A campaign to gain more secure and reliable data connection for rural communities has earned former Jerilderie resident Kristy Sparrow a Rural Community Leader of the Year title.
Mrs Sparrow was presented with the prestigious ABC Rural award for her efforts in co-founding Better Internet for Regional, Rural and Remote (BIRRR) in 2014.
‘‘BIRRR is a volunteer advocacy group for regional internet access,’’ Mrs Sparrow said.
‘‘We’ve got about 10,000 members and we troubleshoot and advocate for better internet.
‘‘We have helped several people in Finley and Jerilderie with their internet connections.’’
Mrs Sparrow, who now lives in Alpha, Queensland with her husband and two children, was inspired to start BIRRR due to personal experiences.
She was restricted to a limited data plan when home schooling her children.
‘‘We were restricted to 25 gigabytes and Queensland distance education curriculum went digital.
‘‘Everything was online but we didn’t have the tools or data needed to teach that curriculum.
‘‘It was extremely frustrating for me and other nearby residents so that’s why we created BIRRR.’’
Mrs Sparrow said with the issue not isolated to her area of Queensland, the advocacy group is gaining traction in may other areas of the country.
She said it has included many people from the Finley and Jerilderie areas, and the wider Southern Riverina.
Mrs Sparrow left Jerilderie after graduating from Finley High School in 1989.
But she said it is still home.
‘‘Jerilderie is a great community and the place I started my community involvement.
‘‘My parents were always heavily involved with community activities on a volunteer level, so that gave me a taste of how important it was to be involved with your local community.’’
Mrs Sparrow’s mother Maree Thomas — who still lives in Jerilderie — said she was very proud of her daughter.
‘‘She’s worked hard for her children and helping those in Queensland, and has now worked hard with Jerilderie, Finley and Deniliquin,’’ Mrs Thomas said.
‘‘Kristy knows what she’s talking about. She’s on speaking terms with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and politicians like Barnaby Joyce, Pauline Hanson and Fiona Nash; they are listening to what she’s saying.’’