2018 SA & NT Rural Media Award winners announced

From record numbers of outstanding entries, ABC Landline’s Northern Territory based journalist, Kristy O’Brien and News Corp’s Advertiser photographer, Tait Schmaal have taken out the major prizes at the 2018 SA & NT Rural Media Awards announced at the Adelaide Showground today.

In the first year of incorporating the Northern Territory in these awards, Kristy O’Brien has come through from the Television category to win the top Journalism award from a record 23 entrants. She started her career as a cadet in regional Queensland with Win Television at 16 years of age, and since then has chased opportunities across the world in all facets of television production.

In recent years she has focussed on delivering content for the ABC’s regional affairs program Landline, plus ABC News, radio and digital. Her beliefs and interest in agricultural journalism has taken her to some of the most remote parts of the NT, covering stories that rarely get the exposure and justice they deserve. Kristy’s talent has seen her swiftly promoted within the ABC, including a foray into the production of the highly awarded documentary ‘Tough Ride’, covering the effects of brain injury amongst young people in regional Australia.

From an extremely strong field of 16 entrants, Tait Schmaal notched up an unprecedented sixth ‘Rural Photographer of the Year’ win with an outstanding portfolio of story-telling and creative photographs. He started his photographic career with the Stock Journal at just 17 years of age, and after stints in New Zealand, Queensland and Western Australia, he returned to Adelaide as a part-time photographer for News Corp at The Australian, and then The Advertiser.

Even after spending the last 15 years capturing the essence of rural South Australia for The Advertiser, Tait said he is constantly looking for new ways to draw readers into relating more to our country towns, our farming, forestry, wine making and horticultural industries. He said he meets amazing people on the job every day, and the pictures he submitted reflect some of these innovative, community minded and passionate people living in our country towns and on rural properties.

Representing the major sponsor for these awards, Rural Business Support’s Chief Executive Officer, Brett Smith presented the awards to Kristy O’Brien and Tait Schmaal.

“Rural Business Support is proud to again be involved and support rural and regional media in their presentation of agriculture which forms such a significant part of this state’s economy,” Brett Smith said.

“Regional journalists and photographers work hard and have certainly succeeded this year in presenting agriculture in a positive light, as a sustainable and resilient industry, both now and for future generations.

“This matches our core belief at RBS; that is to support agricultural businesses in maximising the opportunities available now; and to also be well positioned to make the most of the good times ahead.

“We congratulate and thank all of the award entrants for ensuring that agriculture’s important news stories, whether they be published, posted or aired, are told with impact and meaning,” he concluded.

While ill health prevented RMSA President Leigh Radford’s attendance, he sent a message of thanks to Rural Business Support for its major sponsorship for the last six years, stating this has allowed the expanded recognition of high achievement across all forms of rural media to continue.

He also paid recognition to Primary Industries and Regions SA, Fuller, SA Horticultural Services, the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society, AgCommunicators and Superior Selections for their highly valued supporting sponsorship, and extended congratulations to all the journalists and photographers who entered, stating it presented them with a wonderful learning and rewarding experience.

For these awards, the journalists and photographers were asked to submit a portfolio of their work, published, broadcast, or posted in the 12 months to October 31st 2018. An important flow on is the winners of the main categories are eligible to go on to the national Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists Star Awards, and if successful there, to the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists Star Awards at the next IFAJ Conference, where the RMSA winners have regularly excelled in the past.

As in past years, through the generous sponsorship of the Show Society Foundation, special awards for the best Royal Adelaide Show story and photograph were presented. These were won by Fairfax Media’s Paula Thompson and News Corp’s Tait Schmaal respectively.

In recognition of the disadvantages smaller publications and their staff face when competing against the resources of bigger media corporations, where journalists are generally required to cover both aspects of story publication, awards were also presented for the Best Rural/Regional Print Journalist and Best Rural/Regional Photojournalist. This year those awards went to Peri Strathearn from the Murray Valley Standard, and Ali Kuchel, initially with the Stock Journal, but now with the Gatton Star in Queensland.

Leigh Radford also stated that while regionally based journalists are often at an initial disadvantage, they do have a unique opportunity to develop a wide range of skills, with many past major award winners starting their careers in regional centres. He also sent a message of welcome to Northern Territorians into these awards after years of isolation at a national level. With this expansion, he strongly encouraged even more to take up the challenge by entering in 2019.

In Leigh Radford’s absence, RMSA immediate past president and Icon, Ian Doyle hosted the awards for one last time. He also made a special presentation to Sue Lamshed for her wonderful and dedicated support of these RMSA Awards for the previous 22 years.

Media contacts:

Dale Manson
0418 811 233

Brett Smith
Rural Business Support
0412 630 015

2018 South Australia & Northern Territory Rural Media Awards Results


2018 Best Regional Print Journalist Award
Supported by Rural Media SA

Winner: Peri Strathearn – Murray Valley Standard
Highly Commended: Grady Hudd – The Bunyip
Highly Commended: Todd Lewis – The Border Watch

2018 Best Rural Print Journalist Award
Supported by FULLER

Winner: Erin Jones – News Corp – The Advertiser
Highly Commended: Brittany Denton – The Border Watch

2018 Best Rural Broadcast Journalist Award – Audio/Radio
Supported by SA Horticultural Services

Winner: Cassandra Hough (ABC Rural)
Highly Commended: Brooke Neindorf (ABC Rural)

2018 Best Rural Broadcast Journalist Award – Video/Television
Sponsored by Rural Business Support

Winner: Kristy O’Brien (ABC Television – Landline)

2018 Best Rural Broadcast Journalist Award – Digital/Online
Sponsored by Rural Business Support

Winner: Lydia Burton (ABC Rural – Darwin)
Highly Commended: Brooke Neindorf (ABC Rural)


2018 Best Rural/Regional Photojournalist
Sponsored by AgCommunicators & Superior Selections

Winner: Ali Kuchel (Fairfax – Stock Journal)
Highly Commended: Daniel Fitzgerald (ABC Rural – Katherine)
Highly Commended: Catherine Miller (Fairfax – Stock Journal)
Commended: Katie Jackson (The Border Watch)
Commended: Elisa Rose (The Courier – Mt Barker)

2018 Best Rural Photographer – Nature/Landscape Award
Supported by PIRSA

Winner: Jacqui Bateman (Freelance – Jacqui Bateman Photography)
Highly Commended: Tony Hill (ABC Landline)
Highly Commended: Tait Schmaal (News Corp)

2018 Best Rural Photographer – Production Award
Supported by PIRSA

Winner: Tait Schmaal (News Corp)
Highly Commended: Tricia Watkinson (News Corp)
Commended: Paula Thompson (Fairfax Media – Stock Journal)
Commended: Ali Kuchel (Fairfax Media – Stock Journal)

2018 Best Rural Photographer – People Award
Sponsored by Rural Business Support

Winner: Jacqui Bateman (Freelance – Stock Journal Contract)
Highly Commended: Tait Schmaal (News Corp)
Tricia Watkinson (News Corp)