Rural ambassador ready for the challenge

Countryman

Liz Bradshaw, 25, of Mullewa, has been named the 2013 Rural Ambassador and Clare Ward, 23, of Wagin, the runner-up.

Liz, who grew up in Jandakot and attended Leeming Primary School, Penrhos College and the University of Notre Dame Australia in Fremantle, has not looked back since moving to Mullewa two years ago to take up a position as regional health promotion officer.

"My grandparents had a farm and I loved camping, so when the opportunity came up to work in the country I jumped at it," she said.

"It is one of the best things I have done and I would encourage other young people to make the move.

"The first couple of months are always going to be tricky but have patience, work hard and give yourself the opportunity to get to know your community through joining committees and volunteering.

"Professionally, the move has given me more experience, independence and responsibility, which I love.

"Moving from the city to country, you become much more aware of the gaps that exist in people's knowledge about rural life."

As rural ambassador, Liz believes she is well placed to promote the importance of rural health and address the barriers young people face when pursuing career opportunities in the country.

"A big part of my role will be to bring young people together to share experiences, challenges and successes to address some of these barriers and develop strategies to attract and retain young people working in rural areas," she said.

Liz believes the biggest problem facing agriculture is the high Australian dollar.

"If the dollar goes up, farmers get less on the international market and profit margins are reduced," she said.

"This is compounded by skill shortages, and attracting and retaining workers on the farm.

"The snowball effect of this is detrimental to small business in rural communities."

Liz is looking forward to attending this year's IGA Perth Royal Show in her role as rural ambassador.

She said she enjoyed just "being a kid" at local agricultural shows.

"I get the show bags, fairy floss, soft-serve ice-cream, have a go at the clowns and pat the farm animals," she said.

"I always loved going along the Yellow Brick Road and collecting all the bits and pieces."

Runner-up Clare Ward tasted city life when she attended Governor Stirling Senior High School in Midland and completed a degree in animal science at Murdoch University.

"Moving to the city was character building, but I always had it in mind that I wanted to go back to a rural community," she said.

"Then an opportunity presented itself in the town where I grew up."

Clare is currently quality assurance manager at WAMMCO International.

"When I moved back I realised after seven years I couldn't just slot back in, I had to make an effort to get involved," she said.

"By involving myself in the community groups and organisations around me I have built an active, fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle."

As a finalist in the Rural Ambassador Competition Clare was officially involved in her town's Woolorama in March this year, where she was honoured to be able to accompany this year's patron Maurie Becker around the exhibits and sections.

"He has such a knowledge and passion for helping the community. I have lovely memories of our time wandering around, meeting new people and learning from him," she said.

Liz and Clare were two of five finalists vying for this year's prestigious title.

The other three contenders were Denis Warnick, 27, of York, Rebecca Maddock, 27, of Moorine Rock (near Yilgarn), and Sara Dulex, 27, of Boyup Brook.

"The high calibre of finalists meant judges faced a difficult decision, taking a long time to deliberate the final result," Royal Agricultural Society of WA councillor-in-charge Lyn Piper said.

"The finalists were all very community focussed and particularly strong in wanting to encourage other young people to come back and live in their local towns and regions.

"They were very vocal about the benefits of living in rural areas."

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