Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

The National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC) is once again putting the call out to women across Australia to apply to attend their Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Muster in Canberra.

Now in its 8th year, the event offers a small group of women the chance to learn valuable leadership skills that they can use to better their local communities. This year’s Muster is themed “Strengthening Communities through RRR Women’s Leadership and Innovation”. Applications to become a part of the program are open until the 25th of August and are open to all women aged over 18 living in rural, regional, and remote Australia.

NRWC CEO, Keli McDonald, is exceptionally passionate about the program and what it can offer women and their broader social networks and communities.

“The program is primarily about leadership and advocacy,” she says.

“We have all these women in our communities that have an absolute wealth of skills and expertise, but what they need is the confidence to become leaders.”

The program usually accepts around 10 to 12 women each year who are then offered the opportunity to engage in approximately 6 months of training, most of which is delivered online. There is also a 4-day residential leadership program held in Canberra whereby successful applicants are given the chance to further develop their leadership skills, meet a range of professional facilitators, and pitch directly to the Minister for Women.

Other than the costs associated with travelling to and from Canberra, the program is free. The only requirement is that the successful applicants must be willing to voluntarily fill a gap in their community, be that with a one-off event, or a longer-term project that has nothing to do with their normal day-to-day work or employment.

“This is all about giving back to the community,” says Ms McDonald.

“Previous alumnae have achieved some fantastic things including implementing an online mental health toolkit for farmers, facilitating financial literacy programs for regional women, and introducing a system that allowed local Aboriginal people to connect with and mutually support refugees and migrants to the region.”

When asked what they’re looking for in a successful applicant, Ms McDonald says, it’s highly competitive.

“We’re gauging applications by the quality of the program that they’re looking to offer their community, as well as trying to achieve geographical diversity in having applicants from across the country.”

Ms McDonald also feels that the way the program is delivered is also a key point of difference.

“So many courses focus on the idea of people having a deficit. That’s not what this is about, we know these women have the skills they need.”

“So, this program is not coming from a place of deficit, this is all about women honing their inherent skills and abilities,” she says.

Prominent Tamworth-based Aboriginal woman, Lisa Shipley, participated in last year’s event and stands as a strong embodiment of the calibre of applicants that the Muster receives.  

“Lisa is an incredibly strong woman. She’s strong in her culture, in her beliefs, she’s kind and compassionate and she just has such a genuine desire to make the world a better place for everyone,” says Ms McDonald.

Ms McDonald also wants to emphasise that this program is so much more than just a 6-month course.

“All of our alumnae go on to do incredible things. We’re connecting them to mentors, and people who understand them.”

“This is enabling a group of like-minded women to fully back themselves, which in turn allows them to back their communities.”

“After the program is complete, they go into our alumnae network and then we will continue to offer them peer support and further opportunities to advocate for their community.”

If you or someone you know is interested in applying for this year’s Muster, further information on the program, and how to apply is all available on the NRWC website.

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