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Safety a top priority

Tuesday, 13th February, 2018

Alex Thomas is a finalist for the South Australian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award. Alex Thomas is a finalist for the South Australian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

By Kara de Groot

The South Australian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award winner will be announced next week, with one of the finalists living just a few hours away from Broken Hill.

Alex Thomas lives at Parnaroo Station east of Yunta, and for the last 12 years or so has worked as a workplace health and safety consultant in the mining industry, and most recently in the agriculture and fishing industries.

She’s also a part time carer for her father, who is permanently disabled as a result of his work on the farm.

This, along with her experience as a safety consultant, inspired Alex to promote practical work health and safety techniques, and to call on other rural women to share their stories.

“The rate of fatalities in agriculture is eight times higher than the national average,” Ms Thomas said.

“The current thinking around work health and safety just means paperwork to many, and paperwork doesn’t save lives,” she said.

“My project focuses on a social media campaign, #PlantASeedForSafety, which will provide free tools for the industry so they don’t have to spend money on consultants, and engaging rural women by speaking at conferences.

“It’s about engaging rural women for change and to focus on making changes within their businesses and everyday practice that will save lives.”

The Award ‘recognises emerging women leaders who have the desire, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and regional communities’, and awards the winner with a $10,000 bursary to fund their project.

The winner will also go on to represent South Australia at the national awards in September.

Ms Thomas said if she wins she’ll use the money to launch #PlantASeedForSafety.

“The campaign will profile a minimum of 100 rural women and their stories on improving safety, but also what they love about what they do,” Ms Thomas said.

“It will create opportunities for shared learning, best practices and new connections between rural women.

“I’ll also be able to reach out to past award winners and identify other ambassadors for change.”

She said changing workplace practices, particularly in busy, time-consuming industries such as agriculture, is a slow process, but it is possible.

“Thirty years ago nobody wore a seatbelt and today we do it without thinking, so I think we have a capacity to change the way we do work,” Ms Thomas said.

The other two finalists in the SA AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award are Lauren Thiel and Jo Bonner.

Ms Thiel is looking to organise a conference for year 10 students in metropolitan areas so they can learn about the work available in the agriculture industry.

Ms Bonner is looking to create an ‘Artback Rail Trail’, a collection of artworks created by SA artists along the Old Ghan railway line to increase tourism in towns along the line.

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