PharmOnline is a new advisory source providing Australians with 24/7 remote access to registered, experienced pharmacists. It is particularly valuable to people that are isolated and unable to easily access their local community pharmacy or other health services. It helps to solve health enquiries and empowers people to understand and value their medication.
PharmOnline’s Indispensable podcast is now available at pharmonline.com.au or on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. It covers topics about women’s and men’s ailments, medication reviews and advocating for your own health. In each episode they share medication tips from expert pharmacists.
Creator of PharmOnline, Anna Barwick, grew up in Peak Hill NSW on her parents’ organic and biodynamic farming property. Anna is a registered, experienced clinical pharmacist in the hospital, aged care and community settings with a particular focus on rural practice. She is a pharmacy practice academic at the University of New England in Armidale and is also completing her PhD in the area of deprescribing unnecessary medications at the University of Queensland by distance.
Anna lives at Walcha in the New England region with her husband and two young children on their Australian Stock Horse stud farm, raising miniature dachshunds, chooks and cattle. She has always been passionate about holistic health management and loves seeing her patients achieve their health goals. PharmOnline is her passion project to bring the medication experts (pharmacists) to people no matter where they live
When your workplace is at your kitchen table, you need just as much support to take care of yourself, as a normal work office. Commonly, rural women who juggle so many roles from their home office are expected to just keep going; not having half of the support that other people have in any workplace that meets the National Employment Standards (NES). With the majority of families having the added responsibility of home schooling when required, and having limited access to family or the opportunity for a holiday break, it is key that rural women make their own health a priority in the same way they would in any workplace.
Dimity has more than 12 years experience in workplace rehabilitation, innovation, psychological counselling and managing her own women’s networking businesses. In this piece, she shares her top tips for keeping your mental health at home in check and making sure you prioritise yourself like you are your own star employee.
Sharpen the saw. A story my Dad has continued to tell me throughout my life is about the man (or woman) who was cutting down a tree and kept cutting with a blunt saw rather than taking time to sharpen it. As it turned out, the woman who took the time to sharpen the saw before cutting down the tree, actually cut it down in a shorter amount of time, didn’t damage the saw, and had time to have a rest afterwards. If we all took the time to refresh, reset and regather our energy, imagine what we could do. You might see this reset as taking time for a walk each morning, making time for a phone call with your best friend each week, or doing a yoga class to have ‘you time’ before the kids get up. Make that time to prioritise the sharpening of your own saw—you!
2. Set some boundaries. Like we do as parents, we set boundaries for children so they know how far to go. We don’t let kids stay up late to all hours because we know that boundaries around sleep are beneficial for their health and emotional wellbeing. So, the same goes for us as adults. Some simple strategies for setting boundaries could include setting certain days of the week for specific tasks, having certain hours you check or respond to emails, and blocking out time for tasks you know you hate doing. This means you are better able to compartmentalise and be efficient in the time you have set aside. Social media can also have a big impact on ways you spend your days, so perhaps trial deleting your social media apps on occasion to see how it changes your effectiveness.
3. Build up the positives. Depression can sometimes arise as a result of a lack of positively reinforcing activities. So, if you think about the past five years in rural, regional and remote Australia, there has likely been a lot to limit these activities. List five things that make you feel good and set yourself some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals on how you can achieve at least three of them. No matter how big or small, just make them realistic and try to stick to them. Share with someone so they can keep you accountable.
4. Communicate. If you don’t have the ability to access a psychologist or counsellor, talk to a trusted confidant. A problem shared is a problem halved. In a workplace, you would have the option to talk to a colleague or use an employee assistance program to help you through your work anxieties or challenges. If you don’t have access to a trusted family member or friend who can help you through, there are so many options now for online telehealth consults—it doesn’t matter where you live, all you need is internet. If you still aren’t sure how to get help, contact your local Rural Resilience Officer or your local Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) team.
5. Personal and professional development. Without opportunities to grow and develop, we can feel flat and stuck. There are many online courses supported by the government, such as TAFE NSW funded opportunities, and other programs (like TAFE NSW Women In Business, Young Farmer Business Program and Local Land Services) that you can do for free. Find something you’re interested in, like a course or program you can do within a group. Not only will the group keep you accountable with your learning, it will help you feel less isolated and more connected on your journey.
