Queenland’s most inspiring rural women named in 2020 Shine Awards
Queenland’s most inspiring rural women named in 2020 Shine Awards

Queensland’s most inspiring rural women

A Queensland grazier and author has been named overall winner of the prestigious 2020 Shine Awards, which celebrate the achievements and contributions of women across rural and regional Australia.

Eulo's Carmel Beresford has won both the Courage category and the overall 2020 Shine Award title for bravely writing the story of the life and death of her son, Sam, who was killed in an on-farm gyrocopter accident.

Dialysis nurse Lauwana Blackley, from Palm Island, is the Dedication category winner, honoured for her huge contribution to her community.

The inspirational pair join Simone Dudley and Georgia Foster Eyles from NSW, Kate Davis from Victoria and Meg Clothier of South Australia to complete the honour roll of winners in six categories: Belief, Courage, Dedication, Grace, Passion, Spirit.

Queensland's Shannon Speight of Mareeba has also been named a finalist in the awards.

Now in its fourth year, the Shine Awards is a campaign run by Australia's rural newspaper The Weekly Times, supported by Harvey Norman.

Nominees' stories have appeared in The Weekly Times over the past year, with a dedicated campaign that put rural women in the spotlight for the past 12 weeks and invited readers to nominate women who make a real difference to their industries and communities.

From a record-breaking field of almost 300 nominees, 18 finalists were announced.







Carmel Beresford, grazier and author, Eulo, Queensland


Carmel Beresford pictured at Eulo, Queensland. Picture: Lauren Beresford
Carmel Beresford pictured at Eulo, Queensland. Picture: Lauren Beresford


SHE describes it as a life split in two.

Life before the accident, when Carmel Beresford's youngest son, Sam, was full of energy and joy, always helping on the family's outback cattle station, Farnham Plains, at Eulo in southwest Queensland.

Then life after, when there was a hole where Sam used to be. And grief.

Sam died in a shock gyrocopter accident on the family's farm nine years ago, when he was 21.

"It was just a typical morning for me, I went to work at school," says Carmel, who had also been Sam's teacher and principal at Eulo State School.

Sam Beresford died when he was 21 in a shock gyrocopter accident.
Sam Beresford died when he was 21 in a shock gyrocopter accident.

Sam was refitting equipment on a newly purchased gyrocopter that he planned to use for mustering cattle.

His father, Mick, had just left him to finish the job, and was walking from the hangar to the house when he heard an almighty revving of the motor.

He rushed back to Sam, to find him with life-threatening injuries.

"It's my understanding that it immediately went to high revs - 5800 revs - and he was dragged for a little bit, then the back tail rotor caused damage to his body," Carmel says.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service flew Sam to hospital in Brisbane, where he received all the emergency care available.

But it was not enough.

Sam died eight days later.

Consumed by sorrow, Carmel poured her anguish on to paper, writing the story of Sam's life; the adventure and the challenges of rearing stock in the Outback. She published the book, Unforgiving: The Story of the Life and Death of Sam, last year, hoping sales would bring in an income to help the family through drought.

The story has touched the hearts of readers, and achieved much more than Carmel imagined.

It has raised awareness of the hardships that farm families go through to get food on Australian tables and given people who are dealing with grief reassurance that they don't need to suffer alone.

It has even raised funds for drought and bushfire relief.

She wants people to know that since Sam's death, "this southwest region of Queensland has experienced the deaths of other fine, hardworking young men, doing what they loved best - living and working in the bush".

For bravely sharing her son's story, inspiring others to appreciate the risks and rewards of working in rural industries and offering solace to other families dealing with grief, Carmel is this year's Shine Awards Courage winner.

Courage category finalists: Spinal injury survivorJoy Heenan from Warragul, Victoria, and disability awareness campaigner Courtney Baker from Warragul, Victoria.




Lauwana Blackley, dialysis nurse, Palm Island, Queensland


Palm Island dialysis nurse Lauwana Blackley is the 2020 Shine Awards Dedication winner.
Palm Island dialysis nurse Lauwana Blackley is the 2020 Shine Awards Dedication winner.


It is nearly impossible to quantify the contribution Lauwana Blackley makes to her island community.

As a dialysis nurse, with specialist skills in kidney disease, the amount of time and care she devotes to her people is huge.

