Karen O’Keefe is the Regional Agricultural Landcare Facilitator with Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) and owns a small lifestyle property near Rokewood.
She explains that she has been in her current role for 8 years working across the Corangamite region which “covers from Ballarat to Geelong, along the Bellarine Peninsula and down the Great Ocean Road, including Camperdown and the Otway Ranges. It’s a very diverse, productive region.”
As a facilitator her role is “about supporting the uptake of sustainable farming by connecting farmers, industry groups, community groups and governmental agencies at all levels of government.”
However, she shares about a particular program that interests her the most, the Corangamite Rural Women’s Network.
“It’s about bringing rural women from a range of backgrounds together to strengthen networks to enhance community resilience..”
“41% of the Ag workforce in Australia are women and 55% of Australian ag science university graduates are women as well. So, we know women are out there on farms. Yet, sometimes we forget to include them.”
This program began when Karen noticed that not many women were showing up to sustainable agriculture themed events.
“We started going out and asking women and going well, what do you need? What do you want? And from that we formed the network with workshops just with other women.”
“We identified a clear purpose for the rural women’s network and agreed it’s a space where you can feel comfortable to ask questions, were no one is judgmental and we support each other. A lot of them are highly skilled, educated, experienced, and it’s often the confidence that we lack. Sometimes we just think we’re not good enough or we don’t know enough. And the reality is, we’ve all got something to offer.” Over 350 women have since participated in the network.
Karen learnt these important lessons through her own experiences growing up “I didn’t think I was smart enough to go to uni. One thing that was important is that there were people who did believe in me and who did encourage me in this space.”
She describes the passion she has for the things most important to her as “3/4 of the way of being good at it. If you love something it is part of who you are.”
Her encouragement to everyone is to follow what you love and see where it leads.