6. Motion is lotion. Any type of movement is beneficial for you, not only physically, but also mentally. Work towards 30 minutes a day of outdoor activity to get you started. This will help give you energy, build cardiovascular fitness, improve your mood with endorphins, and it will also then help you with sleep. If you’re finding it hard to get started, make some simple goals. It might be that when you go to town, you go in activewear and try and walk up and down the street instead of taking your car to every stop. It might even be an option to suggest to friends to go for a walk and talk with coffee, as opposed to sitting down for a big lunch or morning tea. Think of ways you can keep your normal habits, just make some little tweaks to help you feel better.
7. Monitor the wines. Many of us love a wine, or some sort of alcoholic drink, particularly after a long hard day. While this may be a nice treat over dinner, or as something paired with a cheese plate with friends, sometimes this can be used as a relaxation tool a little too much. The challenge is that many people don’t realise that alcohol is actually a depressant, so whilst it slows you down after a long day, it also means that if you consume it late into the evenings, it will cause you to have broken sleep and wake you up earlier. Try to see if you can limit this to just a few nights a week or even just to weekends. Your rested and relieved body will thank you!
8. Don’t be too hard on yourself. While all of the above are excellent to try, the first point you probably need to do, is give yourself a big hug. More than likely it’s been a tough few years for you, you’re tired and you haven’t had a chance to reset. Don’t look at this like it’s a huge mountain to climb to get you back on track, pick one thing you can do. My recommendation is start with walking and cutting back on the alcohol. Even if it means you do two walks a week and cut back two nights a week on alcohol, you’re already in a better position than you were before. Make things achievable, and don’t punish yourself. Change the approach, give yourself a bit of compassion and see how it helps you change direction.
Much like the iconic Friends theme song, sometimes it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year. We all have our off moments, but occasionally they can trigger a negative mindset which stops us from seeing the bigger picture and creates a barrier to success. Here are some tips to help you to shake it off and switch your mindset.
1. Shake it out by moving your body! We all hold stress in our bodies, often in our shoulders and posture. Whether you can go for a brisk walk, dance it out in your living room, or take a quite five-minute break from your desk, I promise it will help. I particularly love this super easy to follow stretching guide from healthline: https://rb.gy/7unnpi
2. Practice gratitude: Rather than keeping score of everything that has gone wrong, write a list of three things you’re grateful for today. Do this daily as a mental exercise and to foster a greater sense of wellbeing.
3. Smile: There is definitely a place for tears, frustration and anger, and healthy ways of expressing negative emotions, but if it’s not constructive to achieving your goals in the moment, consider pushing through and faking a smile. According to research published in the Psychological Bulletin in 2019, smiling really can make people feel happier. A team of psychologists combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11 000 participants and found that facial expressions have an impact on our feelings.
4. Practice kindness: Doing something kind for another person, creature, or cause, is one of the quickest ways to switch you into a positive mindset.
5. Use the assumption of generosity. Brent Brown suggests, ‘You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. The assumption of generosity is believing that people are doing the best they can’.
I’ve always believed taking care of yourself was kind of selfish. Growing up a good Catholic girl, selflessness and sacrifice were to be aspired to. But this manifested for me as a belief that when it came to my needs, I should put myself last or leave myself out of the picture all together. On Mother’s Day 2018 that belief began to change. It had to.
That Sunday, I came home after performing a show and told my partner Mark, ‘Something doesn’t feel right.’ But I couldn’t describe what it was. He sent me to bed and told me to stay there. He said ‘You’re a workaholic, you never have any time off. Go to bed and watch Netflix, but do not work.’ I took his advice. I was in bed for six weeks. I felt deep sadness, my body felt so heavy that I couldn’t really move. Then came the shame. I felt hopeless and defective. Some days I couldn’t even pick up my son Sullivan from school. I couldn’t bear to be seen by the other school mums. Then came the guilty thoughts … ‘What do I have to be depressed about? I have a great life, a successful career, a home, a kind and loving partner and a beautiful son. There are so many people worse off than me.’
I’ve since learned that it’s all relative and comparisons don’t help. They only make you feel worse. It’s validation a person with depression needs; permission to feel exactly how they need to feel at any given time. I was lucky, Mark gave me that.
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalised Anxiety. My doctor said ‘Be strong, but not TOO strong.’ Her words really made me think. Was I too stoic? The answer was yes. I have so much more awareness now, around how workaholism, perfectionism, exhaustion and a critical inner voice can bring on a bout of depression. Well, two in 12 months in my case.
