Media Statement 9 March 2018

STATEMENT from the Rural, Regional, Remote Women’s Network of Western Australia 

The Rural, Regional, Remote Women’s Network of Western Australia (RRR Network) is WA’s pre-eminent communication network for inspiring & connecting regional women; championing their role in our communities & advocating on their behalf.  This role extends to supporting and promoting the former and current participants of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award (RWA).

Current CEO Jackie Jarvis and RRR Network Board Member Sue Middleton are both former winners of the WA Rural Women’s Award.  Catherine Marriott is also a former winner WA Rural Women’s Award and a former reference group member of the RRR Network.

In early February a media story appeared that linked the Rural Women’s Award (RWA) to a sexual harassment incident dating back to 2011. The Board of the RRR Network were concerned to support women who may have been caught up in media attention that this story invoked.

The Board also discussed the rumours and stories concerning the Rural Women’s Awards that had circulated amongst rural women involved, for a number of years. The RRR Network CEO Jackie Jarvis herself was aware of rumours relating to sexual harassment incidents at Rural Women’s Award events in Canberra.   Jackie has never seen or experienced any form of sexual harassment at any Rural Women’s Award event but was aware of these rumours as early as 2014.

The RRR  Network decided action needed to be taken and on the 13th February 2018, the RRR Network CEO contacted a Director of AgriFutures Australia (AgriFutures) urging the organisation to undertake an investigation; in view of the damage these  rumours could cause to the women involved and to the profile of the Awards

CEO Jackie Jarvis also hosted a private teleconference, on the 20th February 2018, with of a small number of former RWA participants from across Australia.  It was agreed that Jackie would take on a coordination role for future discussions with AgriFutures.

When on the 22nd February 2018 the media reported that an unnamed WA woman had made a complaint against Barnaby Joyce, and, as Jackie Jarvis was advised in confidence of the identity of the women and the connection to the Rural Women’s Awards, Jackie sent an email to former WA and Interstate RWA winners warning that the media may contact them.  Many of the women were contacted by the media and were upset and unprepared for the attention.

Further to the initial contact, CEO Jackie Jarvis has spoken to the AgriFutures CEO to discuss what processes could be put in place if past or future RWA participants wished to report any incidents of inappropriate behaviour as a result of being involved in the RWA.  The discussions have been positive and are ongoing.

The Board of the RRR Network wants to be clear that currently the RRR Network has no formal mechanism for receiving or dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.  The RRR Network has not sought or held any meetings with the WA National Party.  If any RRR Network board member has met with members of the WA National Party they were not representing the RRR Network.

The RRR Network is committed to supporting rural women who have been subjected to sexual harassment and are currently investigating what mechanisms are in place for Western Australian women to report such incidents.

The RRR Network is an incorporated not for profit entity that transitioned from a WA State Government Reference Group with the support of Royalties for Regions funding in late 2016.  Jackie Jarvis was appointed as the inaugural CEO in November 2017.

CONTACT:           Jackie Jarvis Phone 0417 998 755;  CEO – The RRR Network