Leading women in agriculture: people, place, purpose

Kate Lorimer-Ward-2_crop
Kate Lorimer-Ward, Deputy Director General DPI Agriculture, Orange
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

Tell me about your childhood, family, home and work?
I was born on a property at Nymagee called ‘Trugannini’, to Bruce and Patty Lorimer. I am the eldest of three girls and I am pretty typical of what they say about the eldest in a family.

My parents sold the farm and bought another farm at Parkes, ‘Oaklands’, where I attended Parkes Central Primary school. Following the 1982 drought and the wet harvest of 1983, I can recall my father saying cropping is for fools, and he wanted to get back into a livestock enterprise. So they sold the farm at Parkes and bought a property at Panuara on the outskirts of Orange called ‘Weemalla’. I undertook all of my high school years in Orange and graduated from Orange High School. In the late 1990s my parents were forced to sell the property with the establishment of the Cadia Gold mine.

I had a truly blessed childhood—plenty of freedom, plenty of responsibility, and a life living in some vibrant communities where traditions were strongly held. It was also a childhood where I played witness to some of the many challenges of agriculture, experienced by my parents—drought, floods, removal of floor prices in wool, record high interest rates, and shooting sheep because they were worthless.

I left home at 18 to go to university in Sydney for three years. From there, I took on my first job at Condobolin with the NSW Soil Conservation Service. This was the start of my public service career.

I have held a number of roles since then: Landcare Coordinator, Property Planner, River Planner, Executive Officer to the water reforms committees, Business Manager with the Catchment Management Authority, and then into Department of Primary Industries (DPI) as Leader of the climate change programs, then as the Director for Education & Regional Services. Earlier this year I was appointed the Deputy Director General for DPI Agriculture.

I am married to a wonderfully supportive husband and I have three children aged 19, 16 and 13, and for the past 10 years I have helped raise another child who is now also 19, and who I class as my own. We live on a small farm outside Orange in a house my husband built (he is not a builder!) on top of a hill in a gorgeous community. I am a member of our local Country Women’s Association branch, Byng Emu Swamp Branch—one that I set up 10 years ago in response to the millennium drought in our community.

What did you want to be when you left school? Has this changed?
I always wanted to be a farmer, but being the daughter of a farmer, my mother was adamant that we needed to have another qualification to support us/the family if that was where I ended up. So, I left school wanting to be a psychologist. I attended Sydney University doing a Bachelor of Arts, and started doing psychology and economics as my two majors. I dropped economics after first year (too dry), and dropped psychology after second year because I hated statistics. I completed my BA with a double major in geography—physical and social geographies. That is where I learnt not only about the physical processes of the environment, but the social ones as well—people in place with purpose.

As the Deputy Director General DPI, Agriculture, what is the best thing about your job?
The people I get to work with! The people make this organisation great—they are the reason why we retain our great research and education facilities, they are the diversity that create great ideas and approaches, they are why we are in regional locations all over the state, they are the family that we turn to when we need help and they are the ones we celebrate achievements with. They are the ones that convert abstract thoughts into products and knowledge that the industry can adopt to make changes that drive a productive community and industry. The people are what I love about this job!

Why did this type of work interest you, and how did you get started?
Like most people, I haven’t ended where I started. Actually, when I started I swore I would never work for the Department of Ag! They were like the enemy when you were in the soil conservation service—we had different philosophical approaches and a different research focus. However, time has seen these two worlds come together.
The work interests me greatly because I love the problem solving that is involved and helping people, industries and communities uncover solutions. While I will never be the researcher, loans assessor, educator or policy officer, I do love that I can play my part in helping them achieve what they need to achieve, so perhaps it is that I love being able to provide service to others.

What steps did you take that were vital in getting to where you are now?
I have moved roles into areas that were quite different from previous ones, and I think this has helped by having a breadth of experience. I have also remained committed to self improvement, ongoing learning and self reflection. These are all deliberate actions to improve how I do things. Finally, I took some risks and thought about things a little differently—bringing some innovation and energy to a new role.

What is one challenge you have encountered along your career journey?
I have had to make one really deliberate decision along my journey—to pursue a technical career or shift into management. This is probably the biggest challenge I have encountered. At some point I had to make a decision as opposed to just being a passenger on a career journey.

Who has inspired and supported you along the way?
So many people!
My parents—because they believed that we could and would be anything we wanted.
My husband—he has given me the freedom and support to pursue my passions, and he has readily accepted the role-swap of being the chief kid wrangler!
So many male managers—I have never had a female direct boss, so my experience has been shaped by some great male leaders and mentors who have invested time, shared great advice, provided wonderful opportunities and given me permission to grow. I have also been privileged to witness and connect with some great female leaders who have also done the same—invested time, shared great advice, provided opportunities and backed me when I have not had the confidence to see it for myself.

What have your experiences taught you?
It is OK to not get it right. Just know why you made that decision and then have a great plan B in place. Always be thinking about the next decision that may need to be made.
You will always swallow some water while you learn to swim.
Have a framework of questions that you work through to make sure you have considered everything.
Stay calm—panic is exhausting and stops your best decision making. Take a deep breath and stay calm.
With happy comes sad—if you are passionate about your work you will feel the full range of emotions, and that is OK.

What would you tell your 18-year-old self, knowing what you know now?
#youvegotthis
Perhaps the 18-years-olds of today don’t have this problem but, believe in your skills and knowledge, and back yourself.
#rememberwhereyoucamefrom
Your roots and where you are anchored is important in shaping what you do, how you make decisions, and what you draw upon to make those decisions. Remember where, and what this is.
#knowwhatyoubelievein
Know what is important to you—be deliberate in thinking about what it is that is important to you in your work! This will shape your decisions and judgements—it can also create blind spots—so know what you believe in, make sure you stay true to this, but also be aware of what others believe in—you need to consider them as well in your decision making.
#listen
18-year-olds need to listen—and listen deeply.
#surroundyourself
I have been blessed with great mentors and managers, so my advice is to make sure you deliberately link up with people you want to learn from. Pick them, ask them and listen. My experience was by accident, if I hadn’t landed in such a great work environment straight up, I wouldn’t have known to ask for it.

What has been your biggest triumph?
Having three healthy children and having the privilege to help raise another mother’s child. These four young people are my constant source of joy and pride.

