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Born: 9 September 1959

Special Achievements:

Ruth has a passion to ensure that women have a right to decision making in their industry…[She] is a winning example of blooming where you are planted and is a passionate leader in her rural community. (Caroline Brown, 2008)

Born in Launceston, Ruth Paterson is married to Phillip. They have two daughters. Ruth and Phillip own and operate a mixed farming and irrigation enterprise in the Oaks district of central Northern Tasmania. Their business, Moreton Hill Investments, imports a range of hard hose irrigators from Italy and has had international success. Moreton Hill’s skills and product knowledge were recognised in June 2004, when the company was contracted by its European supplier to undertake the commissioning of 60 hard-hose irrigators to Indonesia’s largest pineapple grower in Southern Sumatra.

However, Ruth’s success has not been limited to the family business. Ruth’s career in the Tasmanian Government Department of Primary Industries and Water (DPIW) allowed her to play a role in the development of government policy and programs addressing the needs of rural women. Ruth was employed by DPIW from 1994 to 2003, during which time she was instrumental in developing the Tasmanian Women in Agriculture Program (TWiA), a non-government networking organisation for rural women, which now has more than a thousand members.

Ruth is passionate about creating opportunities for rural women, and this passion has crossed national and international borders. Ruth was the first woman in Australia to chair an Agriculture Field Day Committee (Agfest, 1993 and 1994) and is featured in the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame in Alice Springs. She was the instigator for the exchange program between TWiA and the Nebraska Women in Agriculture organisation, and has been a Tasmanian delegation leader at World Rural Women’s Congress conferences in Australia, the USA and Spain.

Ruth is also an accomplished speaker and writer and has presented at conferences and submitted articles on rural women’s issues to organisations including the ABC and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Ruth’s experience in her field has led to her serving on a variety of boards and committees. This has included terms as the Chair of the Rural Financial Counselling Service of Tasmania, Vice-President of the Tasmanian Poppy Growers Association and membership of the Pearns Steam World Management Trust.

Ruth has received a number of awards in recognition of her contributions to agriculture, including the first Tasmanian Rural Woman of the Year Award in 1994, the 1995 Tasmanian Rural Youth Service Award and the 1996 Meander Valley Australia Day Citizen of the Year award.  Ruth currently serves on the board of the Rivers and Water Supply Commission.

Additional Information:

Tasmania's Rural Woman of the Year in 1994 Ruth after winning the award, Ruth took up a job with the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, with the aim of encouraging a rural woman's network and advising the government on issues that effect rural women.

A fifth generation farmer, Ruth Paterson was born and bred on a dairy farm at Hagley, in the Tasmanian northern midlands. The youngest of three girls, she was desperate to take on agriculture as a career when she left school, but tradition did not see an 'official' place for women as farmers in that era, so she went to Launceston and worked in the insurance industry, until she married a farmer and returned to the land.

She became involved in the Tasmanian Rural Youth Organisation, the members of which take a major roll in the organisation of AGFEST, Tasmania's major agricultural festival. As well as gaining professional satisfaction from working in agriculture, she was passionate about publicly raising issues of importance to farmers.

At the time of her award, she was concerned about the perceived divide between country and city dwellers. 'I think city people still see us as a bunch of whingers who drive their Mercs to town in their tweed suits and their Stetsons,' she said. 'Well, we're a long way off that.' She thought that people of the city needed to understand better the realities of farming that confront most Australians involved in agriculture.

At the same time, she believed that farmers need to change their attitude to the land. 'Ten years ago Landcare was the greenie, radical hobby farmer,' she observed. 

Through her involvement in organisations like the Tasmanian branch of Women in Agriculture, Paterson has seen a gradual shift in attitudes with regard to the involvement of women in the decision making process, not only on farms but at an organisational level. Awards such as the Rural Woman of the Year Award contributed to that change, by helping women to network and to feel confident in their opinions and abilities. 'That's what the Rural Women's movement is about,' she says. 'Just teaching that extra bit of confidence.'