The Country Web 2020 Annual – Think Well, Feel Well

The 2020 annual issue of The Country Web is themed ‘Think well, feel well‘. It includes ideas for staying well and tips for overcoming life’s challenges.

The Country Web 2020 Annual - Think Well, Feel Well cover

As part of our 2020 Annual issue we have a special feature on the Young Farmer Business program, an article on helping children after the bushfires, and our ‘Men’s Matters’ feature discusses how to avoid a relationship breakdown.

You can download the entire issue online from the RWN website or we will be sharing weekly stories on the blog.

First up is our guest Editorial from Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women, the Honourable Bronnie Taylor MLC.

Editorial: Bronnie Taylor MLC

Bronnie Taylor MLC, Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Regional Youth and Minister for Women

As NSW Minister for Mental Health and Women, women’s health and wellbeing is something I am extremely passionate about.

Rural and regional NSW has faced incredibly difficult times recently, with drought, bushfire and now the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us are coping well, some are struggling with the ever-changing emotional, physical and financial realities of life-as-we-know-it being turned on its head.

You, or people you know, might be feeling anxious, sad or afraid. People who experience mental illness know these feelings all too well. They struggle with them every day and they find the courage to live the best life they can, regardless of the cards they were dealt. What we all have to do now is find the same courage.

I have found that so many women, especially those in rural and regional areas, have amazing reserves of courage. Women are often the rallying forces within their communities, and one of the privileges of my role is to meet these inspiring women and hear their stories.

Unfortunately, and it is in danger of becoming a cliché, women often put themselves last. We are all familiar with the ‘juggle’, where we come out at the bottom of the pile, stressed, tired and sometimes sick. As a mother, daughter, wife, friend and politician, I am guilty of it as much as the next woman.

Whilst we cannot always slow down or step away from our responsibilities, what we can do as women is to care for ourselves more. When it comes to our mental health, I want to remind women that help is out there, no matter what their concern may be.

There are more options than ever to access help via telehealth, so getting help is as easy as picking up the phone. In April this year, I announced that an additional 60 000 calls will be able to be answered by the NSW Mental Health Line. We have also invested in Lifeline, which is such a great resource. It is a familiar brand, and anyone can call them at any time, and open up to a listening ear at the other end of the line.

I was very proud to extend the six Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) coordinators until 2021. There are now 20 RAMHP coordinators across NSW. They are a great option if you want to be linked to care and they can direct you to the right service. There are also now 27 Farm Gate counsellors and Drought-Peer Support Workers delivering counselling across rural local health districts—meaning help is available locally where people need it.

In July this year, we also provided funding towards mental health training for more than 5000 community pharmacists. Pharmacies are often the first place that people go to for health issues and I am pleased that pharmacists will be given the knowledge and tools to recognise when someone is in distress and appropriately
refer them.

I’d like to finish by raising the point that good mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. I’d like to share with you some tips for building good mental health from Healthdirect. I try to use these tools in my daily life and I encourage you to give them a go. Let’s look after each other.

Build relationships

Having good relationships with other people is the most important factor contributing to a sense of wellbeing. This can include family, friends, workmates and others in the community.

Stay healthy

Exercise has been shown to increase wellbeing as well as reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. A healthy diet, avoiding excess alcohol or drugs, getting a good night’s sleep, and regular check-ups with the doctor can all help too.

Develop gratitude

Count your blessings. Try keeping a gratitude journal and write down three positive things each day.

Identify and use your strengths

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, but finding out what you are really good at and using those talents can increase wellbeing.

Create flow

Flow is the state of being so highly involved in an enjoyable activity that you lose track of time. Flow can happen during work, hobbies, or sports.

Give to others

Making a contribution to the community, however small, increases social wellbeing.

Spirituality or religion

For some people, being involved in spiritual or religious practices can improve wellbeing, help in coping with stress, and reduce symptoms of mental illness.

Remember if you are struggling to cope with everyday life, reach out for help—you don’t have to do it alone.

Want more? Download the entire issue online from the RWN website or we will be sharing weekly stories on the blog.

What’s next?

Contributions and advertising bookings for our 2021 annual issue of The Country Web themed ‘Women, Business and Farming’ are due 30 April 2021 for publication in August 2021.

We want to hear from rural women who are involved in, or who have a connection to farming, and who are running their own business or passion project.

This issue is about highlighting and celebrating women farmers and fishers and the stories of passion, innovation, research and technology that make our farming communities great.