What does being a rural woman mean to you?
It is what drives and defines me. I truly love the regions, the sector, the industry, the culture and the communities that support them. It is so much a part of my identify, that I cannot imagine living or working anywhere else. People in place with purpose!

Where to next?
Buckle down and enjoy the current opportunity. I am still too young to retire so there will be a ‘next’. I have visions of sometime well into the future actually getting to end my career ‘back on the tools’—I loved working on the front line with producers where I started, and I wouldn’t mind ending my public sector career there as well. I have watched a colleague do this transition and it looks very attractive when I get to transition to retirement.

In all seriousness, my ‘next’ will be in work that involves regional Australia and people—I can’t see myself without either of these.

We have discussions as a family of taking on foster children when all ours leave—so we will see where that takes us.

 

 

Posted in agriculture, education and training, Families, farming, inspirational, leadership, Mentor, primary industries, rural women, RuralWomen, stories, The Country Web, women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Little Wings

Garland 004by Richelle Koller, CEO Little Wings
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual

Little Wings is a not-for-profit organisation providing a free flight and ground transport service to seriously ill children and their families from the country who are needing specialised medical treatment at the Children’s Hospital in the city.

The Little Wings service helps to ease the journey for many rural and regional families by reducing the financial burden, travel fatigue and emotional stress of repetitive long distance travel and time spent away from home.

One such family who has been helped by Little Wings is Kathy Garland. Kathy’s life was turned upside down last year when her youngest daughter Ava was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. Here, she talks about how Little Wings helped her through one of the toughest times of her life.

‘Ava was your typical bubbly three-year-old living on a farm between Forbes and West Wyalong with me, her dad and four big sisters. When she hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days, then turned a funny colour, I drove her to Forbes to see a doctor. I had no idea what lay ahead.

Blood tests showed Ava’s bone marrow wasn’t working properly. We were sent straight to Westmead Children’s Hospital. It was a Tuesday afternoon. By 1 am the next morning, doctors had diagnosed Ava with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, and it was in 8 per cent of her bone marrow. By 4 am, Ava was admitted to the oncology ward and started treatment.

Doctors set a treatment program for Ava that involved at least six months of intensive chemotherapy. After digesting the devastating news, my husband Andrew and I began rearranging our lives. My sister and her husband, stepped up and said they would look after our other girls in Orange. It was such a relief. Ava and I moved into Ronald McDonald House where we now stay when Ava isn’t in hospital.

That’s when Little Wings stepped in to help to keep us together as a family through this very difficult time.

When Ava was too ill to travel, Little Wings flew Andrew and the girls to Sydney to see us. After months of intensive chemo, Ava was allowed to go home for a few days and the charity flew us back to Forbes so we could spend some precious time together.

Ava was so excited to be going home, to play with her sisters and sleep in her own bed. When she saw her toys again it was like seeing them for the first time and she walked without a frame for the first time in 10 weeks. Going home was a huge step forward in her getting better.

The family reunions have helped immensely in Ava’s recovery. We live five and a half hours from Sydney and when Ava isn’t well from the chemo, driving is not an option.

Little Wings is extraordinary. I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t been there to help when we needed them. It was hard enough that our family was living apart for eight months. Ava and I would not have been able to get home at all and we would have seen very little of Andrew and the girls.

It is an absolute privilege to know the amazing team of volunteers and staff at Little Wings. We are eternally grateful to them for keeping our family together at such a difficult time.

More information
http://www.littlewings.org.au

Posted in Communities, Families, Health, resilience, rural women, The Country Web, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engineer’s ambitious dream is empowering women

By Sophia Hoffenberg. As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award (RWA) winner, Jillian Kilby, approaches life optimistically, with the logical thinking of a civil engineer, the roll-up-your-sleeves attitude of a farmer’s daughter from Coonamble, and an with altruistic passion for change.

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2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award winner, Jillian Kilby

When asked what led to her career as an Engineer, Jillian says she always wanted an exciting career—something that was different yet applicable across the world, just as much as back home in rural NSW.

‘After crossing out every degree I did not want to do in the UAC guide, the only one left was engineering. Within six months of study at Sydney University I was incredibly interested in the subject and excited about the future.

‘I love that you never stop learning as an engineer. There is always another exciting project, another great challenge, a new avenue to explore and you work with people who are passionate and interesting.

‘Engineers hold the knowledge and technology that forms our built environment and information systems. They are one of the most important and highly regarded professions across the world. Engineering speaks every language throughout every era of history, and will be of significant importance to our future.’

Jillian graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with First Class Honours.

She worked for a number of companies before taking the leap and establishing her own engineering business. Her company, The Infrastructure Collaborative, has served the infrastructure needs of 50 local governments in regional NSW since 2009 when it was established from a 50 000 acre property west of Walgett. Now based in Dubbo, Jillian serves clients in Australia and the United States, where she is able to cross-pollinate learnings from a diverse set of work environments.

‘Starting my own project engineering company was about having a great career as an engineer, no matter where I chose to live. Operating in outback NSW, I love that my contribution to rural infrastructure directly affects the communities in which I live.

‘Every project is different, the people are friendly, the challenges are unique and I work harder knowing that the responsibility stops with me.

‘I have always chased ambitious dreams and followed my heart. That is the key to a satisfying career and fulfilling life.’

Jillian’s inspiration for developing an internationally based company is all about collecting memories and a diverse set of experiences. She says that to remove limitations and boundaries you have to actively seek more experiences, so operating in different places, meeting new people and seeing the way things are done elsewhere are key drivers of her multinational business.

‘Every project I work on in San Francisco makes me aware of something I can do better in regional Australia and every challenge we solve in regional Australia makes me a better operator in California.’

In 2013, the Australian Sir John Monash Foundation changed Jillian’s trajectory forever, affording her the opportunity to study at Stanford University in California. Jillian approached her MBA education with a view to bringing skills to improve infrastructure on a regional level back to Australia. She now employs a Design Thinking approach learned at Stanford to solve problems and shift infrastructure projects from government planning shelves to be shovel ready. When working on roads, Jillian refocuses infrastructure conversations around productivity for agriculture and mining, safety for school buses and access for tourism.

The Regional Startups Insight Study came about after returning to regional Australia and seeing the delta between the services delivered in Silicon Valley and Sydney for
people who are starting businesses. The project is about better understanding the needs of regional business owners, especially those who are on the cusp of starting a new business.

