Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Building capability and connection for women in rural and regional Victoria

The Rural Women Online Program launched to address a significant need for digital learning for rural and regional Victorian women.

Digital skills are now considered the fourth pillar of learning after language, literacy and numeracy, and the skills and competencies required to use digital technologies are vital for women to enhance their prospects of employment, economic security, education, safety, and general wellbeing. The Digital Inclusion Index identified ability and affordability as key to digital inclusion, and data from 2021 showed there was a marked divide in digital inclusion between metropolitan and regional areas, and men and women.

In June, the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust awarded a grant of $400,000 to the Victorian Women’s Trust to support the expansion of the Rural Women Online program across rural and regional Victoria. This grant extends support the Trust provided in 2021 of $165,000.

Over their 36-year history, the Victorian Women’s Trust has worked as an advocate, researcher, policy reformer, grant maker, event manager, and creator of major public initiatives across the State of Victoria and in some instances, Australia-wide.

The Rural Women Online Program was launched May 2022 to address a significant need for digital learning for rural and regional Victorian women.

Bronwyn Johnson the Program Manager highlighted that “Women in rural and regional Victoria are highly capable and deeply connected to the places where they live and work. They have advised us time and time again that they have fallen behind because there was just no opportunity to be taught digital skills. Our aim for Rural Women online is to build and foster women’s digital resilience through week-long place-based intensives to foreground their digital needs so that ultimately women and their communities are galvanised to build digital resilience together”.

For many women, Covid-19 instigated a rapid transition to the digital sphere. This transition required basic digital skills to find or keep employment, stay connected with friends and family, and attend vital health appointments and other necessities. However, many women who live in rural and regional Victoria did not have basic digital literacy skills and were left behind.

Keep Safe Online

Last year, while on the road with the Rural Women Online program, the team listened to more than 600 women face-to-face who told them that the ‘biggest barrier to being online was worrying about scams’.

In response, the team created a Keep Safe Online program. These are 10 eSafety short videos, created by women and for women, and are an easy way to get tips on spotting scams, ensuring privacy through social media channels and password management.

The eSafety videos are available for women and their communities to watch, pause, and review in their own time.

Please click here for more information.