Meet the finalists: R.M.Williams RAS Rural Achiever Award 2022

As part of the annual Sydney Royal Easter Show, R.M.Williams was proud to support the Rural Achiever Award, a state-wide leadership program celebrating future young leaders, who are working hard to affect positive change in their communities. This award not only champions the continued excellence that can be seen across rural Australia, but also offers our young achievers unique access to industry mentorship, networking opportunities and prize money, setting them up for successful careers in agricultural industries. R.M.Williams’ roots in the outback link us intrinsically to this way of life and the community spirit of regional Australia continues to inspire and guide us, as a business and as a team. 

Through the work of this year’s nominees, we were proud to see a focus on sustainability and improving traditional practices for the betterment of our people and planet, building a future that we can all be excited about. It was also wonderful to see record levels of gender inclusivity in this year’s line-up, with women making up six out of our eight nominees and proving that Australia’s heartland is truly a place where everyone can excel together. 

“R.M.Williams is proud to support the eight outstanding finalists for the 2022 Rural Achievers Award. We are passionate about supporting the youth, who are our future leaders in rural and regional Australia.”

– Terry Goodear, Head of Heritage and Heartland Marketing

Join us as we recognise this year’s outstanding nominees. 

Lucy Collingridge, Armidale

A proud ambassador for the agricultural industry and regional communities, Lucy is committed to agricultural research, specifically ways to improve biodiversity and allow primary producers to successfully explore sustainable outcomes on the farm. She believes resilience, empathy and trust are key to effectively leading and endeavours to use these traits in her work within regional communities.

‘The work being undertaken by my team (the Vertebrate Pest Research Unit) will have many cultural, social, economic and environmental benefits for communities across NSW for generations. Our projects include the evaluation of potential pest animal monitoring techniques on non-target species, such as native mammals, and monitoring populations of native species such as the Spotted-Tailed Quoll. The positive impact means that we can reduce the risk of these species ending up on the endangered species list and our communities can enjoy them in our landscapes for many years to come.’

Alister Meek, Hobbys Yards

Believing leadership is about influence, not authority, fourth-generation farmer Alister is in the perfect position as a high school teacher to inspire and encourage the next generation of agriculturalists. He’s determined to motivate others to help propel the industry forward, to uncover innovation, and to guide students towards modern farming practices for the benefit of rural communities, and the Australian agricultural industry.


‘Not every farming practice we examine or implement will go on to change the face of agriculture, but it's about making students aware of just how innovative the industry is becoming in overcoming the challenges it faces, as well as the growing number of career paths that exist for them, no matter what they're interested in. When students return to class and say that something we did or looked at in class led to a discussion around the dinner table with their parents about how and why they farm the way that they do, I know that what we do as agricultural educators is making a difference for the future.’

Jessica Fearnley, Bathurst

Jessica is driven by her interest in research and development for the agricultural industry, wanting to see Australian farmers succeed with sustainable and global practices. Not only is she aware of the pressing environmental impacts on the industry, but Jessica is also actively seeking ways in which to ensure the industry can attract and retain the next generation and safeguard their mental and fiscal health.

‘I’m trying to show that farming is not the only job in the industry; there are thousands of jobs to choose from with everything from technology development to marketing and graphic design. I have a bit of mental health training through my undergraduate degree, so trying to help educate young people in the industry about looking out for each other and themselves is something I like to bring up when I am out and about. It’s so important that everyone looks out for each other, particularly in rural Australia.’

Meg Austin, Broken Hill

Meg’s work as a midwife has highlighted for her the disparity between metropolitan and regional health facilities and the need for quality healthcare, no matter where you live, driving her to pursue further education in the vital area of women’s health. She believes belonging to a community and working side by side with its members is of the most benefit to all and that a strong leader leads from within, inspiring others to grow. 

‘Ensuring quality healthcare is readily available to women from rural Australia ensures we support farming families and promotes succession planning, so that families remain on the land and well supported, not isolated and left vulnerable. My goal is to support rural medical facilities to provide quality healthcare, irrespective of their postcode; to provide the metropolitan standard of maternity care for rural women.’

Miranda McGufficke, Cooma

Education and hands-on experience are key for Miranda, along with clear career aspirations and ambitions regarding sheep, genetics and breeding. A lifetime on the farm combined with her Bachelor of Agriculture/Bachelor of Business has Miranda’s focus on initiating change within the agricultural industry, to see businesses adopt new systems and respond to advances in areas including genetics and education. 

‘I endeavour to enhance people’s understanding and knowledge about the benefit of data analysis and the potential of genetic selection in developing more profitable and sustainable breeding decisions. In particular, I want to focus on the development of young people in this fundamental area of production. Through cohesive collaboration of both the younger and older generation, new ideas and technologies can be met alongside vast knowledge and experience. This will help create a more productive and thriving industry, where inclusivity is paramount, and everyone’s voices are heard.’

Nicole Cowling, Maclean

A focus on the financial side of life will see Nicole use her Bachelor of Business to play a key role in agribusiness and to assist with budgets and financial strategies as an investment in the future of rural communities and Australia. Nicole did not grow up on a farm but has developed an interest in crop and livestock management and has forged strong ties with her community in the Northern Rivers region.

‘My long-term goal is to specialise in generational farming and estate planning. These two strategies are incredibly important in any individual’s life and to do so in a tax efficient way, to ensure the best outcome for families, is paramount. The Northern Rivers region is exceptional for generational farming, so my ultimate goal is to develop long term, ongoing, trusted relationships and see these families thrive and continue to generate income from the land.’

Katy Armson-Graham, Padstow

Katy has a Bachelor of Agriculture and is undertaking her Masters of Teaching, with a determination to provide access to an agricultural education to students wherever they live. As such, she has plans to facilitate and lead teaching networks, providing mobile classrooms in rural communities. Her enthusiasm for farming is matched by her passion for teaching and the opportunities that both provide. 

‘Agriculture is a constantly changing industry and for it to continue moving forward, we need more students pursuing agricultural careers. Including our industry in schools will open students’ eyes to the millions of career opportunities that exist out there. Encouraging students who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to pursue agriculture will bring many young people into the regions, with new and exciting skills and ideas.’

Carl Schubert, Dungog

With a focus on sustainability and future-proofing the agricultural industry, Carl has a tremendous sense of responsibility and belief that we are all custodians of the land we live and work on. Eager to play a role representing his generation, Carl’s work as a rural contractor and stockman sees him actively involved with local producers and supporting the industry with innovative ideas.

‘The skills and qualities we require of the leaders in our industry are varied and unique. Approachability, empathy, tenacity and resilience are required for the varying and trying elements of our industry. With a focus on sustainability of the land of which we are custodians, I hope to educate and inspire these practices so that the future of agriculture can be in good hands for many years to come.’

On behalf of everyone at R.M.Williams, we’d like to congratulate all of the Rural Young Achievers nominees and our 2022 winner, Jessica Fearnley, on their incredible contributions to rural communities across the state.