Jillian has experienced first-hand the difficulties of operating in isolation from like-minded people, stalling at the boundaries of her confidence in 2012 when running her business from a farm in Walgett. It is her aim to never see this happen to another regional business owner again and to empower women to make strong, brave decisions out of hope, not fear.

Jillian’s Rural Women’s Award project will help improve the commercial success of start-ups by increasing the capability, capacity and confidence of regional business owners. The project lives within a bigger ecosystem to develop more effective space and services for new and growing business owners within Dubbo and the wider catchment.

The Regional Startups Insight Study is about understanding women’s needs as they contemplate new ideas and business start-ups to identify the tools they need to launch their businesses into the commercial realm. For Jillian, this project isn’t about opening doors, it’s about knowing how to design the door handles.

‘When women in business thrive, communities thrive too. I want to encourage women to step outside their comfort zones and provide the support they need to pursue professional and personal goals.

‘There are women in regional NSW putting their careers on hold, accepting levels of underemployment, and mulling over new business ideas at their kitchen tables, needing reassurance, guidance and a gentle push to tip them over the edge into the business world. I spent my childhood running out the door with one boot on, begging not to be left behind and constantly proving myself to be capable of anything and everything my brother could do.’

Jillian views the success of her project and its wider impacts as. ‘Knowing the women in regional NSW thriving right now is multiplied, and that those thriving women help other thriving women through mentoring and co-working together.’

‘When women in business thrive, particularly in regional NSW, all of society benefits. I’m sure a lot of you have met these women, they are so contagious and come with a warning label that says, “If you hang out with me for too long, I will brainwash you into believing in yourself and knowing you can achieve anything”.’

Jillian has a strong rural background that has instilled in her a confident and resilient nature through the challenges tied to living regionally. She lives with a high level of optimism, constantly reinforced throughout an energetic, freedom-filled and education-emphasised childhood that differentiates regional women. She believes that, ‘education is given to one to benefit many to make Australia great’, and through working on a project in the regional community, rural women working remotely can achieve prosperity.

‘As a rural woman, I define prosperity as a time in life when the excitement of starting a business on a remote farm overpowers the fear, when the phone rings weekly with assurance from mentors, and when the resources are so readily available, contentment as a business leader overrides caution.’

While some would say running a successful international engineering business is enough, that’s not the case for Jillian. In addition to running her successful engineering business she devotes generous amounts of her time to serving rural communities through various board and committee roles and volunteer positions. She also mentors other young rural women to achieve their goals and be their best self. I am fortunate to be one of those women and have learnt so much and been inspired by Jillian’s experience, tenacity and passion.

Jillian now joins the Rural Women’s Award Alumni—ready to learn, give back, and meet new people as a part of her experience. She will go on to compete for the National Rural Women’s Award—the winner to be announced at a special gala event at Parliament House Canberra in October. She is a truly vibrant rural woman, with an inspirational nature, infectious enthusiasm and has an overwhelming ability to leave you sparkling, knowing you can achieve anything you dare to dream of. Jillian is a legend in her own right, and all rural women will benefit from the opportunities her inspired project emanates.

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. Each state and territory winner receives a $10 000 bursary for innovative ideas and projects, access to professional development opportunities and alumni networks

The award is open to all women involved in rural industries, rural and regional businesses and rural and regional communities. Location is no barrier. If you want to create impact, innovate and make a difference and/or contribute to enhancing the prosperity of rural and regional Australia, then we want to hear from you.

For more information on how to enter visit: www.agrifutures.com.au/rwa

Applications for the 2019 Award are closed and we hope to announce our finalists in March. If you are interested in applying for the Award in the future, keep an eye out for the 2020 application process later this year.

Posted in agriculture, Awards, bursary, business, Innovation, leadership, rural women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The art of celebrating regional women

By Sarah McEwan, Sandigo
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

On Sunday 10 August 2010, my husband Vic and I closed the roller door of our Marrickville home for the very last time. We can still remember that feeling as we drove off into the early morning light—one of total terror thinking, ‘what have we done!’

We had spent our adult lives living in the inner-west of Sydney where we had a concrete block warehouse with a cement floor where we held gigs and exhibitions in our ‘illegal’ underground warehouse/home called the Cad Factory. We were part of a vibrant, warm and generous community of musicians and artists. Together, we all shaped a rich and energetic underground culture.

SarahMcEwanOur new home we were driving towards was six hours from Sydney down the Hume Highway, 30 km from Narrandera, in a place called Birrego, surrounded by dry inland cropping and thousands of sheep and cattle. Our falling down one-room school house built in 1886 had no running water, a bathroom with a hessian sack for a wall and possums living openly in the main school room. Being five months pregnant at the time of moving meant we had a lot of work to do before we could comfortably live with a baby.

In hindsight, our naivety served us well. If we had knowingly known what was in store for us in repairing and renovating the school house, plus building a beautiful world-class recording studio, there’s no way we would have willingly taken such a risk!

We stumbled, scrounged, questioned and finally, eight years later, we have spent the last few years enjoying our dream set up. I often think to myself it really is amazing what two people can do together when they share a similar vision.

Our rural move was because we wanted a new adventure and to have more space for creating artworks and supporting creative practices. We wanted a house and studio space to live and work in, and a place where visiting artists and musicians could work too. This third Cad Factory space we live in now is much more ‘grown up’ than our earlier years. When we started in 2004, above a pizza supply shop in Marrickville, we held all night gigs. Now, we are a not-for-profit artist led organisation creating an international program of new, immersive and experimental work guided by authentic exchanges, ethical principles, people and place.

Our rural move has changed us deeply—I would say for the better. The vast open skies of the Riverina has given us opportunities beyond what we thought was ever possible. Our arts practice has become more rigorous, engaged and ambitious.

For the last year, I have been fortunate enough to have received a Create NSW Regional Fellowship that allowed me to travel to Duke University in North Carolina and the Women’s Centre for Creative Work in Los Angeles to research for new exhibitions.
Part of this research culminated in an exhibition at Western Plains Cultural Centre in Dubbo called Unbind Me, that opened on 30 June and closed on 2 September, with more than 10 000 people viewing it.