Then came the guilty thoughts … ‘What do I have to be depressed about? I have a great life, a successful career, a home, a kind and loving partner and a beautiful son. There are so many people worse off than me.’
In April 2019, my depression came back. And in May, I lost an old friend to suicide. I was beyond devastated. The grief and depression combined were too much and the pressure to be all smiles for my upcoming Doris Day National tour was looming. I needed help.
I went back to my doctor, who convinced me I didn’t have to keep battling this alone. I finally agreed to try medication. A week later it kicked in and I felt so much better. However, I’ve learned that meds alone can’t manage it. I need to exercise, meditate, eat well and cut out coffee to stay healthy.
As my song, The Story of My Life says, ‘I was born in 71, policeman dad and a yodelling mum.’ With that came lots of wonderful things, but it also came with pressure. Pressure to be a perfect reflection on my family. I felt I always had to be a happy, little, pretty, thing. So, without even realising it, for my 40-year music career (an Anniversary I celebrate this year), that’s the role I’ve played. Until I couldn’t anymore.
For me, to ‘Be Gentle on Yourself’ means learning to stop self-judgement and treating myself with the same unconditional love I give my child. This doesn’t come easily, it takes practice, daily. I’m a work in progress. In hindsight my experience with depression was less of a breakdown and more of a breakthrough. It’s changed me for the better.
Renae Connell laughs at the suggestion that there must be milk in her veins, but as a fifth-generation dairy farmer, it’s a strong possibility. It’s a lifestyle that chose her, rather than the other way around.
As the youngest of three children and the only daughter of Lloyd and Rowena Walker, her family didn’t push them into farming.
‘My parents had a Jersey stud dairy at Bowraville. It was an average-sized farm and we ran about 90 milkers. My parents didn’t push us to follow in their footsteps, and I just helped out when I wanted to.’
Her husband Scott also grew up on a dairy farm. They took over his parents’ place 12 years ago and now run Valley Rose Jerseys near Megan on the Northern Tablelands with a herd of 350, milking about 190 cows.
‘I said I wasn’t going to marry a dairy farmer but here I am. He was green keeping when we met. We were together for five months when we both moved in with his parents and ended up buying his parents’ farm.’
On that journey, Renae has looked up to her mother and grandmother as role models.
‘I have a lot of respect for my grandmother. Dad was the youngest of nine children and he and my grandmother took over the farm after my grandfather passed away. They were on the edge of bankruptcy but Dad and Grandma pulled it back from the brink.’
Renae said her mum always inspired her to care for animals and lovingly refers to the cows as her ‘girls’.
‘I’ve always loved animals. Mum taught me that it’s about their welfare—if you treat them well, they’ll treat you well. That’s really stayed with me and it’s how we run our business now, it adds that extra care factor.’
As well as looking after their general wellbeing each day, the Connells have added a concrete lane way and creek crossings to aid foot care and accessibility for the cows.
Ensuring their herd is well cared for is something Renae hopes to share with her two children, Layla and Makayla.
‘We’re really keen to teach the girls what we know. They are now raising their own calves and feed them before school—it’s been a great teaching tool.’
Since receiving her award, Renae has expanded her network by joining the Women in Dairy, NSW Branch. She said it has been nice meeting new people and being a representative for others.
Renae also acknowledged her husband, saying that she couldn’t do what she does without him. ‘I’m only as good as I am because he’s here. It’s both of us and how we work together. We rarely fight. If you can travel a successful road, it’s much better to do it with someone.
‘What I’m most proud of is what we have achieved and the passion we have for it, even though we’ve been dairying for years.’
Like every pathway, being a dairy farmer does have its obstacles and Renae said the biggest challenge is that it never stops.
‘It’s hard to switch off because your brain keeps going. You need a whole variety of skills to be able to do it every day but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love all of it, I’m living the dream and we’re enjoying our life. It’s second nature to me.’ ■
A first-generation farmer, Claire Booth is a Senior Associate solicitor with Duffy Elliott Lawyers specialising in Wills, succession planning, and the transfer of wealth and legacy across generations involved in the farming and business sectors. Claire challenges families to use the opportunity of succession planning to ‘reset’ their family business, to create a great business for many generations to come.
In 2017, Claire was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship and published a report, ‘Looking under the covers: How identity, financial literacy and patient capital can prepare the Australian family farm for the next 50 years’.