Lauwana runs Palm Island's dialysis clinic, which treats 12 patients with severe kidney disease, some as young as 30 and the eldest in his 70s.

"Dialysis is relentless," explains Lauwana, 41.

"The thing you are living for is not dialysis, though. It is the thing enabling you to live."

To stay alive, her patients must attend the clinic three days a week, every week.

Every dialysis session is a gruelling five hours hooked up to a blood-filtration unit.

Lauwana's clinic can accommodate just four people at a time, so she is on call six days a week, making sure every dialysis chair delivers 45 hours of treatment.

And that doesn't include all the extra hours she puts into community education, providing holistic care to patients and their families and even acting as Palm Island's locum vet nurse.

Her mantra is, "if you can help, you should help".

Lauwana is a Bwgcolman woman of Kalkadoon, Birri Gubba and Torres Strait Islander decent who grew up on Palm Island, 70km north of Townsville in Cleveland Bay.

She started her career as a health worker in 1999, at the age of 20, while balancing life as a young single mother with a baby daughter.

"I just always felt that I could do more," says Lauwana, who pursued a nursing degree as a mature-age student so she could contribute more.

"We need more people from community sitting in key positions in community to make this a viable place to live," she says. "I went off to university and did the things I needed to do; spent the time away from community to learn my craft and then came back so I can care for my people safely and give them the best I possibly can."

Helping her people avoid debilitating disease is her main aim, with Indigenous Australians four times more likely than the general population to develop type two diabetes. "I feel privileged I can come home and care for them so they can stay in our community," she says

For her commitment and the inspiration she offers other young Palm Island women, Lauwana is a deserving winner of the Shine Award for Dedication.

Dedication category finalists: Goat farmer and market founderSarah Mostyn from Cohuna, Victoria, and CareFlight nurse Nadine Tipping from Darwin, Northern Territory.



Shannon Speight, livestock vet and software developer, Mareeba, Queensland


Queensland livestock vet Shannon Speight is founder of Black Box Co, a data analysis service that she hopes will boost northern Australian cattle producers' productivity and profits.
Queensland livestock vet Shannon Speight is founder of Black Box Co, a data analysis service that she hopes will boost northern Australian cattle producers' productivity and profits.



SHE fell in love with Australia's cattle industry as a student working on a station in Queensland's Top End.

Now, with a uni degree and prestigious industry award to her name, and a track record collaborating with some of the nation's leading pastoralists, livestock vet Shannon Speight is determined to give back to the beef industry.

The 29-year-old from Mareeba has created a powerful data-analysis tool to help producers boost productivity and profits.

The idea took shape while she was co-ordinating a large-scale cattle genetics project across Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

She describes the role as "grunt work", but it was much more than that.

Pregnancy-testing more than 30,000 heifers and clocking up more than 60,000km, she spent months on the road, long days in cattle yards, and most of her working week with her arm up cows' rear ends.

While on the job, she discovered producers were sitting on a wealth of information - years' worth of genetic measurements, weights, feed choices and carcass assessments - and were screaming out for a way to analyse it all, to inform better decisions.

"I had people coming to me with 10 years of data stored on their hard drives slowing down their computers, and on USB drives, saying 'what do I do with it?'," Shannon says. "I thought maybe I'm the person who can solve this, because no one else is putting their hand up."

She teamed up with fellow cattlewoman Emma Black to launch a software solution called Black Box Co, and is working with industry leaders to fine tune its capabilities.

Shannon juggles the business commitment with taking care of her two young sons, two-month-old Fred and Russell, 1, and building her own cattle herd with husband Luke.

Business partner Emma says there is no end to Shannon's enthusiasm.

"Her passion and dedication to change the rural industry and see it thrive in the future is astounding," Emma says.






Carmel Beresford, grazier and author, Eulo, Queensland



Simone Dudley, occupational therapist and co-founder of Therapy Connect, Deniliquin, NSW



Georgia Foster Eyles, fire recovery volunteer, Nymboida, NSW



Lauwana Blackley, dialysis nurse, Palm Island, Queensland



Kate Davis, food events organiser, Ballarat, Victoria



Meg Clothier, farm caretaker, Orroroo, South Australia

Originally published as Queensland's most inspiring rural women