The exhibition was creating feminist time travel beginning with Hesiod (c700BCE) in the Iron Age and running through to contemporary artist ‘Truth Tellers’ who face complex and competing ideologies. In making artworks about key philosophers, poets, authors, historians, economists, activists and artists who have contributed to the world over the past 2700 years, you can see a clear narrative of the historical limitations placed on women from all aspects of life including; philosophy, science, religion and education. You can also see how much has changed and been achieved since the Iron Age.

I still find it unfathomable to believe that 2500 years ago Plato started his Academy to foster philosophical education, but it wasn’t until 1881 that the first woman, Bella Geurin, completed a Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University! The education gap widens for Indigenous women with Margaret Valadian being the first Indigenous woman to complete a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Queensland in 1967.

During my eight years of living regionally, I have witnessed the drive of rural women to actively change the practical, social and emotional experience of regional life—for themselves, for their families, for their friends and for their communities. I see this in events like the NSW Rural Women’s Gatherings that Narrandera was lucky enough to host in 2017, publications like The Country Web and Graziher, along with the Hidden Treasure Honour Roll and so many other groups and committees. I see this with my friends and the way they care, with such love, for other people.

These kinds of activities inspire me in my creative practice. I hope that in my very own small way, I can build on the work of these trailblazing rural Australian women who have come before me and who work alongside me.

 

Posted in Communities, inspirational, rural women, Women in Focus | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Women who gather

by Marg Carroll OAM, Molong
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

Picture this, two friends driving along, brimming with ideas and talking 19 to the dozen about the marvelous weekend they had just had! That was Ronnie Hazelton and I returning from Numurkah, just over the border in Victoria after their Women on Farms Gathering in April 1992. We both worked in health: Ronnie in farm safety and me in health promotion, and I had a brand new but daunting job the following month, as the NSW Rural Women’s Network (RWN) Coordinator, setting up the Network (a position I held from 1992–98).

Women who gather

Steph Cooke MP, Tammy Galvin, Marg Carroll OAM and Ronnie Hazelton at the 2017 Narrandera Rural Women’s Gathering

It didn’t take long for us to have the big idea: ‘Why don’t we do a Gathering in NSW?’ We were completely carried away, not having a clue how much organisation it might take, or how big it could grow. We just knew we had to convince our bosses, get a talented team together and source funding.

1992/93 was a time of the 3 Ds: drought (affecting more than two-thirds of NSW), debt, and depression, especially in the Western Division.

My new job had come about from the 1991 Women’s Advisory Council conference in Parkes, chaired by Audrey Hardman from Mandurama. There, 600 rural women had listed issues and called for action, primarily to set up a RWN. This was helped through government by Audrey and by Dr Kevin Sheridan AO who at the time was the Director General of NSW Agriculture. He was to become our greatest ally in a male-dominated department.

My first task as RWN Coordinator was to meet women from all over and hear their concerns. In that first year I covered maybe 50000 km and, over kitchen tables, in halls and paddocks (and one memorable occasion at Gilgunyah crossroads out west where the red dust settled steadily on the white carrot cake icing as we talked), heard tales of isolation and lack of communications, poor services in just about everything, loss and grief, and financial woes especially on-farm and in smaller communities.

So the idea of something as joyful as a Gathering especially for rural women, struck a cord. We wanted to offer hard-pressed women a change away from the grind, something stimulating, relevant to their needs and good fun.

It fitted within the overall RWN action strategies of The Country Web newsletter, which started when Sonia Muir came on board in 1993; Country Care Link 1800 line we set up for counselling, information and referral with the wonderful Sister Jude from St Vincent’s Sisters of Charity, and an ambitious consultation planned for a few months later with 500 women simultaneously at 28 TAFE satellite sites.

In case you’re wondering how we did this with 1.5 RWN staff that first year, then 2.5 when Sonia arrived, we worked in partnerships and teams, networked furiously, fielded constant media demands and 500 calls a month, spoke at many forums and made every post a winner. I loved working with rural women and tuning into their concerns to try and figure out what might make a difference. As Coordinator, I was also away from home a lot, lost weight and took up meditation! I overdid it a bit, but the threat hung over us of being a three-year wonder, a pilot program that finished before it had really begun.

One of our key partners at the time was NSW Health and Farmsafe Central West. And this is where Ronnie Hazelton comes into the picture. Ronnie was one of the first community nurses in the Central West (a scheme started by former PM Gough Whitlam). During this time one of the noticeable problems was farm accidents. Ronnie and her team worked hard to address the issue and they started the first Farm Safety Action Group in Australia at Cudal with a great committee of diverse people. The committee started to run farm safety workshops for women on farms and also for school children. When I started planning the first Women on the Land Gathering in 1993, Ronnie felt it was the perfect place to promote their farm safety messages.

With Ronnie by my side, we began by putting together a diverse team of 14 from throughout the Central West to help us. The 13 women and one bloke, Reg Kidd, tapped into organisations and ‘networks’—a new concept then but really the time-honoured bush telegraph. We didn’t have email or social media, just phone and fax, but got wide media coverage and used The Country Web.’

We chose Orange Agricultural College as a venue because women could gather together in cheap digs during student holidays. It was chilly in September, but no one seemed to mind and registrations started to roll in. At about 350 registrations the College began to get anxious. At 400 they said, ‘Stop, no more’, and we had to turn more than 150 women away. Sponsorship was generous and the Rural Assistance Authority funded women from each of the then 26 Rural Financial Counselling Services to attend the Gathering.
With the theme of ‘Surviving & Thriving’ we focused on issues and actions in deciding guest speakers and workshops—finances, learning, the environment, health and personal development, and those ‘hidden’ issues I was hearing around the traps: farm family succession and domestic violence.

Our guest speakers: author/farmer Christina Hindhaugh and the first Aboriginal magistrate, Pat O’Shane, touched emotions. Pat on the appalling statistics and reality of domestic violence, and Christina urging us to follow our dreams whatever they may be. ‘Although it would be lovely if one could, you don’t have to travel overseas, change industries, go to university or win the lottery to pursue your dream,’ she concluded in a story about life journeys. ‘Look around you, right where you are; in most cases you’ll find your acres of diamonds right there in your own backyard.’