Please forward contributions to:

The Editor
The Country Web
Locked Bag 21
Orange NSW 2800


Posted in agriculture, Communities, Depression, Domestic Violence, Families, farming, free resources, Health, inspirational, mental health, NSW Rural Women's Network, primary industries, rural women, RuralWomen, RWN, Social welfare, stories, The Country Web, women | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shining The Light on Rural Women’s Mental Health

Guest blog by Aimée Makeham, RAMHP Coordinator

Think of the words ‘rural’, ‘farmer’, or ‘agriculture’. Now close your eyes and imagine a person who lives or works in rural communities or agriculture or is a farmer. I can almost guarantee the person behind your closed eyes is a male. Statistically, you’re not wrong, it was only in 1994 that the law was changed to allow women to legally claim to be ‘farmers’ and census data from 2016 indicated that women only made up 32% of the Australian agricultural workforce. While one third of all ‘farmers’ in Australia are female, there seems to be such a focus on rural male mental health that we tend to forget about the women living rurally and the challenges they may incur, regardless of whether their registered employment is as a ‘farmer’ or not.

We all know that males in Australia are more likely to die by suicide than females, yet we tend to forget that women have significantly higher rates of suicidal ideation, suicide plans and attempts than males. A review of literature by Daghagh Yazd, Wheeler and Zuo (2019) found that whilst farm women usually engaged in similar farm roles to males, mental health literature focuses primarily on male farmers.

They also found that female farmers tended to experience more psychological distress than males farmers, in part due to their combination of roles within the business (farm management/labour), household duties and the responsibility of child rearing. Other factors that play a role in increased emotional distress includes increased work hours for females, pesticide exposure, economic hardship and worrying about finances. And, while a lot of these aren’t necessarily only ‘female problems’, or even ‘farmer’s problems’, they are issues a lot of country women can relate to.

Anecdotally, we know that women are more likely to talk about their partner’s health than their own, and the research shows this as well. Yet, we often hear the phrases like ‘women talk’ and therefore, they have outlets for their emotional distress. ‘Men don’t talk’ which means we need to focus our attention on creating healthy, safe spaces for letting our feelings out – don’t get me wrong, we do need to create these spaces, but when the research indicates that women will talk about their partners before they talk about themselves and shows higher rates of emotional and psychological distress in females, it begs the questions ‘are we focusing enough on women’s mental health?’.

I have a controversial opinion. I don’t think female farmers or rural females are inspiring. Instead, they are the hard working and underappreciated glue that holds our small communities together. Country women work the land or the sea like any male farmer does. They might hold other forms of employment and they might be raising the kids of our future. They bake the cakes to be sold at fundraisers, they volunteer to ensure that our communities keep on keeping on. So, maybe it’s time we shone the light on the mental health status of rural females as well as rural males. Because without the ladies, our agricultural and rural communities would have some very large shoes to fill.

Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health
This blog was first published on the Centre for Rural & Remote Mental Health website that you can view here.

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Engage Ag – creating opportunities for a career in agriculture

COUNTRY JOBBy Sandra Ireson
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Can communities stop younger generations from leaving town and moving to the city? Sandra Ireson says you can; by providing young people with opportunities for hands-on skills development and learning on farm.

Sandra says; in her community of Hay they ‘built’ a school using the knowledge and experience of local landholders and business folk who volunteered their time to teach young people how to be jackaroos and jillaroos.

The Hay Inc Rural Education Program was developed by community members and landholders to counter the demise of the jackaroo/jillaroo training system in the district. At the time, young people had limited access to hands-on training and bush skills.

‘Since our first intake in 2014 the Program has delivered immense benefits to the community and local industry. Not only have regionally-based students been attracted to the Program but it has helped bridge the gap between country and city by introducing city students to the rural community of Hay’, says Sandra.

‘Additional benefits include better promotion of the industry, enhanced tourism, and the ability to capture valuable local knowledge and transfer it to future generations. It has also seen exciting new partnership forged between industry, government, landholders and employers.’

The program provides mentoring and support, hands-on skills and learning, and work opportunities. It is delivered as a three-week course (run over five months), generally aligning with farming seasons. The hands-on training modules cover the necessary skills of stockmanship in sheep, cattle and farming.

‘Basically, it takes lessons out of the classroom and onto the farm where practical skills are taught by working or retiring experienced farm and business operators’, says Sandra.

Following the success of the program, Sandra took it a step further when she presented a project proposal as part of the 2017 AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award to develop an adaptable model that could be implemented by rural communities across Australia.

Sandra won and used her $10,000 Westpac award bursary to develop a community tool-kit which is now available to people wanting to deliver the program in their own community. If you’re interested in finding out more, contact Sandra.

