For Julia Spicer, regional living is her passion both professionally and personally, and it is through this service to the community she has been honoured with an Order of Australia Medal.
Julia said she was chuffed somebody went to the effort to nominate her and go through the process. "I don't think I realised how big a deal it was until I started looking into it a little bit. I am really excited."
She said the accolade was good motivation. "It makes me feel like I'm on the right track work and volunteer wise, and what I think is important about the regions and why I do what I do. The fact that has been recognised is cool."
Being part of a community has always been for Julia. She grew up at Bymount, north of Roma. "It was a bit like Kindon - a one teacher school, tennis courts, hall and we all kind of congregated to that. Pretty much as young as I can remember we had a job to hand out plates at dinners, play tennis with generations of people older or younger than us... and so there was always this feeling we had to contribute to the greater good. My mum and dad are very much like that with sport, church or whatever so it was certainly a family thing and a small community thing."
Any job Julia has had, was about bringing people together to work on something that would benefit more than an individual. She arrived in Goondiwindi in 2006 for a three-month contract to work with the local Catchment group, and never went home, meeting and marrying local Tony Spicer.
"I have always wanted to live regionally, and have: here, Mitchell, Roma, Gatton wherever and I love it because I think we can be part of something bigger than ourselves. I do think we look after each other, I do think we are proud of each other's accomplishments."
Julia has been involved with many boards and groups including GTT and Care Goondiwindi, the Tie up the Black Dog committee and Queensland Rural Regional Remote Women's Network to name just a few. She has contributed to the community through business and consulting, land and environment and is a rural business advocate.
Some of her accolades include being a finalist in the 100 Women of Influence, 100 Faces of Small Business, QRRRWN Small Business Owner of the Year, Women of Influence in Agribusiness and more.
"Historically I have played a role with other boards with women in the regions, and making sure diverse cultures are represented regionally. Through work, we do a lot of that, helping groups write grants, helping them connect with the right people. The networking piece is really important to me. I think we need to keep all the goodies working together in some form.
"I think in terms of how do we use this to move forward, how do we say, regions are really great places, how do we help use that to tell the story of Goondiwindi and other regions?
"I genuinely think the future is whatever we want it to be and whatever we're prepared to do. I think now is the time to be really intentional about what opportunities we have, how we want to grow and how are we going to do that. If we want to sustain the population we've got, how do we do that? If we want to make sure we've got particular services, how do we do that? I think really we can do whatever we want, it's about being really clear on, do we agree on what we want and are we bringing everybody along with us? That's really important for places like Gundy... how do we manage cross-border issues, how do we make sure youth go and learn but want to come back again, and all of that sort of stuff. It is thinking about what are the opportunities and what do we do with them. I'm a glass half full kind of person."
Julia said challenges for regional communities included a labour shortage and access to services. "I think we need to be really proactive around what are we using, what works, what doesn't, how do we change it? I think another challenge for us is always around that volunteering space, so there's always groups, associations and not for profits looking for people to be involved. What does our leadership in the community look like moving forward? It would be good to see a bit more diversity around the conversations."
This year, Julia's 'challenge' is to narrow back her focus slightly. "Content is my word for the year," she laughed.
One project will include investing in women. "There are a lot of awards but when it comes to women actually being able to access funding, about two per cent of all the venture funding actually goes to women, so there's a few of us looking at ways to create a different business model to be able to fund women."
Julia will spend any 'spare' time with her animals at home, visiting family, and like the rest of us 'normal' people watching Yellowstone or socialising. "I really love the people in this town," she said. "Gundy has been amazing to us personally and professionally. We have certainly got to see the best this community has to offer. It is amazing."
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