My old friend and gathering ‘groupie’ Fran Spora from Gulargambone, who has attended umpteen events with her sisters and cousins, also recalls the hypothetical cleverly guided by Christina Hindhaugh via a panel, and her ‘story’ of Mr and Mrs Murray Grey and family. ‘We nodded our collective heads at the reality on many family farms whereby Dad, and Dad alone, liaised with the bank manager, the solicitor and others,’ says Fran. ‘Mum (let alone sons, daughters and forget about the daughters-in-law) had no part in decision-making.’ Many around the room cheered the panel as they came up with better ways of negotiating a family’s future.

An old-fashioned lantern was our way of handing on the ‘light’ to host another gathering. At the end when we asked if anyone was interested in putting on another Gathering, there was a pregnant pause before one brave woman, Janet Redden from Gunnedah, jumped up and said, ‘I’ll do it’. Since then gatherings have been run annually with the 26th gathering to be held in Merimbula on 19-21 October.

But it wasn’t all joy. The following week The Land had excellent coverage of the event, but a critical editorial—Why have such a gathering, the editor wrote, when there’s CWA already, and hey, what about us men? He copped a flood of letters, even from the husband of one participant who said his wife was so inspired she was still floating around the ceiling. So he graciously retracted his views the next week and printed the letters.

And so off went the gatherings backed by the RWN, which itself has carried on thanks to the tireless work of Sonia Muir, Allison Priest and many other staffers.

We feel proud that gatherings are still going strong and that the many elements of the original model have endured: Women’s stories that give heart to us all, local farm tours, ecumenical services on Sunday, a forum for views, the bringing together of rural and urban women, linking participants with decision-makers and service providers and raising the profile of rural women via media and now social media. And above all, the wonderful volunteers who give their time to provide opportunities for other rural women by hosting a gathering—a huge undertaking but one that gives ownership and pride in such achievement, and hopefully a lot of laughs. ■

The 2019 NSW Rural Women’s Gathering will be held in Walcha from 1-3 November. For more information on the event email: enquiries@rwg2019walcha.com

Posted in Communities, networking, NSW Rural Women's Gathering, rural women, rural women's gathering, women's networks | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The burden of drought amazingly discovers my real purpose in life

by Karen Weller, Winton New South Wales

What devastation we have experienced statewide in this current drought! It is hard to even comprehend how widespread this particular drought has been to primary producers this year. It is tiring us out physically and wearing us down mentally. Some rain may have given us a slight breather, but it is far from over. My story is a true example of something positive emerging from this drought. It is hard to be optimistic, but I am living proof that through my emotional journey, depression and health concerns, I finally discovered my real purpose in life. My new blog “Country Heart Spark” is telling the real story, with raw emotion and bringing a valuable agricultural connection to all.

My name is Karen Weller and I have a unique passion to promote and sustain the agricultural industry in Australia and unite city and country. I value the significance of our industry to feed and clothe our nation into the future. The connection in our community is paramount for survival of the industry.

I also have an inner enthusiasm to inspire others to find their own inner strength through openly and honestly sharing my stories on the land. I hope to not only guide my own personal growth, but encourage and motivate others to find their own contentment in the process.

I have been involved in the farming industry all of my life. I grew up on a small property on the Mid North Coast with my parents and siblings. I then married a farmer, which kept me in the industry, allowing my passion to develop further and somewhat vary. My husband and I have owned farming properties in the New England and Central West regions, before settling on a 2803 acre farm 30km west of Tamworth about 2 years ago. We run beef cattle and sheep and also produce stud Hereford bulls.

I am shy but friendly and value the importance of inner harmony. My strong family values and strong work ethic is at the forefront of my mind and my self-motivation drives me daily. I am devoted to my husband Peter and married for 24 years. We have 2 wonderful adult sons, Andrew and Glen, independently living their own lives. But I valued my time spent raising our children to adulthood, a job I was whole-heartedly committed to. I was determined to raise great men. So when they were toddlers I decided to study Child Psychology, which gave me an inside seat to the workings within. I loved being a Mum with dependent children and I cherished this very important role. Now they have grown-up and my job is “complete”.

This is when the emotional turmoil started. I was not satisfied with just the business of farming, so was feeling overwhelmed and “lost” with trying to discover my new purpose in life as well. Health concerns arose for me, so I was stressed to my limit. With the help of my GP and specialists, they discovered that I had sleep apnea which was a root cause of my other ongoing health problems. I then started CPAP therapy to keep me breathing while sleeping, and it was quite an adjustment and confronting, in my forties, to have to deal with this.

We were then in drought, feeling physically exhausted, financially strained and emotionally I fell in a heap. My life role had changed, suffering from “empty-nest syndrome” and farming was not entirely meeting my bigger need in life. The drought just tipped me over the edge. It was then that I found enough courage to visit my GP to discuss the topic that nobody wants to admit… that depression was at my door.
I felt terrible and unable to cope, embarrassed, yet I knew that I needed to be open with my family about my depression/anxiety. I had to set an example to my sons, that it is OK to talk about depression, it is not a taboo subject. We need to lose the stigma attached to depression. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that we have been too strong for too long. My GP put me on medication for depression/anxiety and sent me for a few visits to a psychologist. I would not talk of this to anyone, except my family. I wanted to hide it… but why?

Now I can say, it has worked for me. I am still on medication but feeling so much better, more focused and able to deal with the struggles on-farm. I have changed my outlook, have shifted my mindset successfully and feeling almost at the top of my game. I am a little philosophical and believe things happen for a reason. Depression needed to hit me, so I can now share my story to help others. Now, I am not afraid to admit that I had depression/anxiety and are still being treated as such. I am not weak and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

So my life started to get back on track, with the help of my GP, specialists and my own commitment to improve my health. With CPAP therapy, I quickly realized how this little machine then became my “night partner” and the health benefits started. My blood pressure came back to normal immediately, then slowly other things happened over time. I had more energy, my muscles stopped aching and I could think clearer. My brain and body were now getting the oxygen it needed. This avoided any medication for high blood pressure which was a bonus.

I enjoy the quiet lifestyle that farming provides and value the hard-work on-farm. Unfortunately, the drought has stretched our resilience quite a bit this year. This drought is different to other droughts experienced over the years. It is so widespread, that agistment of livestock is not even an option this year. Livestock numbers have been reduced to only our core breeding stock. We needed to ensure we could save 25 years of breeding genetics in our stud herd. We only have about 260 head of cattle remaining on our property.