More information
Sandra Ireson
M: 0439 938 119

Tips to get started

» Establish a committee – every town has people who are passionate about where they live – they won’t be hard to find and a committee allows you to establish a governance mechanism for clear communication and to get things done.

» Set up a not-for-profit incorporated group and bank account, establish and agreed set of goals, and explored funding options (see our tips).

» Establish a curriculum that suits your region/rural industry. The model can focus on specific industries such as livestock or cropping.

» Find experienced and passionate landholders and/or local business people to be involved – they are key to your success as they donate valuable time and facilities.

» Create a marketing campaign to get your message out. It can be as simple as setting up a facebook page or getting local media coverage.

» Start recruiting students!

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Rad Growers – Erin O’Callaghan

erinBy Joel Orchard, Future Feeders
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Erin O’Callaghan runs a small (approx 50 acres) scale farming business at Bungowannah 20 km from Albury in Southern NSW.  It includes a 1 acre market garden, mixed crop polyculture, 300 flock pastured free range egg layers and 22 head of Angus.

Her dynamic, mixed crop market garden system integrates permaculture and organic farming principles for supply into local and regional direct distribution markets. She has been able to form a reliable and consistent customer base through her ‘veggie box’ program; taking pre-orders through a 13 week subscription Community Supported Agriculture program. In Erin’s words “veggie box” creates “a relationship of mutual support and commitment between us as growers and you as members of our “farm-ily”. They also share the risk and rewards involved”

The farm model includes a small flock of pasture managed chickens for egg production which follow a small herd of cattle managed through cell grazing to improve pasture under a holistic management technique. The cattle are sent through local abattoir for sale through central markets.

In addition, Erin offers a ‘Friday farm experience’ which provides an opportunity for community engagement, volunteering, training and education in small scale farming. The session runs from 8 am to 3 pm and includes voluntary labour support and farm exposure as well as an on-farm harvest lunch for participants.

Erin has been market gardening as RAD Growers for the past three years and has made significant investments in infrastructure, equipment and other assets to ensure the success of her small farm business.  These include the purchase of a van, tractor, packing shed, irrigation system, cool room, poly-tunnel tools and equipment.

Pathway into farming
From a professional physiotherapy background, Erin completed a Permaculture Certificate with Milkwood Permaculture as an introduction to small-scale sustainable food systems before then exploring a soil management course through the local National Environment Centre at Riverina TAFE.

She also completed on farm internship programs with Fraser Bayley at Old Mill Farm (Moruya) and then later at Buena Vista Farm in Gerringong before establishing her business. Working in hospitals and the health system as a physiotherapist, Erin says she observed the poor quality of food being served in the industry and noted how food quality impacted on human health.

She set out with a five year business development plan with a view to buying her own land. She gained professional business skills and help from her father and now has a long term use agreement for access to family land with her parents with a 5% profit share.

Finding a market
Albury has typically had limited options for local organic food so Erin saw a clear market opportunity to explore her interests in chemical free and nutrient dense food to supply the local community and surrounds.

Farm business challenges
While Erin calls herself ‘the eternal optimist’, she has faced her fair share of challenges entering the marketplace. Along with many other young farmers, Erin has faced protectionism and anti-competitive behaviour from existing stallholders and committee at her local farmers markets. There is also the issue of social isolation due to a lack of an established small-scale farming industry and small numbers of other young farmers in her region.

Erin believes there is not enough support or industry networks in the small scale market gardening industry and as a result she has struggled to find connection points in the local farming community but has found some support through online forums and mentorship from other farmers, notably Fraser Bayley and Justin Russell.

Biggest learning in business
Erin says one of her biggest learnings has been to trust herself. Another has been trying to successfully balance farm life with off-farm income.

‘There is so much pressure to balance the farm business with off-farm income. It places extra pressure on you as a small farm business start-up so burnout and fatigue is a constant challenge.’

Even a small business needs a high investment in marketing and branding.  ‘While I recognise the importance of developing other business skills such as media and marketing, I don’t have the time and I don’t have the cash flow to outsource.’

‘It’s hard to sell. You can do all the market research you like, but at the end of the day, people will say they want fresh local food and still not buy it.

Advice for new starters
‘Get experience, it is a steep learning curve.’

Connection with Community
Erin keeps in contact with her consumer base and local community through a weekly farm newsletter to her members. She is committed to forming strong connections with customers and encourages them to engage directly with the farm as a holistic food system.

