol Redford are this year's WA finalists for the prestigious award, which will offer a $10,000 bursary to drive the winner's project.
Agriculture, Food and Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the award celebrated female leaders across rural and regional WA, provided access to professional development opportunities, and boosted the profile of primary industries in regional WA.
"Women have always been at the heart of regional Western Australia, and now we are seeing women really stepping up in the economic space as entrepreneurs and innovators," Ms MacTiernan said.
"This year's finalists are focused on initiatives that are central to the McGowan government's job-creating regional agenda – regional manufacturing, premium food opportunities, developing new agricultural industries and driving regional tourism.”
With a passion for astronomy, Gingin's Carole Redford has been working to boost the profile of astro-tourism in the WA MidWest and Wheatbelt.
Having founded Stargazers Club WA in 2013, Ms Redford now aims to mentor Wheatbelt tourism organisations and support astro-tourism businesses to attract visitors to regional towns.
With their low light pollution, Ms Redford said several of the State's regional communities were located in the prime position to capitalise on the growing international interest in astronomy.
"I think WA has this amazing night sky asset and it's because we're in the southern hemisphere, but Perth is also the most isolated capital city in the world, so you don't have to travel very far and you have this great, easy access to beautiful, pristine night skies," Ms Redford said.
"I think it's about time that the world recognised that we've got this amazing attraction here.
"My plan is to head out to the Wheatbelt and the MidWest regions to mentor local governments and also the local tourism associations to recognise what an amazing asset they have, but then to link them together in a network of astro-tourism towns so that they can be on a digital map that's promoted near and far to those who just don't have the access to our beautiful stars."
As part of her vision, Ms Redford said there was an important role for Aboriginal tourism businesses to play in sharing their stories and connections with the night sky.
"At every point I want the visitor to be able to relate back to or link back to stories of the night sky and we have some amazing Aboriginal astronomy stories that will create a very authentic and unique experience to the visitor,” she said.
Meantime, Perth's Sophie Dwyer vision is to create a sustainable hemp industry in the State, with a focus on regional manufacturing.
Ms Dwyer's project is to develop the commercial case for investing into hemp seed as a food.
She believes that by building both a thriving food and industrial fibre industry, hemp can provide an alternative crop for broadacre farmers to utilise within their rotation.
Halls Creek's finalist Darrylin Gordon is a traditional owner of Lamboo station in the Kimberley and aims to develop an holistic on-station community training and empowerment program for land management and cattle production.
Ms Gordon's program will focus on building self-respect and pride, together with valuable employment and life skills.
Peel finalist Paula Pownall intends to promote insect farming as a sustainable added income for farm businesses.
Ms Pownall is the founder of start-up company Grubs Up, which operates as an edible cricket farm.
The WA winner will be announced on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, at an event held at Government House, with the national winner announced in September.