EMPOWERING and amplifying rural and regional women's voices has always been a passion for Strathfieldsaye's Kimberley Furness.
This International Rural Women's Day, Ms Furness wants to use her platform to shine a light on the success of rural women across the nation.
"These are new and challenging times and Rural Women's Day is an important date for us to take a moment to celebrate and shine a light on the success of rural women," she said.
Ms Furness is the founder and editor of OAK Magazine, a publication that supports, celebrates and connects women across the regions.
She is passionate about women in business and loves hearing and sharing their stories.
Based out of Bendigo, Ms Furness founded OAK back in 2017 after many years working in the media.
Before leaping into the world of magazines and podcasts, she was also a former journalist at the Bendigo Advertiser.
"I had a craving to share people's stories once again," she said.
"I also couldn't find a magazine that spoke to me as a woman living and running a business in regional Australia.
"In 2017, all the puzzle pieces came together when I had an opportunity to speak at women in business event and include something in the gift bag.
"I took that opportunity to create a magazine that featured women in business from regional and rural Victoria and southern NSW."
Ms Furness said OAK started out as a tiny 27 page magazine and now it's 100 pages plus a podcast, events and thriving online community.
"I also launched a podcast called A Friend of Mine to make the stories of OAK even more accessible," she said.
Ms Furness said in these challenging and dark times it was important to use her platform to shine a light on the hardworking and inspirational women in the regions.
"I want other women that are living in rural areas to see and hear themselves in these stories," she said.
"I want people to reocgnise how incredibly hardworking, innovative and resilient women working in rural Australia are.
"I have an undying love for regional Victoria, it's where I live, it's where I work and it's what I champion as a business owner.
"OAK exists to air and share the stories of regional and rural women and we want to amplify their voices and generate awareness for their business so they can support themselves, their family and community."
Now, Ms Furness is a mother of four and like many has been impacted by the pandemic.
I have an undying love for regional Victoria, it's where I live, it's where I work and it's what I champion as a business owner.- OAK Magazine founder and editor Kimberley Furness
"COVID has been incredibly difficult with juggling home schooling and a business. I think that's how many of us feel that as working mums," she said.
"Rural Women's Day is that opportunity now as restrictions do lift to get back into it and start to fine a light on the incredible things we do in the region."
Ms Furness said despite the minor challenges that were presented over the past 18 months, her journey as a regional business owner had been enjoyable.
She credited much success to the supportive and inspirational rural women of Australia.
"There have been the typical road bumps of business and wondering often whether I'm on the right track. But if anything, it's an enjoyable challenge," she said.
"So often we hear that print is dead, but I haven't found that to be the case. Women are looking for something tangible and a welcome distraction from social media."
With COVID-19 restricting so many events and further isolating rural communities, Ms Furness said it was more important than ever to provide meaningful connections for women and to ensure they feel less alone on the journey.
To celebrate International Rural Women's Day, Ms Furness said she would be speaking with some of the incredible rural women from Victoria, NSW and Queensland.
"This includes an online event with Laura Hall of Phylli Designs from Scone, NSW as well as six podcast episodes which can be listened to via our podcast A Friend of Mine," she said.
"Through the event and podcast, I hope that women living in rural areas see and hear themselves in these stories, and others recognise how incredibly hardworking, innovative and resilient women living in rural Australia."
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