Hay and fodder needs to be transported from quite a distance interstate and prices have become exuberant. To give you an example, a load of hay was costing us about $13,000 and now with the price-war about $24,000. Farm loans have been increased and massive interest is being paid. Let’s just hope the drought breaks before we do.

My background is in Agribusiness Management, financial and office management. I see farming as my business but not my sole purpose in life. Now my children have grown up, it is time for me to reconnect with my purpose and share my passion with the world. I have discovered my passion for writing and sharing my stories to connect with others.
My recent blog and web page “Country Heart Spark” has been my voice to promote the importance of the agricultural industry and help people find their own inner strength to survive in this world generally. I provide inspiration and share my personal stories, from my family, farm life, a husband surviving a Quad-bike accident and breaking his back, to my support of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) at all levels.

My blog also provides me a platform to relieve some everyday stress and it brings me a sense of calmness and contentment. By sharing my emotional thoughts and stories, with the intention of connecting with others, I hope to inspire a journey of personal growth for all. I also have a vision for the near future to write my first book on self-awareness and acceptance of self. My passion has been sparked and this will be my new purpose.

I also feel strongly that Australian’s care about our domestic food chain and sustaining the farming industry. So by educating and understanding, I hope to connect all people regardless of whether they live in the city or country. Our jobs may all differ, our lives may be very different, but we are all human and empathy is our second nature.

I would like to invite you to follow my blog at countryheartspark.com and share my life journey and inspiration. You will feel inspired to believe in yourself, find happiness within, accept our differences and understand that we are all in this together.

Posted in Community Hero, inspirational, networking, resilience, rural women, stories | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Feedback is not a dirty word

by Janine Garner, Connected Leadership
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

Strategising, planning, managing cash flow; these are all practical essentials of leadership. Do them well, and you will be a good leader. But to be a great and connected leader, that’s something more intangible.

Janine Garner

Janine Garner, Connected Leadership

A great leader connects people, skills, strategy, and vision. They understand the importance of surrounding themselves with a great team to propel collective success, and know that creating the right environment to inspire and amplify others is critical. A great leader develops others, guides, and mentors—and creates space for individuals to thrive, initiate and show their own skills.

John C. Maxwell is known to have said to his mentees, ‘The good news is I care about you, the bad news is I will be honest’. It’s that honesty that is one of the essentials of connected leadership, the honesty to give true and real feedback.

Feedback is a crucial element for success. Every one of us needs feedback and support to become better, and we will only improve if we’re willing to hear others point out our weaknesses and opportunities.

We all need a powerful tight network that we trust—that pit crew of mentors, coaches and teachers that will challenge and develop our thinking, guide our emotions, behaviours and attitudes, that will help pick us up when we fall and be that sounding board for ideas and decisions to be made. We are all seeking to surround ourselves with others who willingly give feedback because they are 100 per cent committed to our growth and development, and as leaders and individuals, we need to ensure we do this for others.

According to research by Officevibe, an employee engagement firm, 65 per cent of employees want more feedback. So why don’t we? Because it’s amazingly hard to give feedback sometimes. We worry about the negative, about hurting someone’s feelings. What if they leave my business? What if I upset them to the point where they go downhill rather than up? But as Georgia Murch, author of Fixing Feedback says, ‘If we don’t invest in our people and give them the feedback they need, we can’t expect to have a high performing business.’

Just think about it. Remember a time when you didn’t give honest feedback? How did it feel? Did you end up kicking yourself? How many times have you thought, ‘I wish I had said something at X point’; because the result of not giving the feedback at X point ultimately impacted your business and the person you were trying to assist—and not necessarily in a positive way.

Recently I debated for a couple of days with how I was going to give constructive feedback and input to someone I respect, admire and who is kicking some serious goals. I know this individual has the potential to kick even more goals, to become even more successful and to step up to their next challenge in business growth—but only when certain business disciplines are put in place along with ownership of the individual’s own journey. I approached the conversation from a place of care and compassion. The feedback was well received and steps have already been taken to make a tricky situation more manageable. I know that they appreciated what I had to say and the way that I said it.

If you approach feedback from a place of care, compassion and wanting to support and guide further evolution and improvement, then it will be something that is both well given and well received. At the end of the day, if you do speak out in this way, it is up to the individual to take ownership of what they do with any feedback; but you owe it to them to give it and avoid any complaining or ‘if only’ moments later on.
Empower those around and you will empower yourself, your team and your business. Help others take control—and in the process, you will find that it not only lifts their burden but yours as well.

Because you are showing that you give a damn, and that is a very great gift indeed.

More information http://www.janinegarner.com.au

Posted in business, education and training, inspirational, leadership, networking, rural women, RuralWomen, Women in Focus, Women leaders | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Rural Resilience Program

by Karen Sowter, Scone
DPI Rural Support Worker, Hunter
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

I would describe myself as creative, curious, passionate and determined. Living in rural Australia my heart lies in agritourism and agri-education—through opening farm gates for people to connect with where and how food and fibre is produced, to now working with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) as a Rural Support Worker. I love being involved in opportunities that promote rural and regional Australia and our farmers.

Karen Sowter FB

Karen Sowter, 
DPI Rural Support Worker, Hunter

Just now I’ve pulled over near an empty river and I am thinking about the last conversation I had at a Farm Family Gathering. ‘We plan for drought’, said Deni, ‘why are people so surprised when it arrives? It’s part of the normal cycle of farming in Australia. We need to normalise drought.’ Wow, how’s that for a brain explosion— normalise drought.

Farming in drought creates a whole set of monotonous, repetitive daily jobs. Keeping connected during these times is tough, especially when often all we want to do and feel capable of, is hiding away.

I am grateful that in my role as a DPI Rural Support Worker I’m able to throw a ‘party’ every now and then and invite all the locals to a Farm Family Gathering. These community gatherings are generally triggered by someone in the community saying something like, ‘I’ve forgotten when I last spoke to my neighbour or went somewhere other than the shed’.

The trade-off for a free feed is that I ask people to tell me one thing that will help them during tough times. From that list I create a link that gets people on the outside of the farm gate. I am all for the working dogs trials, yard design workshops, a create a hat day, making videos on your smartphone, workshops and business development, but just quietly, my favourites activities are the Ladies on the Land gatherings and SOFT (Shaping Our Future Together) workshops.

