Over 100 RRR women in WA in the past 20 years have submitted applications to the Rural Women’s Awards (RWA). There has been more than 60 project ideas that have either gone on to win the RWA for that year or have been finalists and progressed in some way. Each project has had a journey and such stories ought to be shared. This is because they are motivating, and they encapsulate the passion, innovation and talent that resides in our rural regional and remote parts of WA. 

Carol Redford’s 2018 project was Astrotourism Towns. After owning and operating a public observatory and running an astronomy club for beginners – Carol was hooked on stargazing!  

Over the years she noticed how much impact artificial light pollution had on seeing stars in the night sky. In Gingin where she lives, she could see the Perth city lights getting closer all the time. Reflecting on this and recognising a value in our WA regions due to low populations and therefore low levels of light pollution – the project idea was made. That is, a dark night sky in our regions makes for a world-class asset! 

Carol’s vision was based on the idea that our planet that has more than 2 billion people who cannot see the Milky Way anymore because of light pollution, could come to WA to see it and more. WA would ultimately be the stargazing and astronomy capital of the world. Just as people travel to Queensland to see the Great Barrier Reef or to Brazil to see the Amazon Rainforest, they would come to WA to see the stars. 

Astrotourism Towns has gone from strength to strength since it commenced in July 2018, shortly after being a WA finalist in the Rural Women’s Award. Carol now works with 15 Local Governments in the MidWest and Wheatbelt regions where conditions for stargazing are optimal.  

Carol is building a new sector of the Tourism Industry by showcasing how the night sky can be used to attract visitors from near and far. She has mapped out a myriad of locations that are perfect for telescope viewing, astrophotography, and stargazing. Furthermore, the initiative communicates sustainable measures on how to protect the dark night sky so that astrotourism activities can flourish in the MidWest and Wheatbelt regions for years to come. 

Building the regional tourism economy around astrotourism has been so rewarding. Business ideas, new products and services are starting to take shape. Communities are learning about astronomy concepts and local students are engaging with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Events are attracting visitors and providing something different for local engagement. One of the most unexpected community outcomes to emerge is that astrotourism events are providing child-friendly activities where adults can socialise in a non-sporting and alcohol-free environment.  

The most rewarding aspect of the Awards process was getting to know the other entrants. There are so many incredible ideas that make our regional communities amazing places to live in. Being a finalist gave me a platform to promote my project and to take it to new heights. Dare I say the night sky is the limit! 

For more information on Carol’s initiative visit this site