I was honoured and thrilled to be one of four finalists in this year’s Western Australian AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award. The application process featured a new initiative to create Astro-Tourism Towns across the Wheatbelt and Mid West regions of WA.

Astro-Tourism Towns will attract more visitors to the Wheatbelt and Mid West regions.

We’re doing this by creating new spaces in the regions that will be protected from light pollution so visitors can see more stars in the night sky.

Astro-Tourism Towns Project

I plan to mentor Wheatbelt and Mid West tourism organisations and support astro-tourism businesses that attract visitors to regional towns.

The Wheatbelt and Mid West regions have world-class dark night skies that are perfect for astronomy and stargazing activities. It’s an all-year round activity and the Wheatbelt and Mid West have cloud-free and pollution-free skies to take advantage of. It’s a natural asset that can be used to diversify regional economies and build the value of tourism in rural towns.

The beauty about this tourism activity is that it can’t be done in the city and you do need to stay overnight to experience it!

Dark night skies are becoming rarer on Earth. Advanced satellite images, analysed by the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, have shown that artificial light pollution grew at approximately two percent each year between 2012 and 2016.

Assisting communities to adopt policies that reduce light pollution will maintain dark night skies and will protect stargazing for future generations.

There are cities in Asia and Europe where people don’t see one star, let alone the millions and billions on show in the Wheatbelt and Mid West. Visitors will travel from Perth and around the world to see what people living in the regions take for granted every night.

I plan to travel to Utah in the United States to attend the 2018 Artificial Light at Night Conference and examine internationally accredited dark sky parks with the International Dark-Sky Association. It will be invaluable to bring back the latest technology used for light pollution reduction and knowledge of how astro-tourism operates overseas.

The skills I bring back from the examination of the international astro-tourism industry will build the capacity of our regional communities. It will create a pathway for internationally accredited dark night parks to be developed in Western Australia and result in a boost to the tourism economy with opportunities for new businesses including Aboriginal Astronomy.

If your town is interested in knowing more about what becoming an Astro-Tourism Town is all about, how much it will cost and what’s included, please contact Carol Redford at info@stargazersclubwa.com.au or call 0427 554 035.

AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award

The AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award is Australia’s leading award acknowledging and supporting the essential role women play in rural industries, businesses and communities. The Award provides a platform to inspire and support Australian women to use and develop their skills to benefit their industries and communities.

The winner, Darrilyn Gordon from Halls Creek, was announced on 28 March 2018 at an event hosted by the Rural Regional Remote (RRR) Women’s Network of Western Australia with assistance from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.