Erin believes that ‘Food and fibre production should be compulsory in high school. Growing food is essential’ and is currently assessing options to integrate school field trips, work experience and traineeships for local schools in the hope that education platforms and exposing young people will feed back into the food system and agricultural economy.

More information

Erin’s stoy has been featured courtesy of the Young Farmer Business Program. The program helps young farmers and fishers aged 18-35 years to enter into or expand
their existing businesses. It aims to improve connections, knowledge, skills and experiences to better manage risk, execute effective plans and make decisions that enhance long-term business and personal resilience.
Facebook: YoungFarmerBusinessProgram
Instagram: youngfarmerbusinessprogram

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Hidden Treasures Q&A: Kerrie Gray

kerrieBy Kerrie Gray, Alstonville NSW.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?
Hello, I’m Kerrie Gray. I live in Alstonville in the Northern Rivers of NSW. I spent my childhood in the Queanbeyan/Canberra area and studied and worked in Sydney after finishing my HSC. I worked with NSW Agriculture for 35 years in several different positions and locations. I transferred from Sydney to the Wollongbar Research Institute in 1997 and fell in love with this area and the diverse communities of the region.

What gave you the motivation/inspiration to become involved in the community?
My parents both did voluntary work in the community so I had a good example to follow. They said I had a voice and I should use it to speak up for those who weren’t able to speak for themselves. So, after I finished my studies I had some spare time to help out.

A friend asked me if I could spare a few hours after work and occasionally on the weekends help Red Cross by meeting children at Sydney airport. They were coming to Australia from the Pacific Islands for specialist surgery. I said yes, did my training and haven’t stopped since. I saw firsthand the power and trust of the Red Cross to people from other countries. That was nearly 40 years ago.

I have meet so many interesting people and had such a variety of experiences over the years. The jobs have changed as we move with a changing world, but I love the work we do and the principals of the Red Cross. I also volunteer with several other groups in my community.

What have been some challenges for communities since the fires?
Most have experienced drought, fire, (some areas flood) and now Covid-19. I think it’s just too much for some. Many have said they “can’t think straight” and they have so many forms to fill out. It’s overwhelming for many. That’s where we came in. We help with the processes and refer them to other agencies if needed. We also really listen to them. We can’t solve all their problems but hopefully we make a difference so they can move forward.

Have there been any uplifting moments from your volunteering so far?
The people are so genuine and it’s a privilege helping them through this journey. They appreciate anything we do for them. Sometimes it’s just the small things like a pamper pack or just listening to the community. I love seeing them smile.

A few were at breaking point when we meet them and to see them smiling now and taking small steps is wonderful. As the saying goes, “Its not a sprint but a marathon” and we’re there with them. So, each step forward feels good to us as well. Over the last six months we have received some beautiful Thank You cards from those who we’ve helped. Today at the service station filling up on petrol a gentleman asked if I was with Red Cross. It turns out he meet me at a community meeting after the fires. He told me he was so thankful for Red Cross’s help and that we are still helping after so many months. That made me smile.

Why would you encourage someone to nominate a Hidden Treasure in your community?
The majority of volunteers don’t expect or seek recognition. However, it can mean so much to their families and to the organisations they work with. There are so many people quietly helping out in so many different ways and it’s wonderful that at least a few of them are recognised by their communities.

Hidden Treasures
An annual initiative of the Department of Primary Industries’ Rural Women’s Network, Hidden Treasures recognises the outstanding efforts of women volunteers in NSW and promotes the valuable role of volunteering to the community.

You can nominate a friend, family member, colleague, community worker – any rural woman who you believe makes your community a better place to live. To nominate a Hidden Treasures volunteer you simply need to complete the Nomination Form and tell us a short ‘story’ about why your nominee is worthy.

To nominate a rural woman in your community, visit

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Celebrating Culture

Bushra AmanBy Bushra Aman, Orange NSW
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

What is your background?

My name is Bushra Aman and I am originally from Pakistan. I have been living in Australia for 13 years now. Currently, I am a student counsellor at Charles Sturt University, Orange campus.

What does your community work involve and what does this mean to you?

I have engaged in community work for a number of years and in a variety of fields including, youth work, child protection, women’s empowerment, domestic violence awareness, cultural awareness and many others.

Prior to moving to Orange I volunteered my time for the Department of Human Services in Brisbane to share my story as part of their cultural awareness sessions. This was to help workers enhance their understanding of different cultures so that they are able to work efficiently and empathetically with multicultural clients.

These experiences have meant so much to me, both as an individual and as a trained social worker. It allows me the chance to contribute to improving a person’s quality of life and to ensure they are treated with utmost consideration, as well to change some people’s perspective and view towards society. I always strive to empower them with knowledge and bring awareness to individuals that can then contribute to the wider community.

