Kimberley Furness was determined to launch a print magazine, regardless of what the market was saying about the future of media and despite friends saying they hadn’t bought a print product in years.
Having started her career in newspapers and determined to get the stories of regional and rural women heard, Furness wanted to see such stories in print.
She founded Magazine Oak in 2017 as a quarterly print magazine, initially taking a huge personal risk by printing the first 24-page edition to hand out at an event. It has since grown to over 100 pages and now includes an online community, events and a podcast called, One of my friendswhere Furness hosts conversations with women across the country.
In a deliberate shift from male-dominated media stories so often shared in rural Australia and particularly in agriculture, OAK elevates the diverse lives of real women. The magazine features women with disabilities, women of color, members of the LGBTQI+ community, rural women, athletes and creatives – all to fulfill Furness’s goal of making sure all women see something special. themselves in the pages.
“The media shows us a very biased view of gender and postcode,” she says. “It is usually also men who tell our stories. We need to take that back and write and present our own stories.
The magazine’s underlying support for rural women comes from Furness’ own experiences. Being a longtime resident of Bendigo, Victoria, she says rural areas have always been a big part of her life.
And she can trace her love of telling print stories to high school. Undertaking work experience in the local newspaper in tenth grade, she then took a professional writing and editing course at TAFE and then began a career in corporate communications and journalism.
His idea for Oak came when Furness was traveling to rural Victoria and New South Wales to conduct social media workshops. The women she met would talk about their businesses, and Furness would come home delighted to tell others what she had heard. After a while, she wondered why their words had to be condensed into 2000 characters on social media and decided it needed a longer medium to share the content.
“Before I even decided to commit to the magazine, I asked a group of friends if they had read a print magazine recently, and 99% of them said, ‘No, go for the digital!” I said, ‘No, I love print!’ There’s nothing more exciting than standing in front of a magazine stand, staring at the covers.
But as she stood in front of those magazine kiosks, Furness never saw anyone who looked like her – a businesswoman and mother of four living in the Australia region. She launched OAK magazine to show the resilience and wisdom of underrepresented women and empower others to break down barriers and create change.
“It comes back to this idea that you can’t be what you can’t see,” she says.
With the magazine, Furness also aims to show a different face to what is generally thought of as a “rural woman”. She hopes that the stories of successful women in male-dominated industries like mining and construction will inspire others to apply for leadership positions, and that the stories of successful women with disabilities or those who build on their cultural heritage, can also help break down stereotypes further.
“My long-term goal is for OAK to become a number one resource for regional and rural areas, where a third of Australian women live,” she says.
Furness is on track to achieve this goal and was recently named a National Victoria Finalist for the 2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, the leading award that strengthens and celebrates the inclusive and courageous leadership of rural women across Australia.
Winners receive a $15,000 Westpac grant to help them expand their work, and Furness plans to use the money to launch an audio version of Magazine Oak and employ a bush-based journalist to produce this content.
An audio version of OAK is intended to help bring the magazine to life for anyone with a visual impairment, learning difficulty or low literacy – a venture in line with the work Furness does to ensure its magazine creates a space for people from all walks of life.
Women’s Agenda presents the seven finalists of the 2022 competition AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award and promoting women’s work in agriculture, through our partnership with AgriFutures Australia.
You can read more about our profile series here.
The 2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Gala Dinner and National Announcement will take place at Parliament House, Canberra on Tuesday 6th September 2022. Ticket sales will open on Monday 2nd May 2022. See here for More information.