THERE’S AN advertisement presently appearing on television showing an inquisitive ostrich that inadvertently attaches itself to a virtual reality viewer; the over-arching message is that although a flightless bird, anyone can ‘fly’ if they have the right attitude, motivation to achieve and strength to last the distance.
A similar message has come out of the Queensland finals of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Rural Women’s Award — that although there were three finalists, and there can only be one winner — all three women can be considered winners for what they have achieved. And for one of the finalists, virtual reality is involved.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s pre-eminent award for rural women, identifying and supporting emerging women leaders who have the desire, commitment and leadership potential to make a greater contribution to primary industries and rural communities. The Award acknowledges women’s leadership capacity in effecting change and influence through connecting and collaborating, and creates opportunities for women to drive innovation and build resilience. The award also encourages primary industries and their communities to embrace diversity in leadership to successfully navigate future challenges.
The winner of the Queensland Rural Women’s Award for 2017 was Jacqui Wilson-Smith, from Eerwah Vale in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, who plans to use the $10,000 bursary to create an on-line learning platform to enable rural agri-businesses to connect. Jacqui will now compete for the national Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) Award to be announced in Canberra in August this year.
The other Queensland finalists were Tracey Beikoff and Jessica Fealy, both from Mareeba.
The Rural Women’s Award offered a $10,000 project bursary to each state and territory winner to support their particular project designed for the benefit of primary industries. State and Territory winners will vie for the national Rural Women’s Award title in August this year, with the winner receiving an additional $10,000 to contribute to her project.
Recently, in Far North Queensland, I met Tracey Beikoff, who is a rural safety advocate, a keen equestrian, and the founder of emergency survival kit company, Rescue Swag.
Two days after the award results were announced in Brisbane (March 22), Tracey was back in the north and on the road promoting her unique Rescue Swags that are jam-packed with essential medical equipment.
“I’m immensely proud to be a finalist for such a prestigious award,” Tracey said as she related her passion for safety in rural Australia, and how Rescue Swag originated.
Her entry in the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award centred on her project to provide a rescue kit combined with a virtual reality viewer that has enormous potential in remote rural areas where immediate medical aid is non-existent.
She elaborates: “When it comes to safety, living and working in rural Australia puts you at a distinct disadvantage. Not only are the environment and conditions extreme, daily tasks also come with inherent risk of accident and injury,” says Tracey.
“To be prepared for these conditions, access to first aid training is essential. However, obtaining training requires long distance travel, and within the limited time of most first aid courses, ongoing confidence to perform as a first responder is not high.
“I see an opportunity to utilise existing technology to provide ‘life-like’ first aid learning without the need to travel, in the engaging format of ‘Virtual Reality’.
“I aim to increase the chances of saving lives by empowering people to ‘self-rescue’ with confidence. Not only would access to virtual learning be available to rural Australians in their homes, on stations or farms, it may be accessed repeatedly and frequently to cement knowledge and skills and grow confident rural first responders.”
Yet, while her entry into the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award looked to the futuristic, Tracey’s initial success harks back to her care-free days and a love of horses.
“There was a time when I was a happy-go-lucky recreational horse rider,” she told.
“Yes, I have seen bad accidents from horse riding in the past,” Tracey recounts, “and it can shake you up if you are unable to effectively deal with it.
“Something can always happen when riding horses,” she adds.
“Then one day, my friend was thrown and severely injured — and I had no way to help her. I felt my heart drop like lead, I knew I had no help to offer her, my stomach was clenching at the thought that she may be in real danger.
“As we called triple-0 and waited for help to reach our remote location, I vowed that I would never allow myself to be in that situation again,” she related.
In 2012 she designed her first Rescue Swag — a compact kit containing everything that a person could conceivably need as a first response.
Tracey describes her Rescue Swag is an innovative first aid kit designed for tough Australian conditions. It includes comprehensive first aid supplies, and links directly to instructions and photographs within the Rescue Swag mobile app to guide the user during emergencies. Each kit also has the ability to be used as a sling, splint, immobilisation device or water carrier.
She then made enquiries about its manufacture, and was directed to the Lotus Creek Correctional Centre just outside of Mareeba.
“I had a prototype in a couple of weeks,” she said.
The initial kit was designed for a motor vehicle, and Tracey has since adapted the design for the Rescue Swag to become part of a horse rider’s saddle. She is presently designing a new generation compact kit for use by bicycle riders.
“The complete Rescue Swags sells for $149 including GST plus $16.50 shipping.
“Rescue Swag has since been endorsed by Horse Safety Australia and ATHRA (Australian Trail Horse Riders Association),” Tracey said.
Acceptance of the Rescue Swag has meant immediate success for the young woman with the attitude and motivation to succeed.
It all began when she presented a spiel about her invention to an innovation event.
Within three months of launching Rescue Swag, Tracey was encouraged to enter the Tropical North Queensland Innovation Awards, where she picked-up the Emerging Innovation category.
“That was the easy part,” she quipped — “then came the marketing of the product throughout Australian and the United States.”
In 2015 she was invited to appear on a television show, “Shark Tank Australia,” where the ‘sharks’ were investors, and entrepreneurs pitched for funding for their projects.
Tracey received $220,000 and the investor received a percentage share of her company.
Her radiant smile beams over her coffee: “I’m so proud of what I’ve done already; I feel like a winner of the RIRDC award anyway!”
Her smile shifts to a serious expression: “In New Guinea, women are birthing in villages using razor blades — hence there is much infection.
“One in five women die every day while giving birth in New Guinea,” she emphasises.
Her aim is to produce a birthing kit in the format of the Rescue Swag as a solution to the primitive medicine being experience in the wilds of PNG, as well as aid development services to women.
Tracey’s work has brought her in contact with a plethora of organisations and people who find mutual benefit in working together: RRRC Connect, the philanthropic arm of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, which is training Rangers, and of Yolonde Entsch (wife of Federal MP Warren) who dedicates considerable time to fund-raising for the movement, and the worldwide Christian movement, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) medical ships operating out of Papua New Guinea.
The RRRC is a not-for-profit consortium of research providers, industry and community organisations that co-operate via a strong and effective engagement framework. The Centre has evolved an innovative approach to improving the sustainability of management and use of tropical environmental assets. What sets the RRRC apart is a unique focus on engagement with key sectors to deliver solutions based on good science that address key tropical environmental management issues.
Apart from running Rescue Swag, Tracey Beikoff has held key organiser roles in both the Mareeba Metrogaine Fun Days and the Mareeba Pink Ribbon Garden Party.
She is also a board member for the Bicentennial National Trail, and co-founder of the Mareeba Bicentennial National Trail Working Group.
Just prior to this story going online, Tracey Beikoff advised that she has been awarded the Queensland Government’s ‘Ignite Ideas Grant’ (worth $110,000) for ‘Smart First Aid: Leading the World in First Aid Innovation’.
The award document described Tracey’s innovative product as such: “Rescue Swag is the world’s first ‘Smart First Aid Kit’, complete with a smart phone app, capable of interacting with Rescue Swag’s first aid product inclusions and guiding the user to learn and apply first aid correctly — anywhere, anytime.
“This smart safety system also transforms into a sling, splint and immobilisation device. Rescue Swag is designed with preparedness in mind for a customer concerned with lifestyle, health and sustainability. New ‘Smart’ products will include NFC/Virtual/Augmented reality.”