Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


AgriFutures Rural Women's Award

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (14:34): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister inform the chamber about the recent ceremony event held to present the 2024 South Australian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:34): I thank the honourable member for his question. On 26 March, I had the honour of presenting the 2024 South Australian AgriFutures Rural Women's Award. This is a fantastic award because it recognises the significant contributions that women make across many different industries and community activities in regional Australia.

Since the award's inception in 2000, it has highlighted and supported the contributions of more than 300 women who lead the development and implementation of diverse and innovative projects, businesses and programs in regional Australia. The award also boasts an enthusiastic and growing alumni network of previous finalists, many of whom I am glad to say were present at this year's award presentation and who continue to support the award and its applicants.

On the night, I was able to offer my congratulations to the South Australian award finalists for reaching that part of the competition and for each pursuing innovative and worthwhile projects. Suzi Evans from Mantung is a mental health first aid trainer and founder of the resilience building program Workbench for the Mind, a groundbreaking program endorsed by Suicide Prevention Australia. Suzi says she has a firm belief in the power of knowledge over merely toughening up and has emerged from the tragic loss of her son in 2018 to become a highly sought after speaker and trainer specialising in positive psychology, mental health first aid and grief support.

Susie Williams is an entrepreneur from Willunga and developer of the Fleurieu App, an online platform that celebrates local businesses, events, places and achievements that define the region. Using her technical expertise, Susie has developed the Fleurieu App since 2019 to address evolving media trends, providing free accessible local news and updates through both a web app and from February 2024 a full-colour magazine as well. The Fleurieu App stands as both a business service offering cost-effective advertising and a community asset providing vital information and promoting local amenities and events.

These projects are just some which represent the work that innovative women are leading right across regional South Australia using their skills and talents to meet community needs and build social connections. But there can be only one winner and that was Nikki Atkinson. Nikki is the founder and designer of Horrocks Vale Collections, a sustainable merino wool wedding dress and special occasions wear brand based in the Flinders Ranges.

Through Horrocks Vale Collections, Nikki has combined her 25 years of experience as a wedding dress couturier and her advocacy for fine merino wool. Nikki's ambition is to champion fine Australian merino wool as a new alternative for wedding dresses, embracing its drape, feel, comfort and environmental sustainability. Her passion is to showcase fine merino wool in an innovative way, revolutionise the wedding industry and make it more sustainable using an environmentally friendly and versatile fibre and take it on a journey from Australian farms to couture fashion.

Nikki aims to highlight Australian wool graziers, pastoralists and families. She understands all the work it takes to develop the extra fine merino fibre and flock, which can take generations, and she believes they deserve to be recognised for their efforts in creating a world-class premium product.

After having been presented with the South Australian award, Nikki trumpeted her ambition to take her wedding dresses to the prestigious London fashion shows. To help her achieve this ambition, or other professional development opportunities, Nikki will receive a $15,000 grant from Westpac and she will also attend a three-day workshop with other state and territory winners to focus on further professional development and to refine her winning project.

Nikki will also go on to represent South Australia at a gala dinner in Canberra in August and be in the running for the National AgriFutures Rural Women's Award and a further $20,000. The AgriFutures Rural Women's Award provides a focal point to celebrate the achievements and contributions of some exceptional female role models, who in many ways represent so many other regional women who perform critical functions at the heart of rural communities.

Through the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, the South Australian government is a proud sponsor of the award. I once again congratulate all the finalists and wish Nikki Atkinson all the best when she represents South Australia at the National AgriFutures Rural Women's Award later this year.