As part of my new role, I invited 20 local ladies to meet in the showground rooms for a cuppa and cake. I had these fabulous ideas of planning 12 months’ worth of activities centred on agricultural learning and pursuits with clear goals and outcomes that were reportable, trackable and more ‘able’ words. What naturally formed when these exhausted women gathered was a wonderful connecting of like-minded souls who needed to rest and talk. And talk we did. For months in fact. And that’s OK.

After the talking we did get around to organising learning days. We have covered pastures, how to have a tough conversation, dam cleaning, breed selection, farm continuity, generational planning, email setup, silage, weed control, why is that fence there when it doesn’t work there, quad bike safety, online accounting, meal planning, feral animal control and lessons learned in drought/flood/hail/windy times. And there is so much more to come.

What I have realised is that there will always be ‘tough times’ in farming. But it is how we deal with and adapt to these situations that tells the story of how we will come out the other side. And that’s where a SOFT workshop comes into play.

The two-day SOFT workshop provides a time and place for women to gather, rest, reflect, plan, learn new skills, have a bit of fun, network, make new friends and strengthen old friendships.

With the competing pressures of children, family, community, farm and work, women can sometimes forget who they are. A SOFT workshop provides space for women to re-focus and work out who they are again. It really is one of those things where it is often so hard to carve out time to get away, but when you do, you are left asking, ‘Why did I leave it so long?’.

The Rural Resilience Program can help farming families by:
* Creating opportunities to connect with others in farming communities, as well as connecting with support services.
* Providing information, tools and development opportunities that build skills, knowledge and experience.
* Supporting families while recovering from adverse events and helping them prepare for the future.
* Listening to farming needs and issues and communicating these to policy makers.

Rural resilience officers:
Coordinator: Caroline Hayes m: 0407 971 675 e: caroline.hayes@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Western: Ellen Day m: 0427 639 761 e: ellen.day@dpi.nsw.gov.au
North Coast: Jen Haberecht m: 0400 160 287 e: jen.haberecht@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Southern Region: Ted O’Kane m: 0427 781 514 e: ted.o’kane@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Riverina: Danny Byrnes m: 0400 374 258 e: danny.byrnes@dpi.nsw.gov.au
North West: Amanda Glasson m: 0438 082 731 e: amanda.glasson@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Rural support workers:
Central West: Sue Freebairn m: 0429 212 368 e: sue.freebairn@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Central West: James Cleaver m: 0408 687 165 e: james.cleaver@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Hunter: Karen Sowter m: 0400 869 136 e: karen.sowter@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Lower Hunter & Manning: Peter Brown m: 0437 671 459 e: peter.v.brown@dpi.nsw.gov.au
Northern Tablelands: Brian Sherwood t: 02 6763 1100 e: brian.sherwood@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Find out more at: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/ about-us/rural-support/RRP

 

Posted in Communities, Families, networking, resilience, rural resilience officer, Rural Support Workers, rural women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Write your story

by Kasia Gospos, Leaders in Heels
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.

Stories are powerful. They can change our lives. They can change the world.

Storytelling is an art that everyone can master. You may not realise that you already have a story—it’s the one you have been telling yourself (and maybe other people) about your life. Our stories determine our experience of life. It is by taking control of our stories, and of the stories the world hears about us, that we can change the world.

Write Your Own Story Journal

Stories allow us to connect with others.

Stories are powerful because they allow us to connect with others. Research shows that stories change our brains and lead to greater production of oxytocin, which makes us feel more empathy for each other. They’re how we can challenge stereotypes and bias against women and marginalised groups, forge positive visibility, influence others’ beliefs and actions, and celebrate each others’ achievements.

Stories can be healing and self-affirming.

Research from the University of Minnesota supports the value of memoir writing as therapy for individuals. ‘Writing therapy’ is a process of capturing our memories through the written word, to release emotions that may be weighing us down. Capturing our life, one story at a time, offers us a fresh perspective on things. Writing our memories strengthens our level of self-awareness and allows us to know ourselves better.

Stories are a powerful management tool.

Storytelling is also a powerful management tool that leaders can use to connect with, engage, and inspire others. Storytelling in business can carry a message to help you share your company’s vision, enhance your personal brand, promote your products, sell your services and build stronger relationships with existing and potential clients, as well as customers and employees.

Storytelling has the ability to influence and inspire others to take action, illustrate your points and ideas, and motivate and influence your team. It’s an important tool to help you show emotions and vulnerability, which helps develop personal credibility—an essential aspect of leadership. Consciously developing business stories will lead to the information you share being relevant, engaging, and purposeful.

How to write and tell stories.

Writing your life or business story may seem daunting, but if you can capture small threads of your life—thoughts, key moments, memories and ideas—these ‘life-vignettes’ can be strung together to create your story. Start taking notice of the little things in life that feel important to you, and keep a record of them. Here are some exercises and prompts to get you started!

Storytelling in business.

A good business story always serves a purpose. Perhaps you want to use it to demonstrate specific traits, your business vision, or inspire your team. Give each story a moral or assign a situation in which you can tell it, so you’ll always be prepared. Use a combination of metaphors, analogies and anecdotes to make your story more visual, and ensure the stories are authentic.

For example, people have asked me a million times why I started Leaders in Heels. I could tell you in one sentence that I wanted to inspire and empower women. But what if I tell you a story instead?

‘One day, a female colleague came to me. She was disappointed that she didn’t get a role that was available in our department. When I asked her what our boss said when she asked him for the role, she said she’d never asked. She was a woman, a friend and a colleague who deserved the role more than anyone else, but she’d hoped her hard work would be recognised without her saying a word.’

Does this story inspire you more? Is it easier to remember and retell? Would it ‘sell’ better as the reason I started Leaders in Heels?

Exercises for storytelling in business.

Saying you have attention to detail doesn’t have the same effect as telling a story that proves you’re a perfectionist. Select three to five key traits you would like to highlight and for each of those traits, think about a time when you demonstrated that trait, and write a story for each one. These will be your go-to stories whenever you’re in a situation where you need to prove yourself.

Additional suggestion for storytelling:

Use your stories to practice public speaking. It might be something that’s out of your comfort zone, but don’t keep your stories locked on paper. Let them fly!

Storytelling using your personal life stories.

