Now in its fourth year, The Weekly Times 2020 Shine Awards has certainly delivered a bright ending to an undeniably dark year.
Shine is a collaboration between News Corp Australia and retailer Harvey Norman that celebrates the achievements and contributions of women across rural and regional Australia.
What started as a quest to discover hidden female talent in the nation’s rural communities has evolved into a well-loved national initiative that showcases the determination and innovative energy of the women of rural Australia.
Shining the spotlight on everyday heroes
This year’s 12-week Shine campaign launched on August 28. It culminated in November with six winners and an overall winner announced in the 32-page Shine magazine, inserted in The Weekly Times on November 18 and in The Australian on November 20.
The 2020 overall and Courage winner is Carmel Beresford, a Queensland cattle farmer, retired principal, and mother who lost her son in an on-farm accident nine years ago.
Struggling to deal with the grief, Carmel wrote the story of Sam’s life and death, publishing a book last year. She hoped book sales would bring in a small income for the family while they struggled through drought.
Publishing the book has done much more than that. It has touched the hearts of readers across the nation, raised awareness about the crucial role of farm safety on rural and remote properties, and given people a greater understanding of the hardships farming families go through to get food on Australian tables.
On winning the Shine Awards, Carmel said: “The results have shown who I am: a woman in the bush trying to navigate the harsh and delightful realities of living here. I was always a very proud principal of Eulo State School, I was proud to be Sam’s mum, proud of my ‘adopted’ rural background … I was humbled by this win, but I am also very proud to be the Shine Award winner for 2020.”
Putting rural women centerstage
Born out of a conversation between Herald and Weekly Times Chairman Penny Fowler and Harvey Norman Chief Executive Officer Katie Page, the Shine Awards showcase the powerhouse that is Australia’s rural women and also reflect the most important issues and challenges rural communities face.
“Against the devastating backdrop of drought and bushfires, then travel restrictions and lockdowns, the women of the 2020 Shine Awards set the example in how to prevail,” Page explained.
“Each of the finalists and winners demonstrates what can be achieved through invention, courage, and hard work. We have a responsibility to understand the depth of contribution made by those living and working in rural and regional Australia.”
Shine honours women in six categories: Belief, Courage, Dedication, Grace, Passion, and Spirit.
Innovative occupational therapist Simone Dudley, from Deniliquin in the NSW Riverina, is the 2020 Belief winner. Simone is co-founder of a telehealth business, Therapy Connect, as well as a cattle producer.
Well before the days of Zoom, Simone saw the potential that Internet connectivity offered to professionals and families in the bush.
Now that digital infrastructure has caught up with her vision, she delivers essential allied health services from speech therapy to psychology support through videoconferencing to rural families who have children with developmental disabilities.
Indigenous dialysis nurse Lauwana Blackley of Palm Island is the 2020 Dedication winner; Nymboida market gardener and bushfire recovery volunteer Georgia Foster Eyles is the 2020 Grace winner; Two Young Nomads farm caretaker Meg Clothier is the 2020 Spirit winner, and Plate Up Ballarat founder Kate Davis is the 2020 Passion winner.
Awards gain traction in short time
Back in 2017, the first Shine Awards honoured finalists from four states and winners from Victoria and NSW.
“This year, the number of women nominated doubled. We heard from hundreds of women from every state and territory, whose courage, generosity, and ingenuity hold their communities together,” Fowler said.
The 2020 Shine Awards were the most successful campaign yet, receiving a record 297 nominations. Finalists were from the Norther Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, with winners hailing from four states.
COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures have meant the annual Shine Awards winners’ lunch was postponed to next year, and the judging process was conducted via videoconference instead of in person.
However, the pandemic may have contributed to the spike in reader engagement, with people seeking out positive digital content and sharing stories of inspiring rural women who have helped their communities through the past 12 months of hardship.
Through the combined effort of The Weekly Times, News Corp’s wide network of mastheads and digital news services, and Harvey Norman, Shine has established a forum in which Australians can recognise unsung rural heroes who are making a real difference in their communities.