INSPIRED: Former QRRRWN president Melissa Barnett (right) with author Dr Kirstin Ferguson at the 2018 Kingaroy conference. (Photo: Contributed)
INSPIRED: Former QRRRWN president Melissa Barnett (right) with author Dr Kirstin Ferguson at the 2018 Kingaroy conference. (Photo: Contributed)

Melissa’s journey to inspire rural women and change

INSPIRING rural women and inciting change were the pillars of Melissa Barnett's journey with the Queensland Rural and Regional Remote Women's Network.

The South Burnett local served as the QRRRWN state president from 2017 to October last year.

"I think I'm a better person because I was the president of QRRRWN," Ms Barnett said.

"It's an enormous responsibility and daunting and your personal development is rapid."

She finished as a board adviser in early May, ending her long journey with the group.

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Ms Barnett met many women beyond the Burnett community near her Haly Creek property over the two years of her presidency.

"The biggest highlight was the opportunity to meet so many different amazing women across the state, women I wouldn't have had the opportunity to make contact with," she said.

"The women who are my friends and who have mentored me through my presidency."

All students participating in the 2019 Youth Program all coming from RURAL, Regional or Remote communities in Qld. Melissa Barnett (QRRRWN state president), Minister Di Farmer, Kayleen Freeman (Nanango SHS Teacher and QRRRWN Youth Program Facilitator).
All students participating in the 2019 Youth Program all coming from RURAL, Regional or Remote communities in Qld. Melissa Barnett (QRRRWN state president), Minister Di Farmer, Kayleen Freeman (Nanango SHS Teacher and QRRRWN Youth Program Facilitator).

She attended and held different conferences and workshops to ensure rural women were empowered and equipped.

"It has been a privilege to be associated with these women and learn what they are doing and how they are doing it, especially while living in drought affected areas," Ms Barnett said.

The International Women's Day events were a real highlight with a virtual walk around Queensland.

"Seeing over 100 women join us on that virtual walk and then to do it here in real time in Kingaroy with a group of women was fabulous," she said.

A project close to Ms Barnett's heart was being involved in a financial literacy program in Mundubbera.

"The ability for women to care for themselves in their later years and understanding their finances, particularly rural women who don't know how to do it," she said.

Maye and Skye Douglas with Melissa Barnett and Kayleen Freeman at the Kumbia Kindy International Women's Day lunch on March 8, 2020. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)
Maye and Skye Douglas with Melissa Barnett and Kayleen Freeman at the Kumbia Kindy International Women's Day lunch on March 8, 2020. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)

The former QRRRRWN president also had opportunities to inspire change including being part of a round table discussion with the federal minister for women, Marise Payne.

"We can make a real effective change on issues that really affect women," Ms Barnett said.

"I felt that whatever issues urban women were having, they were exacerbated 10 fold in rural communities.

"There's issues of distance, capacity, staffing and delivery."

It was almost fitting the former state president came from the Barambah branch, since QRRRWN was founded in Monto and filtered throughout the South and North Burnett before branches opened across the rest of Queensland.

Ms Barnett was the Barambah president in 2015 before she became the state president.

"It was such a privilege to be elected at the local branch," she said.

"It gave me a really good understanding of what QRRRWN is and its values, it became a guiding light through my presidency."

Russell Bishop and Melissa Barnett at the Red Earth Community Foundation's Red Report breakfast at December last year. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)
Russell Bishop and Melissa Barnett at the Red Earth Community Foundation's Red Report breakfast at December last year. (Photo: Jessica McGrath)

Ms Barnett looks forward to spending more time at her property Taabinga Station running cattle, their farmstay and wine label.

She is investigating a business model of artist and artisan workshops such as painting, pottery, cooking skills and weavers to be held at the farmstay.

"It'll hopefully be a win-win for the community, bringing outside people in and using local people to give the workshop," she said.

"The more diverse demographic that comes to the South Burnett, the better."

South Burnett

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