Visionary country women pursuing personal goals and creating thriving families, businesses

If you ask Emma Muirhead who she is and what she does, she says “I’m just an average lady from Mundubbera”.

But Emma is much more than that — she’s a visionary.

And while the title did not sit easily for her as she led a discussion in a room full of other rural women looking to identify, pursue and achieve their goals, it was clear why she was an ideal founding member of Burnett Visionary Women.

“I got involved through Facebook … I do a series of videos on Facebook [called] ‘Monday Morning Motivation on a Wednesday’,” she said.

“The thought behind that was to share tools that my husband and I use in our family to encourage a positive mindset and be the best people we can be for community and self.”

Strong women, strong economy
Queensland’s Burnett region stretches from Monto, west of Bundaberg, through to Nanango, west of Caloundra, with about 40,000 people living in an area known for its agricultural production.

It has faced the pressures of a country community dealing with disastrous weather, shrinking and ageing populations, isolation and a lack of services and resources.

Ainsley Shepherd coordinates the group, which meets every three months in a different town. It was born out of a desire from the Burnett Inland Economic Development Organisation (BIEDO) to provide a program for rural women.

And while it might be tempting to dismiss the project as a feel-good inspirational exercise, Ms Shepherd said it was founded on the idea that strong people make a strong economy.

“We wanted it to be from them … going out and actually speaking with women in the community, and finding out what they were seeking,” she said.

“They were constantly coming back and saying we really want to be inspired by other women in the region.

“They also wanted to just have permission to stop and care for themselves and have some time out.”

She said it was economic development, but not how you might expect it, with direct benefits for the local economy.

“We had some good feedback about being able to reset life and stop and think about not just what I want to build, but how do I want to live?” she said.

“We can then see our communities in our region be more prosperous as each family, each individual, fulfils those dreams.”

‘I hear my own heart again’
Along with her husband Joel, Ms Shepherd owns Twin Rivers, a cattle and goat operation that recently received the Lachlan Hughes Foundation Scholarship for regenerative agriculture.

She said while women were driving the project, men were also a part of the vision, and could help reduce some of the barriers to bringing new ideas to life in rural communities.

Seven years ago Amanda Wenck took the leap and started a graphic design studio in the nearby town of Gayndah.

She said joining the group had helped her embrace the next phase of her business.

“When I talk about where the business is going and my passion and direction for the business, I hear my own heart again,” she said.

“The vision evolves … but events like this help you revisit the vision and evolve the business and evolve you as a person so that you continue to move more into what you feel your purpose is.

“It absolutely has a direct [economic] benefit as far as I’m concerned because women who are encouraged and find courage through these kinds of events stay in business.”

Seeing the visionary in everyone
Learning she was considered a visionary woman came as a surprise for Kim Corfield, but she said it showed how broad the idea of being a visionary was.

“I was [surprised] because I’m very much a community-focused person and very much thrive in that area,” she said.

“I didn’t realise that I was seen in that capacity by other people, [but] we don’t look at ourselves in the mirror very often.”

Ms Corfield said after just two meetings, the women were already growing in strength, conviction, and capacity.

“I think sharing their journeys actually makes other people have more courage to step forward and begin their own journey as well.”

Ms Shepherd hoped other rural communities could use the work done in the Burnett to develop their own programs and come to see themselves as visionary too.

“A visionary woman is an everyday woman who just has something that they want to fulfil and does it,” she said.