What was life like growing up as a young girl in Pakistan?

I was born and raised in Pakistan and grew up in a big family with nine siblings. My father was working in the Army and my mother was a housewife. I was always very sporty and an active child – I loved playing outdoors by the lake outside our home with friends and my younger brother.

One day I remember my mom told me that I was getting a bit older and so I should be careful and not go outside to play with the boys. But I was always very stubborn and so my brother came up with the idea to dress up as a boy and tell his friends I was his cousin, so I could play with them. That’s still such a good memory to this day and brings smile to my face.

When I went to high school I stayed active and started playing hockey, progressing to the national games, as well as being the best sprinter of my college at the time.

I know that Pakistan is seen to be a strict country for girls but in reality, the public perspective can vary immensely. For example, Malala Yousafzai was shot for speaking up for girls’ rights to education but on the other hand Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Prime Minister, was the first female prime minister in the world. Therefore, there are very different sections of society, some more orthodox while some are more liberal.

Why did you choose to come to Australia?

I wanted to come to Australia as I believed it would be better for my children’s education and security. I thought we would try and see how we go, but we fell in love with this beautiful country and stayed. We came on a skilled permanent visa and therefore I had to get my social work degree recognised by AASW as a part of a very long process.

Where there challenges in settling into a new country?

While we adjusted well in the social setting and quite quickly, I think the biggest challenge was to understand the working culture. I thought since I was a recognised social worker it would be easy to find work in Australia but that was not the case. I applied all over Australia for work and travelled to Melbourne, Townsville, and Brisbane for interviews. And then finally I decided to increase my qualification and went to TAFE to study further. It was afterwards that I got my first job teaching the Diploma of Community Services.

Another challenge for me was to get a driving licence. In Pakistan I never had to drive myself because I always had a male driver, whether it was my father, brother, husband or an official work driver. You can understand how difficult it would be to start learning to drive later in life… it look me a very long time and resulted in many problems in a country like Australia where you need to travel long distances, but I finally got my licence six years ago.

Who has inspired you/supported you along your journey?

I would give this credit to my husband and my family. They have always been very supportive and encouraged me to work hard and never lose hope. They understood how passionate I was about my profession and encouraged me to stick to it, even though it was hard to get a job.

Friends I have made along the way have also contributed greatly in building confidence in my own abilities and my aspirations. They offered to be my referees when I didn’t have any. At the time, small things like that made a big difference.

Who has been the most influential person in shaping who you are today?

My parents worked hard to raise me with values and courage that I still carry with me today. My father was a very well-educated man and he loved us all unconditionally. Generally speaking in Pakistan, people are happier if they get sons rather than daughters, but my parents raised us equally and sometimes even better than our brothers.

My parents were always very protective of us and our decisions, but they did not let the culture and society decide who we are. They encouraged us to make that decision for ourselves and the way they trusted us and let us pursue our dreams is beyond my imagination.

We were the first girls to go to school from our family and also the first to finish our education before getting married. When I think back I always wonder how strong my parents were; their life was completely dedicated to us.

My father passed away before I came to Australia and I still miss him dearly. My mum lives in Pakistan and always waits for us to visit.

What have your experiences taught you?

My experience taught me to work hard with honesty even if you don’t see the results straight away. You will look back one day and see the difference.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

‘Enjoy your life along the way and don’t wait for things to happen to make you happy. Happiness is free.’

Posted in business, Communities, Domestic Violence, Families, Gender equality, inspirational, rural women, Social welfare, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The burden of drought amazingly discovers my real purpose in life

WE016By Karen Weller, Winton

What devastation we have experienced statewide in this current drought! It is hard to comprehend how widespread this drought has been to primary producers last year and now 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 an 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 have 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. Through my blog, sharing my stories of life on the land, I hope to inspire others to find their inner strength.

I have been involved in farming 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. My husband and I have owned farming properties on the Mid North Coast, the New England and Central West regions, before settling on a 2803 acre farm 30 km west of Tamworth over two years ago. We run beef cattle and sheep and produce stud Hereford bulls.

I am shy but friendly and I value the importance of inner harmony. I have strong family values and a strong work ethic and my self-motivation drives me daily. I am devoted to my husband Peter and our two wonderful adult sons, Andrew and Glen.

I valued my time spent raising our children to adulthood. It was a ‘job’ I was wholeheartedly committed to and I was determined to raise great men. So, when they were toddlers, I decided to study Child Psychology. I loved being a Mum and I cherished this important role. Then, in the blink of an eye they had grown up and my job was ‘complete’.