1. Where do I start?
Most of our clients who are between 50 to 75 years of age have adult children asking what happens when mum/dad retire or pass away. The bank, accountant, and/or children are asking for something to ‘happen’, but they don’t know where to start.
It often becomes clear after listening to the client that the main issue is communication between family members, uncertainty around taxation of assets, or how retirement is funded, or how new debt might be serviced. Depending on the issue, I involve an expert who can assist with this initial hurdle. We set the client with one initial task as I find if people have a little win with one part of the process, they become more interested in tackling other aspects. Attempting to do everything at once—tax, cashflow, Wills, debt, communication, managing expectations etc. is a recipe for overwhelm.
2. It is all about my children, isn’t it?
Following on from the first question, the first stage, for me, does not include adult children. I want mum and dad to know this process is about them. They’ve worked very hard, and we need to look after them in retirement. It is common for couples to not have discussed their expectations about retirement with each other so that’s where we start. When they have a shared vision, they are invincible in front of their kids and it is much easier to progress the needs and wants of the next generation.
3. My husband has no interest in discussing retirement or what happens when he dies. How do I motivate him, as this is important to me and the children?
Often, male Australian farmers’ entire sense of self—their identity—is linked to what they do. We need to be mindful when approaching people about their identity as they can be defensive or scared about change.
I encourage them to meet with a solicitor, at no charge, for an hour, maybe over coffee at a cafe instead of in the office, if that’s less daunting. I then explain that transferring land, farm assets, and debt, is just one part of the puzzle—the bigger question is transferring the decision-making processes. Who is the main decision maker? Who shoulders the risk?
Once there’s a realisation that day-to-day life doesn’t need to change, that they can retain assets if that is important to them, and it is tax effective, then I focus on the aspect of handing over the decision-making process to the children. Here are some tips for working through that process:
Take the children with you to the accountant and bank meetings.
Do a two-year trial in a new partnership and see if it works.
Review the plan after two years. Is it still working for everyone?
When you are comfortable, then transfer the assets.
Make sure mum and dad’s Will sits alongside any trial process.
4. Why does ‘such and such’ seem to have it all together and we don’t?
Succession processes are still very taboo. It’s a private process that each family walks in their own special way and everyone has their own personal challenges. However, families who have covered the following areas are the ones who often manage succession better:
understand the numbers of the business;
maintain ‘budget to actual’ processes (this is code for keeping themselves accountable);
regularly plan business activities; and
treat the business as separate to the family.
These businesses tend to attract cheaper debt pricing, have better access to capital, and access opportunities more quickly when they present (such as expanding or funding the retirement of parents as examples). They also tend to manage succession better than those who don’t understand their numbers.
5. I don’t think we have a big enough farm to treat the children fairly. What do I do?
As farmland values continue to increase across most of Australia, the days of an off-farm child wanting the BHP shares or house in town are coming to an end. Astute off-farm children understand holding a capital appreciating asset (especially water licences) is an asset class that can generate income to service debts, whilst the underlying capital growth plods along over the decades.
Currently, the productive income from farming has firmly divorced itself from the land values. For those clients who can wrap their minds around this, and see there are two opportunities for income, we discuss leaving assets in trust structures, with leases and agreed pathways for income to be shared and equity to be available for leveraging purposes.
For some clients, the kindest thing they can do for their children is sell the farming assets and divide the cash between the children, enabling them to create their own empires. Each family is unique, so all options should be on the table.
In all these scenarios and situations, reach out. Succession planning is not the part of your business to DIY. Use the support of your business advisors. Start conversations early and have them often. ■
If you would like to explore the topic of succession further, DPI’s Young Farmer Business Program Propogate podcast Season 2 talks with farmers who have been through succession or are planning for succession. This series uncovers the essential ingredients for a positive succession plan with experts sharing tips on communication and professional avenues for support as well as advice to keep family relationships and the farming business on track.
Kate Ross established Sleep Effect following the birth of her three beautiful children. All three journeys to parenthood were vastly different and throughout these experiences she sought professional help for problems with breastfeeding, settle and sleeping issues. The advice and support she received was a game changer for her family and it became her passion to help other parents through these precious, but challenging, early years.
Kate grew up in Narrabri and has worked as a Registered Nurse and Midwife in large Sydney hospitals right through to smaller maternity units within rural NSW. It was while working back in her hometown hospital that she became aware of the great challenges many people face accessing healthcare in rural areas and the significant amount of travel required for families needing specialised services.
