Stock Handling & Animal Welfare

A dogged Kelly is Victoria’s top rural woman

Sheep Central, March 25, 2020

Kelly Barnes and friends. Image -Samantha Kaspers, Bespoke Design Co.

A DUNKELD working dog enthusiast’s passion to boost community spirit and resilience with her four-legged friends has won her the 2020 Victorian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes today announced Kelly Barnes as the winner of the prestigious award, and Victoria’s candidate for the national title to be awarded in Canberra later in the year.

Ms Barnes will receive a $10,000 Westpac bursary to help her pilot a working dog training school in Dunkeld.

The idea for the working dog training school came from Ms Barnes’ love and respect for her working dogs.

She believes working dogs are a great way to bring people together, not only to improve their dog handling skills but also to break down social barriers and aid mental health.

Ms Symes said the passion and commitment of Kelly Barnes and the other Victorian finalists to make their local community a better place is simply outstanding.”

“Women make a fantastic contribution to country communities and are excellent at networking and supporting one another – characteristics that will certainly help us remain resilient during these current challenging times.”

“I commend Kelly on her proactive approach to encouraging better mental health in Dunkeld – I love the idea of using working dogs to help build resilience and connections,” Ms Symes said.

Ms Barnes was one of four finalists for the prestigious award, alongside Kerryn Wildenburg from Kyneton, Jackie Elliott from Byaduk, and Katrina van Eyk from Pyramid Hill.

Each of the 2020 Victorian finalists will join the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Alumni in recognition of their achievements.

The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award acknowledges the significant role women play in agriculture and rural communities. The award is supported by Agriculture Victoria and is sponsored nationally by AgriFutures and Westpac.

Unfortunately no event to celebrate the finalists’ achievements was possible this year due to the Government’s responsibilities responding to the coronavirus crisis. Each finalist was able to speak with the minister and there are plans for an event when circumstances permit.

More information about the Rural Women’s Award is available at


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