This is when the emotional turmoil started. I was not satisfied with just the business of farming and I started to feel overwhelmed and ‘lost’ as I tried to find my new purpose in life. Health concerns arose and I was stressed to my limit. With the help of my GP and specialists, they discovered that I had sleep apnea – a root cause of other ongoing health problems. I had to start CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy to keep me breathing while I slept – it was quite the adjustment and very confronting being only in my forties.

Then the drought hit. I was feeling physically exhausted, financially strained and emotionally I fell in a heap. Suffering from ‘empty-nest syndrome’ and with farming not entirely meeting a bigger need in my life, drought 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 – depression.

I felt terrible, unable to cope, embarrassed. Yet, I knew I needed to be open with my family about my depression and anxiety. I set an example to my sons that it is OK to talk about depression and that it is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign that we have been too strong for too long. My GP put me on medication and sent me for a few visits to a psychologist. I did not talk of this to anyone other than my family. I wanted to hide it, but why?

I can now say my treatment has worked. I am still on medication but feeling so much better, more focused and I am able to deal with the struggles on-farm. I have changed my outlook, have shifted my mindset and I am feeling at the top of my game. I am no longer afraid to admit that I have depression/anxiety – I am not weak and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

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 realised the health benefits. My blood pressure normalised immediately, and then slowly other things improved 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 and I avoided the need for blood pressure medication

I enjoy the quiet lifestyle that farming provides; however, drought has stretched our resilience over the last 18 months. This drought is different to other droughts experienced over the years. It is so widespread that agistment of livestock was not even an option this year. We have had to reduce our livestock numbers to only our core breeding stock to ensure we can save 25 years of breeding genetics in our stud herd. Hay and fodder needs to be transported from quite a distance interstate and prices have become exuberant. Farm loans have been increased and massive interest is being paid. Hopefully, the drought breaks before we do.

Country Heart Spark is 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 hope to provide inspiration by sharing our stories of farm life, a husband surviving a Quad-bike accident and breaking his back, to my involvement with the Country Women’s Association. My blog also serves as a platform for me to relieve everyday stress and it brings me a sense of calmness and contentment. I also now have a vision to write my first book on self-awareness and acceptance of self. My passion has been sparked and this will be my new purpose.

Recently I started my own business freelance writing and providing admin services, providing the opportunity to supplement our farm income. I have also become a qualified Hypnotherapy Practitioner.

For me, it took this horrid drought and hitting rock bottom for me to realise that my purpose in life is to help people using the gifts that I have and the knowledge that I have acquired.  Life is not just black and white but rather, a scheme of colours for me to share my experiences in writing, provide support to others and offer my services to those in need. We all have that special something within us, we just have to find it and allow it to blossom.

Posted in agriculture, anxiety, Communities, Families, farming, inspirational, resilience, rural women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The corner store gallery – a dream realised


cwebBy Madeline Young-Holborow, Orange
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

The Corner Store Gallery is very much a family run business. My parents, sister and husband are a major part of my operations here at the gallery and there’s no way I’d be here without them.

So how did I come to open a gallery?

I grew up in Orange. I lived just around the corner from the gallery actually. I used to buy lollies here in the 90s when it was Thommo’s Corner Store. I travelled for a couple of years after high school in the US teaching art and jewellery classes at summer camps, and then completed a degree in Fine Arts at The University of Newcastle in 2009.

I returned to Orange in 2011 to work as the Artist in Residence at Kinross Wolaroi School for four years, the best job I’ve ever had! At the time there were no galleries or exhibition spaces in Orange apart from the Regional Gallery, so it was hard to exhibit my work as an emerging artist. I used to joke that I’d open a gallery of my own one day to fill the gap in the market, little did I know this would come true.

In 2014 we came across a little corner store for sale just down the street from where Erick (my now husband) and I were living, it was a hairdressers at the time and was the very same corner store I bought lollies from as a child. My parents were looking for a little ‘fixer-upper’ and it was my mum’s idea, to start a gallery – we would live out the back of the shop so it could work financially. Suddenly the dream I never knew I had was a possibility.

We bought the shop! My dad worked hard for six months on the renovations, patching up holes and replacing windows, removing walls and hair washing basins, demolishing a floating paneled ceiling and cleaning up the original, rusty tin ceiling underneath giving the gallery more height and space. We took the bars and blinds off the large windows, painted it all white, installed proper lighting and a hanging system and suddenly we had an art gallery.

