The Scenic Rim’s EmpowHER hiking program has been nationally recognised, taking out the Programs and Activities Award at the 2022 Australian Sport, Recreation and Play Innovation Awards in Melbourne.
The Council initiative, led by Community Development Officer Lisa Caruana, has also received high praise from local hiking enthusiasts who want to see the program continue.
EmpowHER, which went from February to June 2022 with a few extra walks in July, included 75 guided walks, 80 per cent of which were sold out before the program started.
It was popular with locals and visitors, with 390 women from 10 to 76 participating in the heavily subsidised walks, which were jointly funded by the Queensland Government’s ActiveKIT program, Health and Wellbeing Queensland and Council.
The purpose of the program was to empower women and girls to explore the region and build confidence, fitness and participation through hiking.
It aimed to increase the physical activity of women and girls by reducing barriers to participation including affordability, time flexibility, transport and self-motivation.
Keen local bushwalker Debbie Wilson from Gleneagle did 13 or 14 EmpowHER walks at O’Reilly’s, Binna Burra, Beechmont, Mt Barney and Tamborine Mountain.
She praised the initiative and said she had heard nothing but good things about it from fellow hikers.
“I just want to say congratulations to Lisa Caruana and well done Scenic Rim Regional Council. It’s important they know how much it was appreciated – other councils should adopt this program to promote tourism,” she said.
“I’d been looking for something where I could meet local people, get out and enjoy the scenery because there’s just so many beautiful places where we are.”
She said women built lasting connections through EmpowHER and she hoped it would continue.
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen said EmpowHER was the only program of its kind in Queensland, and possibly Australia.
“Our delivery partners ParkTours, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and Mount Barney Lodge, who are locally based tourism operators with a passion for sharing the wonders of our magnificent natural environment, have been integral to the success of EmpowHER,” he said.