Did you know that this year we’re celebrating 20 years of the National Rural Ambassador Award? To celebrate, we’ve been catching up with the 19 individuals who have held the prestigious title since 2001.

Travelling to Zimbabwe to be a bridesmaid for a friend she met through the national rural ambassador program was just one of the many unexpected experiences Carla Tierney says the competition brought her. 

When Carla took out the title in 2010 she was teaching at a local school in her hometown of Oakey, as well as running her dance studio. She was also working hard to get the QLD Shows Next Generation off the ground and spent many hours on the road as the Queensland Rural Ambassador. Throw in a trip to Scotland to attend the RASC Conference, and 2010 was an action-packed year for Carla. 

2021 is just as busy for Carla, albeit in a less international travel kind of way. She’s currently on maternity leave with her eight-week-old son James and has just celebrated 17 years at the helm of her dance studio. With more than 250 students and a team of five staff members, the much-loved studio in Oakey has kept Carla busy. She’s also involved with community events, theatre dinners, musicals and still enjoys travelling the world – until 2020, of course. Carla’s looking forward to the day she can hit the tarmac again, this time with James in tow and show him the wonders of the world. 

Over the years Carla has been involved with the local Oakey AP&R Show and different competitions within the Pittsworth Show, Royal Toowoomba Show, Darling Downs Sub Chamber Comps and the Ekka.

She sat on the board of directors for Queensland Shows for four years and relished the chance to learn from some of the most experienced ‘showies’ in the state. Carla is especially dedicated to supporting our next generation in the ring. 

“ I have a particular passion for the Young Judges and Paraders Competitions and regularly volunteer my time to help other shows with these competitions,” Carla says. 

“ I hope to continue to work on these competitions in the future as I believe they can be an excellent catalyst for confidence for young people.”

It was the local show president Denia Janetzki and wife Leone who Carla credits for giving her the push to enter the rural ambassador program. However, she was also greatly inspired by Bruce McConnell and thanked him for leading the way. 

“Bruce’s enthusiasm for agriculture (and for life in general) is infectious and I knew that I wanted to work with him and the others in the QCAS (now Queensland Ag Shows) organisation,” Carla said. 

“Bruce gave me lots of advice and encouragement, and my theory was if I could gain an ounce of Bruce’s confidence I would have already gained so much.”

Carla described meeting like minded people and lifelong friends as the most memorable part of the competition. She was also fortunate to travel to Scotland twice – once for the RASC Conference and then again the following year to volunteer for the Royal Highland Show. She worked with the Royal Highland Education Trust for a week and was involved in teaching ‘farm to fork’ style knowledge to thousands of children. Her dance skills also came in handy. 

“I was able to help out with the special students’ dance performance in the main ring with hundreds of Scottish children – the first time entertainment had ever been allowed in the main ring at the show,” Carla recalls. 

“Meeting the students from all over Scotland as well as students from the Ukraine involved with the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children Foundation, was an incredible experience. And of course meeting and speaking with HRH the Princess Royal on five occasions was pretty cool.”

While she’s loved her international experiences, Carla’s still as passionate as ever about her hometown of Oakey. She can’t imagine raising her son anywhere else. Carla credits the rural ambassador program with changing her life and giving her the tools to support the next generation in Oakley and beyond. 

“The program is one of the best things I ever did. I am truly a different person now as the program helped to bring me out of my shell and I gained so much confidence through the whole process. I was able to share my passion with others and loved doing all the public speaking events, something I wouldn’t have considered doing before,” Carla said. 

“But most of all, gaining friendships from around Australia and all around the world has been the biggest impact through the show movement.”