We had our first exhibition by Nicole Chaffey in August of 2014 with over 200 people attending the Grand Opening Night – it was clear that the community was supportive of our venture.

Our little one-bedroom studio apartment out the back of the gallery was home for three years and we loved it! However, after my dad retired in 2016 he got to work building a new home for Erick and I that was detached from the gallery.

Our brilliant architect Casey Bryant designed a beautiful, practical and incredibly spacious home for us that we couldn’t be happier with! Casey’s design recently won the best new Infill Development award for the Orange City Council Cultural Heritage Awards.

Dad got together with a new local company and together they worked away at our new home throughout 2017. The building process was so enjoyable that dad has come out of retirement to work for the boys at the company.

During the build I became pregnant so our little family had begun. Magnus was born in March 2018, so I took some time off. Suddenly I had to become more flexible with how the gallery was run.

We now have lots of flexible rental options for artists, designers and teachers to make the space their own. You can rent the gallery for one, two or three week blocks, manage the event yourself or have me staff the show for you. The gallery is a blank canvas, we aim to provide high quality facilities, support and promotion to our creatives and provide the best possible platform to facilitate their ideas. We hold exhibitions, popups and workshops regularly at the gallery, showcasing a diverse range of work and events.

We represent many talented locals, as well as artists and designers from all over Australia. The gallery also holds two to three group exhibitions each year providing artists with opportunities to get involved without the pressure of a solo exhibition. These are often our most popular events and are a fantastic way for emerging artists to be discovered.

Our fifth birthday is in August. I’m a bit chuffed to be honest. We’re celebrating with a fantastic Group Exhibition called Australiana.

The gallery has very much been a ‘community’ project with family and friends contributing to the business over the last five years – family who always help out – particularly at opening nights, friends who babysit when I have an event on, visitors who come to every show without fail, my wonderful artists and designers. You are all amazing and I couldn’t possibly have done it without you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Here’s to the next five years.

Posted in business, Communities, Families, rural women, stories, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Lightning Ridge to Paris

20190515_203836 (1)Rebel Black, Lightning Ridge
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

My name is Rebel Black and I live in the outback opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, a unique and special place in western NSW, where opal miners find 100 million year old dinosaurs, where people from 52 nationalities live in harmony and where eccentricity and entrepreneurship is an expectation!

In 2008, 8 years after arriving, I reached, what I call my intellectual and income ceiling – which meant, career wise, I had to make a decision – to leave to find work that would stimulate and pay me well or stay and risk being deeply unsatisfied. I left for 9 months, but was brought back to where my heart and home was…and so, given that the other options we unthinkable to me, I created a third – to build a business, using the internet, that I could operate from Lightning Ridge (or anywhere) and tap into a national or international audience.

I wanted to prove, to myself and others, that it was possible to #livelocalgrowglobal.

In May this year, the validation that I am achieving this and, most importantly, that the work the team and I are doing is valued and needed, came from an international Jury when we were named as finalists in the Entrepreneurship category of the Women in Tech International Challenge. It was an award I had nominated us for and figured, if the people on the Jury just read my application, I would be happy, but never did I imagine what would unfold over the coming few weeks.

My first wondering was – how am I going to get to Paris (where the Award ceremony was to be held in under a month after being advised) and secondly – what will I wear!

Both were handled so beautifully by the universe – as the Awards committee offered to fund the airfares and some accommodation cost and then, one of our wonderful THE Rural Woman members, Dinah Mitchell from Pearl Button Bridal, offered to make me a dress – which she did, and it was STUNNING! So with no excuses remaining, the Paris adventure began!

In Paris I met fellow Australian and finalist Peace Mitchell who runs the Women’s Business School – and we spent the most amazing time together exploring the city and experiencing great connections including meeting the deputy Mayor of Paris and a masterclass with the Deputy Director for technology and research at NASA!

And then – the much anticipated Awards! The winner of the Entrepreneurship category was an incredible woman from Uganda, who’s name was also Peace – and who’s organisation Zimba women supports the economic participation of women in business in Africa.

I was revelling so much in being in the room with such extraordinary women, that it wasn’t until the last award presenter commented in her speech ‘when a rural woman blooms all around her bloom to’ that I realised THE Rural Woman had been named as the Coup de Coeur Du Jury – the Jury’s Award! I was humbled, shocked and delighted all at once!

And while the award was one thing, the community reaction to the award was quite another – I awoke the next day in Paris to a social media frenzy – hundreds of comments and messages of support and encouragement and pride. My friends and family arranged an incredible surprise welcome home dinner and the love in that room still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.

