Award for rural advocate challenging stereotypes with big-impact career

20 July 2022

When Marmor student Laura Rutherford began her university studies in the big city' she wasn't happy with the stereotypes that met her.

"I was told I was too smart and pretty to be from the bush' which is not how it works!" Laura said.

Transferring to CQUniversity Rockhampton to do her Bachelor of Physiotherapy near her hometown' Laura said she realised the importance of regional people having study options in their local area.

"Once I started at CQU' I found so much more success and opportunities' from working with the Capras footy team' to being able to study on my laptop while helping with the cattle at home'" she said.

"Those local connections have been key to my passion for rural advocacy' and for pushing for social change in these areas."

And the third-year student's impact is being recognised' with Laura recently named the Queensland Rural' Regional and Remote Women's Network Young Woman of the Year.

The award recognises her wide range of community work' including founding The Rural Conversation' a social media platform that advocates for rural and remote Australian businesses' education' telecommunications and health care.

"I thought if social media is where people are getting misinformation (about rural communities)' I will start there'" she explained.

"I wanted to say people from regional areas are just as smart and capable' they just don't have as many resources as people in the cities."

Laura is also a volunteer firefighter and emergency services responder' and a busy pole fitness instructor in Rockhampton.

She received the award via Zoom' due to commitments in Sarina' participating in the Central Queensland Showgirl finals.

Earlier this year' CQU supported Laura to complete a NextGen Medics Scholarship' supporting her to experience rural health care with leaders in innovative delivery' working across Emerald' Roma' Dalby and Theodore with Heart of Australia' a Queensland-based medical initiative.

She's also recently joined the Queensland Disability Advisory Council' following an adult ADHD diagnosis.

She said her latest recognition is a reminder of what's possible in regional Australia.

"I hope this award gives me leverage to get into more discussions about the future for rural health' accessibility and education' and as a country girl with a disability' I'm really proud to be an example of what anyone can achieve if they back themselves'" she said.