The most powerful stories are the ones that can only come from you—from your experience and your perspective. That’s because no one has lived the same life as you or experienced things in the way you have. Your unique perspective is a gift you can share with the world. Start by finding themes for your stories. These are recurring patterns you notice throughout your life, which help you narrow down what motivates you and what you believe in. Here’s an example of a snippet of my life story:

My desire to nurture, inspire and empower women comes from my mum, who strongly shaped my views on the power of women. The story starts well before I was born. When Poland was still a communist nation in the 70s, every citizen had a job guarantee and everyone was paid the same no matter their experience or commitment. So when my mum decided to go to university instead of working to earn money, everyone laughed.

Fast forward to the 90s when I was 13, and my dad passed away. My mum suddenly became a single mum, a widow, and had to support me and my brother. Communism was a thing of the past and thanks to her foresight, my mum was well-educated and working in a senior position in a large company—most likely managing those who laughed at her before! From her example, I learned that an education is the most valuable possession, as no one can ever take it away from you.

Write your own story.

If these exercises caught your imagination, Write Your Own Story Journal by Leaders in Heels was designed with even more prompts and exercises to help you write your stories. The journal is designed for you to capture your own stories, from big life events to small everyday situations, so you can one day share them with those around you.

If you would like to purchase a ‘Write Your Own Story’ book, use promotional code countryweb  to receive 10% off your purchase.

Posted in inspirational, Kasia Gospos, Leaders in Heels, leadership, rural women, stories | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Men’s matters: Supporting men in distress

By Dr John Ashfield PhD.
As featured in The Country Web 2018 Annual

In celebration of #internationalmensday yesterday (19 November) we wanted to acknowledge and appreciate the positive value men bring to our rural families and communities and to raise awareness of men’s wellbeing.

This recent column by Dr John Ashfield talks about what makes men tick and how we as women can better help the men in our lives why they are in distress…

Man speaking with a womanWe have somehow grown up with the idea that men are an open book, and can be easily understood. Yet just as men generally acknowledge that women can sometimes be hard to understand, increasingly women, out of genuine concern for the males in their life, want to know more about what makes men tick and how to help when they are in distress.

Women tend to be better informed than their male counterparts about available support systems in their community, and have often expressed frustration about the lack of appropriate services for men. Unfortunately, mainstream health and human services agencies and professionals often struggle to understand and to know how to engage successfully with males. Perhaps the most telling evidence of this is reflected in male suicide statistics, with males accounting for nearly 78 per cent of all suicides in Australia.

It is well recognised that women play a key role in the health of their families and in the lives of their menfolk. They are key agents of prevention and early intervention for mental health and wellbeing, and their particular help-seeking orientation and active social capacity represent potent protective factors of significant benefit to men.

This is not to suggest that women should assume responsibility for the psychological health and wellbeing of men. However, the fact remains that the wellbeing of families, children, intimate partner relationships, and communities, is irreducibly dependent on the mutual empathy, support, understanding, and compassion of both genders.

I’m sure he must feel powerless with what is happening, but how can I help?

For men, feeling powerless is frequently associated with fight or flight activation, chronic stress, a decline in mental capacity (thinking, problem solving, and memory recall), irritability, anger, and diminished verbal communication.

Many things can give rise to feeling powerless, such as: financial pressure, unemployment or underemployment, relationship difficulties, seeing others distressed or upset and not knowing how to respond, feeling dominated or controlled, a change in health status, having a sick child or partner, chronic pain, loss or bereavement, being on the land and affected by drought, fire, flood or pests, or perhaps a significant loss of status, role or position or having unmet expectations of a person or situation (whether realistic or not).

Many other examples could be given, but it is important to understand that a man may feel powerless without being able to identify and name the experience. He may need help to track down and name what it is that is giving rise to his experience of powerlessness. Detecting and addressing powerlessness can be an excellent general preventative mental health strategy with males, because it is commonly an early warning sign of deteriorating mental health and can be an important signal calling for help/intervention.

It may help to unearth a man’s experience of powerlessness to tentatively suggest: ‘I can only imagine how trapped and powerless you feel given the circumstances’.

It may help to ask one of the following questions: ‘Sounds like you’re feeling quite powerless? What are some ways in which you feel most powerless?’ Encouraging the openness of self-disclosure that questions of this kind can prompt may begin to lessen his experience of powerlessness. However, this very much depends on not reacting negatively to what he discloses of his experience and thoughts.

Listening attentively (without advice giving) may help him achieve new clarity, and begin to see a way through overwhelming difficulties—or at least feel more in control. Just to be able to name and externalise issues that contain intense emotion provides much opportunity to impose order upon them, to manage them, and problem solve.

Structured problem solving, combined with sound information and appropriate professional advice (which might be financial, legal, or of some other nature), can quickly restore a sense of being back in control.

The difference between informal ‘on the run’ problem solving versus formal structured problem solving is that formal problem solving involves a process with a set of steps and is usually written down. It involves gathering facts about the issue or problem at hand, brain storming options, thinking about the implications of acting on these options, selecting the best or preferred one and then acting on it. Just to go through this process, even in the absence of a desirable option, can be empowering and give a sense of being less out of control. There is always something that can be done about a problem, even if that is to decide to frame and respond to it differently.

An impasse of powerlessness can often be broken simply by discovering a more helpful and meaningful way of thinking about a situation. To understand and to make better sense of things provides a much better basis for action.

Small acts of power can have a disproportionately positive effect on a man’s experience of powerlessness. Though circumstances may appear to have reduced his options, there is generally always a choice he can make to counterbalancing his sense of powerlessness, impotence, and feeling inescapably overwhelmed. If he is too tired, anxious, or preoccupied to identify this for himself, and cannot move beyond his present experience, he will need someone to help him with this.

Ironically, prolonged powerlessness tends to diminish the very capacities we need most to tackle it, those of effective memory, creative thinking, and constructive problem solving. However, these are all faculties which can be readily enhanced through a helping relationship–one offering attentive presence, conversation, and listening; just like how one might use ‘jumper leads’ to borrow power from another’s battery to get a car started, when one’s battery is depleted. If a man’s partner or wife can’t help in this way, perhaps a trusted male friend can?

More information

Supporting Men in Distress can be ordered in bulk at www.youcanhelp.com.au
For individual copies visit amazon.com

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