There is nothing quite like international acknowledgement for your work, a very quick trip to Paris and an outpouring of love and support, to give you the impetus and space to reflect on where you’ve come from and reaffirm where you are going. We do not do what we do for these opportunities, but they certainly re-motivate you on the often challenging journey in business!

Many years ago, a mentor of mine exclaimed to me that it was entrepreneurs, not governments, who changed the world and this has become one of the motivating beliefs in my life – to create a business that both structurally and through its products and services, does just that….changes the world – one rural woman at a time!

THE Rural Woman was founded on the belief that if a rural woman blooms all around her bloom too -it’s a powerful and deeply felt ripple. And, it’s fair to say that the business that bloomed in 2014 from an early morning dream has changed my life (as the Founder) and the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of rural women across Australia and the ripple, I believe, of our collective ‘work’ will be felt for generations and across continents. Because we are only just getting started.

By 2041 the ripple of our work is real and tangible with increasing rural populations in the regions where we work, we’ve documented and researched the findings and the impact of our work is profound. The happiness of and contribution by rural women is now well recognised.

We aim to reverse the trend of rural decline through the expansion of a global online community connecting millions of rural women who support each other to realise their full potential .The outcome is vibrant and dynamic rural communities experiencing unprecedented growth and opportunity.

Posted in business, Communities, Innovation, inspirational, internet & telecommunications, rural women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A secure future for farming

lisaLisa McFadyen, Condobolin
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Growing up in rural NSW, Lisa McFadyen is passionate about agriculture and rural communities. A qualified Agronomist and Property Valuer; she lives with her husband and their two young children at Condobolin. Lisa is also a 2019 NSW-ACT AgriFutures™ Rural Women’s Award finalist.

A small business owner, Lisa is the founder and CEO of Secure Impact; a rural property and agri-asset marketplace for Australian farmers, which facilitates agricultural farmland and business transition of farms from expansion, purchase, lease, share farm and divestment at retirement.

‘I have a strong passion for the agricultural industry; to learn new things, make positive change, and to help others with change. I believe that communities are built strong from the people.’

Through the business, Lisa hopes to pave the way for a long-term, sustainable, and viable future for the Australian agriculture. She says the open marketplace facilitates transparency and trust for farmers, allowing more opportunities for connections to drive their business.

‘My business focus is farmland and agricultural business transition, through implementation of innovative business and ownership structures. Because if you get the ownership structure right, it opens up opportunities for value-added enterprises to drive production and make a business thrive, whilst continuing to meet the rising food and fibre demands.’

With agricultural land a key asset of a farming operation, Lisa says there is a need to nurture land ownership changes and transfer into the new millennium. Whether it’s through lease, share-farming, equity partnerships, joint ventures or property trusts, she says we must improve business partnerships at a land asset and farming operation level to move forward.

‘My main drive is being proactive and innovative in how we look at and tackle challenges. Getting farmers to think about the transition of their farms much earlier is a critical step in driving this change.’

Lisa says changing perceptions around farm transition starts with a shift in focus.

‘A change in mindset around how farmers plan for ownership and retirement, how they develop their skills, training and knowledge, as well as being proactive in making changes to business, is the key to driving this change and getting farmers to think about the transition process early.

‘I want to build on my work with farming families to adopt a more proactive approach to succession by making them aware of the options available. I want to plant the seed to let them think about their options, provide resources and give them access to advisor to aid their decisions.’

Lisa has plans to provide resources, education and assistance to help farming families to shift from a ‘reactive’ approach; often characterised by family law issues, stress, anxiety and sometimes ‘forced’ succession; to a proactive approach, where more opportunities are created to drive their farm and business forward in a viable and sustainable manner.

She hopes this will help to address some of the challenges that impede sound transition planning; such as land asset transitional issues, an ageing population, lack of capital to enter farm acquisition, and lack of capital within the business.

‘More than 90 per cent of Australian farms are family farms. In order for farming businesses to thrive, we need to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of effective planning and growth.

‘It’s estimated that 60 percent of farmers have no known successor. With 50 per cent of farmers expected to sell in the next 10 years due to the ageing farming population, this presents a huge opportunity for the industry to embrace change and ensure our farming land is here for future generations.

‘We want older generations to still have an interest in farming, but we also want to open opportunities for the younger generation to enter farming.’

‘I am excited about the opportunities the Award will provide and look forward to seeing my vision unfold.’

P. 0448 366 395
Facebook: @SecureImpact
Twitter: @SecureImpact

Posted in agriculture, Awards, business, Communities, Families, farming, primary industries, rural women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment