USC helps break digital divide for rural women
27 Oct 2021
USC academics are teaming up with a regional development organisation to help rural women develop digital communication skills, gain political influence and generate non-farming income to boost both their farms and their communities.
The Real Rural Women’s Leadership project, funded by the Commonwealth Government, will facilitate workshops, conversations and panel discussions in St George – 500km west of Brisbane, in the Shire of Balonne – between now and May 2022.
The project with Care Balonne will involve four academics from USC and one from Griffith University who have expertise in creative industries, communication and business.
It will be led by USC Lecturer in Creative Industries Dr Sarah Casey, who grew up on a beef and dairy farm outside Boonah and has a deep affinity with people on the land.
“Over many years I saw how hard life was for many people in my community and communities farther west,” she said.
Dr Casey is keen to use her communication skills and finance industry background to help rural women.
She said her research had found that rural women most wanted help in creating non-farming income streams and in communicating with people in positions of power.
“They want to do really important things outside of their communities and bridge the gaps between federal and state governments, councils, and take their businesses to new markets,” she said.
While distance and remoteness were problems, Dr Casey said the digital divide was a major issue as it involved a lack of infrastructure, skills and confidence to use technology to connect with people in power and to reach diverse markets.
Dr Casey said rural women also wanted to improve perceptions of the crucial roles they played in their families and communities.
“Women’s narratives have been made invisible, particularly in rural, regional and remote communities,” she said.
“You hear stories of male farmers and mental illness, which of course their stories should be heard, but the women are seen as the supportive other.”
Care Balonne Chairperson Robyn Fuhrmeister said the township of St George was looking forward to the project involving Dr Casey and her team.
“A lot of the women are very excited about gaining this opportunity. The interest is really strong,” she said. “We have so many innovative people who just need that opportunity to market their skills.”
The Real Rural Women’s Leadership project has received funding from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
The other USC academics involved in this project are Senior Lecturer in Communication Dr Gail Crimmins, Senior Lecturer in International Business Dr Saskia De Klerk and Lecturer in Creative Industries Dr Karen Hands, while Griffith University is represented by Professor Jacqueline Ewart.