After meeting her husband, Kate moved to Tamworth where she enjoys working casually at the local hospital while raising her young family and balancing having her own business. Since starting Sleep Effect she has completed her Child & Family Health Nursing qualification, become accredited in Neuroprotective Development and is soon to qualify as a Lactation Consultant.
What made you follow your dream?
I know how frustrating and exhausting it can be to have breastfeeding problems and a child who won’t sleep, even with all my professional knowledge. Sleep deprivation is nothing but cruel. I had help and it changed my and my family’s life. I was so lucky to have support services available close by, but in regional and rural areas this is often not the case.
I am a big believer in a family’s right to have options and choice in their healthcare, particularly that your geographic location should not be a limitation on the services you can access. My mission is to empower parents with evidence-based education that is accessible no matter where they live. While there is a daunting amount of information available, Sleep Effect aims to provide families with honest, reliable support which is practical for everyday life.
How have perceptions changed over time?
Society has so many expectations these days. Feeding, sleep and settle approaches have changed over the years, however when it comes to babies, we naturally look to the women in our lives to guide us. This support can be wonderful, although strict rules such as feeding every four hours or letting them ‘self-settle’ are outdated. It’s far better that we nurture our new parents, fill their cup with enthusiasm and kindness, then send them in the direction of a professional to guide their decision making.
What are some key statistics that you can share around mums, bubs and mental health in the first six months?
15 per cent of mothers experience postnatal depression
10 per cent suffer from clinical anxiety
20 per cent of babies cry excessively under 16 weeks
38 per cent of families report sleep problems at four weeks
95 per cent report they want to breastfeed at birth and 39 per cent of mothers are able to exclusively breastfeed at 16 weeks
(Dr Pamela Douglas, Possum’s Online)
I find these statistics quite alarming and believe I have an opportunity to help families and change these trends for future generations.
How do you support mums and babies who are living in rural and remote areas?
I can help families wherever they are located! I do home visits (including overnight stays) in and around Tamworth, plus virtual support through an online platform like Zoom. I offer consultations with a variety of ongoing support periods, so changes can be monitored and embedded. Sleep Effect packages include breastfeeding, sleep, settle, cry-fuss issues and low maternal mood. I also help with any issues which arise up to the age of five, including introducing solids, toilet training, transitioning to a cot or bed and so much more.
What are your top tips for a family with a new baby?
If your baby is really upset, change your environment—children need sensory nourishment so take them outside, mother nature is our best friend.
If your budget doesn’t allow for an individual consultation with an accredited practitioner, I highly recommend the outstanding resources from Possums online: possumsonline.com
If information or advice you are given does not feel right, it often means it doesn’t align with your values and that’s okay. You are the expert of your child. Remember: you can’t love your baby enough!
Prue Barry (pictured with her son) is the Corporate Manager at FairVine Super. She recently spoke to us about her country upbringing, financial issues unique to women, and the new super fund that caters specifically to the retirement needs of women all around Australia.
What is your connection to the countrywide?
I spent my formative years in the country. For the first nine years of my life, I lived in a small farming town in the Central West region of NSW called Blayney. Then my family moved to Orange where I lived until I was 18 and moved away to Sydney to attend university.
I am still very much a country girl at heart. While my main residence is in Sydney with my husband and two kids, we have a family farm in Willow Tree and family in Orange that we try to visit at least once a month.
What are some of the financial issues that you see as unique to rural women?
In the country, there are a higher proportion of women doing unpaid work in the home or on the farm. There also tends to be more income volatility in rural areas due to droughts, floods, fires, and now the coronavirus. In small country towns, there are also fewer fulltime employment opportunities and more seasonal/casual work. This makes it harder for rural women to be financially independent, both for day-to-day living and in retirement.
Rural women are also more likely to experience domestic and family violence compared with women in urban areas, and this extends to ‘financial abuse’, which is when someone takes away your access to money, manipulates your financial decisions, or uses your money without your consent. It’s less obvious than other forms of family violence (such as physical violence and emotional abuse) and frequently goes undetected, but it’s extremely destructive and can rob you of your independence.
How does FairVine Super cater to the financial needs of rural women?
FairVine Super actively helps its members add more money to their retirement balance. Recognising that many women don’t have as many employer contributions going into their retirement fund—either because they’re not working, have reduced hours, or have lower pay—FairVine Super has a variety of innovative savings tools built-in that enable members to grow their super independent of their work situation and without them having to change their lifestyle.
