WINNER of the inaugural national Spirit of Community Leadership Award Christine Weston says she feels overwhelmed to be recognised for the popular NSW tourist initiative Animals on Bikes.
The tourism award was presented to Mrs Weston in May by representatives of Women and Leadership Australia, an organisation established to recognise and promote the achievements of regional and rural women.
Mrs Weston said she was pleased the sculpture trail, established in 2009 and featuring 110 exhibits over 12 kilometres, had proved such a hit with residents and visitors.
She had hoped Animals on Bikes would attract 12 sculptures in its first year and was thrilled when it ended up getting 40.
“It’s a means of attracting tourists, an alternative scenic route,” she said.
Mrs Weston said the “quirky, creative sculptures, which appear randomly in paddocks,” across the central west of the state were inspired by similar art trails in Tasmania and Western Australia.
“There are obscure art projects like this all over Australia,” she said.
“It’s been proven that they work, they do attract tourists.”
Mrs Weston hoped her award would remind other rural women they had a lot to offer their communities.
“I’ve spent 10 years out of the workforce contributing to the community on a voluntary basis so it’s good to get this encouragement and recognition,” she said.
Mrs Weston also founded Cumnock’s rent-a-farmhouse scheme, which encouraged residents to relocate to the village by offering affordable housing.
She was one of three finalists selected for the prize from more than 50 applicants across the country.
The runners up were Susie O’Neill from Ballarat and Fiona Blevins from Armidale.
As the national winner Mrs Weston will receive a scholarship valued at around $22,000, to attend a development and mentorship course.
To find out more about Animals on Bikes