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Rudd Govt welcomes calls for more female leaders in regional areas.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Rudd Govt welcomes calls for more female leaders in regional areas

16 September 2009 DAFF09/322B

The Rudd Government today welcomed the findings of a report showing more work is needed to support women in leadership roles in regional communities.

The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) report was released in Parliament House, Canberra.

It finds that while women contribute close to half the total output of farming communities, there has been little change in their representation in leadership positions in agriculture.

The report is based on 2006 census data.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke said in the last 18 months the Government had doubled female representation on its research and development corporation boards from 19% to around 40%.

This was achieved by changing the criteria so that previous board experience was no longer a prerequisite.

However, he said women still occupied less than 20% of paid management and board positions in the agricultural sector overall and work to address the issue should continue.

“Given the strong involvement of women in agriculture, it can’t be based on merit if you’re getting boards at around 20% women and some boards that had never had a woman on them,” he said.

“The importance of women in agriculture in Australia has been clear from time on the road and visiting people on their properties.

“Improving the number of women on advisory boards means those boards will better reflect the sector and give the Government access to the best advice.”

The Rudd Government has also:

• established the Recognising Women Farmers grants program, with $3.2 million in grants announced so far, including for workshops, conferences, field trips and training programs;

• held a Rural Women’s Summit in June 2008, attended by 82 women, Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke;

• committed $75,000 to support the National Rural Women’s Awards.

Figures show more than 52,000 women define themselves as farmers or farm managers and they contribute an estimated $1.1 billion to the overall viability of farming enterprises.