This includes FairRewards, which is a shopping portal that gives members a cashback of up to 20c per dollar whenever they shop at more than 300 online retailers. The beauty of this feature is that members are able to top up their super without having to contribute their own savings. You just buy the things you normally would from retailers like The Iconic, Adore Beauty, Cotton On, Booktopia, Petbarn and Blackmores, and the retailers deposit the cashback straight into your super.
I know a lot of rural women shop online because they can’t just walk into a local Westfield to do their shopping, so something like FairRewards, which continually offers special deals and discounts on top of passing cashbacks directly to your super, is perfect for helping them grow their retirement savings.
The other great feature that’s ideally suited for rural women is FairShare. This feature gives spouses the ability to share their super, with the main breadwinner of the house able to split his/her super with their spouse who is doing unpaid domestic or farm work. This has tax benefits for the breadwinner, and also helps to ensure the non-paid spouse is able to maintain their financial independence.
The past year has been like no other I have experienced. The challenges and changes felt by many of us due to drought, fire, floods and COVID-19 have pushed our limits and forced us to recreate ourselves. We have all had to look inwards and truly value the importance of connection and taking care of our own, and others, wellbeing.
For Rural Women’s Network (RWN), this year has challenged us to adapt and change the way we deliver some of our programs.
In the lead-up to this year’s 2020 NSW-ACT Rural Women’s Award announcement and gala dinner, our state was put into lockdown, and our annual event could not go ahead. However, while we could not celebrate in person at Parliament House, RWN delivered a virtual event that celebrated and recognised our Award finalists—Cressida Cains and Tammy Galvin.
As part of our online event we heard from our finalists about their projects and plans for the future, sponsors showed their support through personal messages to our finalists, and Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales, Adam Marshall gave an address announcing Cressida Cains as our 2020 NSW-ACT Award winner. If you missed the online event you can read more about Cressida and Tammy in the latest issue.
There have been additional changes to the Award with the announcement of our 2020 National RWA winner and runner-up to now take place in September 2021. This means the next round of Award applications will now open September 2021 for the 2022 Award program. If you’re interested in applying, now is the time to start putting your ideas on paper and to start developing your proposal to present to our 2022 judges. For more information and to stay up-to-date on award activities see: www.agrifutures.com.au/people-leadership/rural-womens-award
Another change this year has been the postponement of the 2020 Rural Women’s Gathering at Forbes—the first time in the gathering’s 27 year history that we have not been able to bring women together to network, learn, gain inspiration, and share ideas and information at this annual event.
The Forbes RWG committee are now re-engaging with each other and the community to talk about the exciting opportunities for next year’s event on 22–24 October 2021. Keep an eye on the gathering Facebook page (NSWRWG2021Forbes) for regular updates and don’t forget to mark this new date in your diary. We look forward to seeing you all in Forbes next year—it will be a celebration worth the wait!
This year has provided some new opportunities for RWN and we have delivered a number of new initiatives for women in farming and fishing.
In July, we welcomed Dimity Smith to the RWN team as our Project Officer. Already, she has been involved in the development of a new online RESET program for women in farming and fishing, with our first pilot completed in September. These new sessions focus on personal and business resilience to help women make effective decisions both on and off the farm.
In addition, Dimity has been running free online Zoom training sessions to ensure rural women feel confident and are able to access our new programs.
As part of our celebrations for International Day of Rural Women in October we launched a new initiative, our BEtreat: Reset sessions for rural women. Focussed on reclaiming wellbeing during crisis, this series was developed in response to the challenges that the prolonged drought, fires, and most recently COVID-19 is having on rural communities, in particular, rural women.
We partnered with The Rural Woman to deliver these free online and immersive events, which were hosted and presented by women with lived experience in disaster recovery. The sessions provided women with an opportunity to breathe and reset. We had more than 1000 women register for these fantastic events. If you missed out or want to know more you can access the recorded sessions on the RWN website or at the BEtreat event page: www.rwnbetreat.online
We look forward to continuing to find new and exciting ways to engage with rural women as we re-shape our program for the future. We are already planning a special event in Moree in March 2021 to celebrate International Women’s Day. Make sure to follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with event updates.
