Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Mansfield winner for womens award

Rural Women’s Award winner Michelle Freeman says more women can make a difference in the forestry industry.

February 12, 2013 4:08am

Minister for Women's Affairs Mary Wooldridge, RIRDC Rural Womenís Award winner Michelle Freeman and Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh.

Rural Women’s Award winner Michelle Freeman says more women can make a difference in the forestry industry.

Ms Freeman, 28, is a forester from Alexandra and has won a $10000 bursary to support her leadership development and implement her proposed award project.

Agriculture and Food Security Minister Peter Walsh, who announced the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award at a ceremony at Parliament House in Melbourne, said the award recognised the hard work, perseverance and dedication of rural women to their industries and communities.

‘‘The award pays tribute to women with a strong, positive vision for the future of the farm sector and who demonstrate a significant contribution to shaping that future,’’ Mr Walsh said.

Ms Freeman is the Director for Youth and Women on the board of the Institute of Foresters of Australia; by profession she is a harvesting forester with VicForests.

She developed an affinity for forests when she studied a graduate degree in forestry at the University of Melbourne’s Creswick campus, and said women had only been able to study and work as foresters since the early 1970s.

‘‘I work from Alexandra in beautiful mountain country; my particular job is supervising loggers and trying to get the best outcomes.’’

She said historically it was very much an industry for men ‘‘but the balance is shifting’’.

‘‘Women have different ways that they deal with problems and progress their ideas,’’ Ms Freeman said.

The project Ms Freeman has pitched is around promoting change in the culture and diversity of forestry as a profession so that youth and women are better engaged, supported and empowered to become the next generation of forest management leaders.

She believes the views of youth and women are currently under-represented in forestry dialogue and the industry is missing out on opportunities for these groups to contribute.

Runner-up to Ms Freeman was mother-of-four Jo Clifford, a wine grape, cattle and sheep producer from Faraday, near Castlemaine.


Her areas of interest include securing a future for the next generation of farmers and finding new ways to support the production of Australian-grown produce amid growing pressure from imports.

As part of their prize, Ms Freeman and Ms Clifford will take the Australian Institute of Directors’ Course in Canberra.

Ms Freeman will join winners from other states and territories to contest the national award to be announced in Canberra on September 10.

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