Meet the women shaping business in regional and rural NSW

Women from the bush are proving you can live anywhere and still have a successful career.

While working remotely was thrust upon many of us, former primary school teacher from The Rock in southern NSW Jo Palmer built a business on the concept well before restrictions and lockdowns were common vernacular.

Living in the harsh drought-induced conditions of rural NSW and considering alternative cash flow avenues for farming households, Ms Palmer saw a gap and knew finding remote working solutions was the way to fill it.

In 2017, she founded Pointer Remote Roles – a platform linking businesses with skilled workers who are set up to work remotely from anywhere in Australia.

“I started because I had a lot of friends who had corporate careers then left to move to the country for love or family and no longer had the means to use their skills,” the 2019 AgriFutures National Rural Woman of the Year said.

The award, supported by Westpac, helped Ms Palmer grow the platform to reach more remotely located jobseekers and companies requiring skilled workers.

“We believe you should be able to access a meaningful career from wherever you live in Australia. Initially we started to connect rural, regional and remote workers with metro areas but we’ve had a huge uptake of rural businesses using our platform for recruitment because they can’t access the skills they need from their town.”

Ms Palmer said they would typically see 80 per cent of jobseekers accessing their platform from regional, rural and remote areas with women making up 90 per cent of all their jobseekers.

“We are now seeing more jobseekers from the city who have found themselves without work,” she said.

“I think a big thing for women, especially those living regional, rural and remote, using [Pointer Remote Roles] is they really relate to our story. The majority of women in general terms end up in caregiving roles in the household and remote working provides the opportunity to work in their skill set. When farming isn’t making money then the whole town suffers so this way they can access another income stream.”

Another woman who understands the opportunities technology presents in regional and rural areas is Discovery Ag CEO Alicia Garden.

A software engineer by trade, Ms Garden was headhunted to be part of the company’s launch in 2018 to help the farming industry through the use of a low cost communications network and in-filed sensors to address water-use efficiency.

“We are very focused on using technology to assist farmer producers, really anyone who using irrigation water, to optimise their water usage efficiently,” Ms Garden said.

“We deploy sensors in the field that allow us to monitor a plant’s stress and then use that sensor as a ground tethering point our GoSat analytics platform.”

Westpac Agribusiness national manager Stephen Hannan said women such as Ms Palmer and Ms Garden are incredible examples of the entrepreneurial spirit, bringing about change in our communities by creating, motivating and innovating.

“Women in regional and rural NSW play a vital role in driving Australian businesses,” Mr Hannan said.

“They have long shown a great ability to enhance our communities through delivering projects that provide support which address challenges in our society. They also lead the way in providing business benefits such as profitability, productivity and innovation.

“Jo was a real advocate for people being able to work remotely and the benefits to local towns and communities. I agree with Jo’s approach, I think work is what you do, not where we go and the best people for the job shouldn’t always be based in their location, it’s making sure people have a choice.

“Alicia is innovative, tech driven and a great example of a woman driving a tech and agribusiness in regional and rural communities. She is one of many women bringing a new approach to business.”

*Article first published in https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/bushsummit/meet-the-women-shaping-business-in-regional-and-rural-nsw/news-story/1ae366c6b18b341a4c0bbe6214e67cf6