On a final note, with Christmas just around the corner, I wanted to take this opportunity on behalf of myself, Dimity and Simone to wish you all a very safe and happy festive season and may 2021 bring happiness and joy to you and your loves ones. RWN will be taking a short break with our last day in the office Monday 21 December. We will be back on Deck Monday 11 January.
Cressida Cains is a successful businesswoman and owner of farmhouse artisan cheesery, Pecora Dairy. A cheesemaker and farmer, Cressida lives with her husband Michael and their two sons on a 200 acre farm at Robertson NSW. Growing up in the Southern Highlands Cressida says her heart has always been on the land.
‘I grew up on a property, so I have always had a strong connection to rural Australia. When I married Michael, we were living in Sydney and working in the wine industry, but it soon became obvious to both of us that we were more suited to rural living. ‘We moved to a small property an hour out of Sydney and it was then that we developed the idea of sheep milking. We spent six years on research and development—learning the art and science of cheese making and growing our flock of East Friesians.
The Australian artisan cheese industry is young, but growing strongly, with a number of farmhouse makers producing outstanding cheese. Pecora Dairy has always been at the forefront of the industry and has been consistently rewarded for their innovative approach, particularly in relation to their work with raw milk cheese.
‘Pecora dairy produces cheese and yoghurt with a strong focus on ethical and sustainable farming. Our approach to quality is totally uncompromising and we have worked incredibly hard to create benchmark Australian ewe’s milk cheeses,’ says Cressida. In 2019 Pecora Dairy took out the trophy for the dairy section with their raw milk feta at the National Delicious Produce Awards. They are also the first cheesery in Australia to be licensed to make raw milk cheese.
Despite their individual success Cressida says that through her years in dairy she has noticed a worrying trend. ‘In 1980 there were 22 000 dairy farms in Australia, however today, there are little more than 5000. With 98 per cent of small dairy farms being family owned, it is deeply troubling to see the industry in such crisis, where small dairy farms are closing their gates because they cannot make a profit under the current model of selling milk to the large processors.’
Cressida conducted a survey of small dairy farmers to gain a greater understanding of the current state of the industry. Alarmingly, 40 per cent of respondents rated the viability of their farm as poor. ‘Their fate was lying at the mercy of huge retail and processor market power. On the other hand, Australians are consuming more yoghurt and specialty cheese than ever before, but currently this increased demand is being met by overseas product, and it’s growing on average by an extra 4000 tonnes each year.’
Considering this, Cressida says that for some small family dairy farms there is a clear pathway to survive and thrive by operating up the value chain. ‘I came up with the idea for Dairy Cocoon in response to this crisis in the Australian dairy industry—to assist farmers to take back control of their businesses by supporting them to produce their own branded products, like milk, yoghurt, gelato or cheese.
‘Most recently, during COVID-19, we have seen a strong push towards Australian products, cheese in particular. There are huge opportunities for small Australian dairy farmers. ‘I am really excited that through the Rural Women’s Award I am going to be able to use the knowledge and experience I have gained over the years to support other small dairy farmers to stay in the industry and thrive by helping them to transform their business and farm.
‘Dairy Cocoon will be delivered in the form of a powerful online platform and support hub and will be a place where smaller dairy farmers can plan and formulate their transformational business plan, access training and education, and be connected and supported. ‘The importance of smaller dairy farm businesses cannot be underestimated in the Australian dairy industry, because once they are gone, the landscape of the industry will be changed forever.’
‘I have seen small dairies transform and create fantastic brands. I want to help more small dairy farmers do the same—to break the shackles of being a price taker and start seeing the profits for all their years of hard work. ‘Our small dairy farmers can drastically decrease their herd and still be more profitable. That means, reduced stress on the land and on the dairy farmer, while also lowering inputs and associated costs.’ Cressida looks forward to growing the industry and supporting small dairy farmers through her Rural Women’s Award Dairy Cocoon project.
Reflecting on the relevance of this Award to rural women and communities across Australia, Cressida says it is so important that women continue to be supported and involved in Australian agriculture at all levels.
‘It’s important for women to be involved in agriculture in Australia. With the new technology and advances it is an exciting time to be working in this industry.
‘I want to encourage more young women into agriculture as they lend a different perspective to agriculture and farming. Having a strong female presence in agriculture will benefit everybody.’
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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 (agriculture, forestry and fisheries), 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.
Know someone who should apply for the AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award? Email their name, contact details, and project area to: firstname.lastname@example.org