Podcaster, farmer, journalist, entrepreneur and ‘boy mum’ – Kirsten Diprose wears many hats. It’s no surprise she caught the attention of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) and earned a scholarship to Course 31.

“This is a big step for me towards pursuing some personal and professional goals, mainly around agricultural communities, innovation and communication. And of course, furthering my leadership skills in general,” Kirsten said.

“My children are a little older now, they’re at the right age and I’m at the right stage in my life and career to be able to do this.”

“I saw posts from people I respect as leaders who had done the program and got a lot from it. I am drawn to growing my network and developing real relationships around rural Australia – I think that will be invaluable.”

The ARLP aims to challenge participants to grow as leaders, expanding their perspectives and developing their knowledge across Australia and the Asia-Pacific.

Over 15 months, in the most unique learning environments, 30-35 leaders from different backgrounds, industries and communities come together to learn. This year’s program includes sessions in NSW, New Zealand, regional Victoria and central Australia.

Kirsten, who is being sponsored by the Gardiner Foundation, says she had some apprehension about not being ‘farmy’ enough for the program.

“The first session is very physical and outdoors. While I like hiking, I’m not much of a camper, and I often joke I’m more of an indoor farmer than an outdoor one, so this is going to push me out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“I did question whether this really was for me, but then thought ‘what, because I don’t love camping’. I quickly realised I needed to trust the process and get over hang-ups like feeling not ‘farmy’ enough.”

Originally from Western Sydney, Kirsten moved to Melbourne to work as a journalist for the ABC. She met her current partner, a farmer, and moved to Caramut, a small town in Western Victoria with a population under 300.

“Our farm is a mixed operation, we have sheep, some dairy and crops. It was a huge change from Sydney to Melbourne and now Caramut, but I love my community more than anything.”

“Living in regional and rural areas is a very natural and good way of living. I think communities are so strong. I used to live in a cul-de-sac in a group of townhouses and I never spoke to anyone apart from the occasional nod when we’d move our cars,” Kirsten said.

“But now, in my community, our power went out recently and I went to use our neighbour’s shower, everyone is so willing to help out, I love that.”

The ARLP Course 31 participants have already met online and will be embarking on their journey in June with a 12-day discovery session in regional NSW.

“We had our first online session with some brief introductions, it was great. There were people I had interviewed for a podcast and followed their career over social media.”

“I think we’re all quite diverse with a unique perspective yet all united by being on the land. I can see the passion we all have for making agriculture and rural communities more inclusive and I’m looking forward to having my mind opened to new possibilities.”