Tips for talking to someone you’re worried about

Source: Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) 
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

We all know someone who has experienced a mental health issue. It might be your father, a neighbour, your bank manager, your best friend’s daughter, or even yourself.

Sometimes, you might not be aware that a person is struggling. Sometimes, all a person needs to begin their recovery is for someone to recognise the signs that they may be struggling and provide a listening ear.

Senior Project Officer, Claire Gander says RAMHP can help by ensuring that people dealing with mental health issues are identified and linked with the care they need.

“If someone you know isn’t travelling well, we want you to notice and to be able to provide a listening ear and some gentle guidance to support them to find help and feel better.

“We want you to be able to identify signs of mental health issues in yourself, as well as those close to you. And we want you to know that help is available and how to find it,” said Claire.

RAMHP coordinators provide one and a half—three hour Workplace and Community Support Skills Training courses that provide information on:

  • How to look after your mental health
  • Signs that a person may be struggling
  • Finding and providing help
  • How to have a conversation with someone you’re worried about
  • How to help someone at risk of suicide

Tips for talking to someone you’re worried about:

  • Find out where help is available
  • Choose an appropriate time and place
  • Be mindful of your stress levels
  • Listen and show empathy
  • Don’t be dismissive
  • Reassure and offer hope for the future
  • Be respectful and discreet
  • Remember, help is available and recovery is possible

For more information on these programs visit the RAMHP website, email or call 02 6363 8444

How are you going?

For a copy of the How are you going? poster, call the Centre for Rural Regional & Remote Mental Health (CRRMH) on 02 6363 8444.


Posted in free resources, mental health, rural women, stories, The Country Web | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Men’s matters: How to avoid being a victim of change

Dr John Ashfield PhD, Australian Institute of Male Health & Studies.
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

…change can turn out to be a real tonic. It can lift us out of a rut and present us with an opportunity to experience living more fully and humanly in the present moment.

Dr John AshfieldAdjusting to the pace of change in modern life can be very challenging. Many involuntary changes are foisted on us with the potential to produce all sorts of reactions in us. We may find ourselves feeling powerless, angry, anxious, perhaps mentally overloaded and even somewhat ‘paralysed’.

The world we once knew and which we counted on to remain largely the same is changing fast, and we are faced with the considerable challenge of making the transition into a different future, and having to make lots of decisions that will determine the shape of our future.

It goes without saying that we need first to have a clear and calm head to attempt this transition, and we may need to seek advice and support in a way we’ve never had to do before. This will invariably require us to be flexible, creative and open—and maybe that can be a bit challenging for some of us.

Without realising it, we can sometimes become rigidly attached to certain ideas, assumptions, routines, familiar patterns and conventions—in the hope of maintaining life in a certain unchanged form. But is this good for us? As H.L. Mencken once said, “It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.”

In the process of trying hard to maintain the status quo we can unwittingly imprison ourselves within our own insecurities, retarding our growth in resilience and our capacity for much needed new thinking.

And let’s not overlook that coping with change and transitioning to something new always involves some degree of loss (as the old gives way to the new) and consequent grief—grief that we must experience and deal with, not merely deny. Life simply can’t progress or flourish otherwise.

Yes, this is all a very ‘tall order’ and it requires every bit of grit we can muster to get life on track—well a new track anyway. And we must make ready for the journey, by taking care of ourselves in ways perhaps that we have paid little attention to before, and by avoiding some things that are creeping into our lives that are unhelpful, like using too much alcohol, eating poorly and not staying in good physical shape—all of which will likely have an impact on our mental health.

Making sure we get enough rest and exercise (most importantly that isn’t associated with stressful work), that we manage stress through recreation and calming activities, and pay attention to our relationships, are all essential for coping and resilience.

Of course change can turn out to be a real tonic. It can lift us out of a rut and present us with an opportunity to experience living more fully and humanly in the present moment—where we taste, see, hear, feel and experience things with a whole new interest and intensity; things previously neglected or overlooked.

Perhaps the most important strategy for coping with change is to get back to our core values and to focus on the people and things of most importance to us. We may need to become far less attached to the material things that are increasingly so subject to change—and that are so easily lost; instead, focusing more attention on cultivating whatever can nourish a stable sense of wellbeing, a sense of belonging, of caring and having others care about us.

Properly nurtured, these things can provide us with the dependable inner resources to help keep life hopeful, meaningful and functioning in perspective. They can provide us with ‘psychological buoyancy’, a place to go when we need to ‘catch our breath’, and the emotional resilience to avoid being intimidated or overwhelmed by change now and in the future.

Posted in mental health, rural women, stories, The Country Web | Leave a comment

WANTED: Fantastic farming women stories

Do you know a fantastic farming woman?

Have you got five minutes to share their story and photo?

Here’s your opportunity to pay tribute to her and acknowledge the vital role of women on the land.

The Invisible Farmer project is calling for tributes to the women who work the land.

Stories will be featured on the ABC and become part of this first national comprehensive study of farm women in Australia.

The process is very easy – you only need to share a couple of paragraphs about the contribution they make to their farm, their community and agriculture in general and upload a photo!

Hurry though, as time is running out; stories needed by 14th May 2017.

Share your story now.

Please share this information throughout your networks so we can get as many rich and authentic stories as possible involved in the project.

Posted in agriculture, Communities, Families, farming, inspirational, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, primary industries, Rural Australia, rural women, RuralWomen, Social Media, Social welfare, stories, women, women's networks | Leave a comment

2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Finalist: Hayley Purbrick

We are happy to introduce you to our fourth amazing Finalist for the 2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award.

Hayley Purbrick’s passion is for communication, people and agriculture. Hailing from the Riverina town of Deniliquin, her work is empowering smaller communities to think outside the square and adopt an innovative approach in managing the every changing landscape of farming.

Growing up as the fifth generation of Tahbilk Winery, Hayley studied her Bachelor of agriculture at the University of Melbourne, followed by a Diploma in Applied Commerce (Accounting). She now works part time as Tahbilk’s Environment Manager from Deniliquin with her husband and two children while growing her community work ‘The Riverina Collective’.

Hayley has a vision to create vibrant small town communities across regional NSW filled with people who think like entrepreneurs through her social enterprise ‘The Riverina Collective’.  Her aim is to influence cultural change from the grassroots up and to encourage people to see opportunities and take action.

She sees an opportunity to create a platform for women to connect with each other and build resilience through sharing stories and learnings and also sharing ideas on the issues we all face in rural and regional communities.

If successful, Hayley will use the bursary to develop the ‘Think Big’ component of ‘The Riverina Collective’ initiative.  Think Big will provide a series of tools to support creative thinking consisting of a video series which captures creative people in their rural landscape and provides their tips and challenges, and a website which hosts a range of information to assist exploration of creativity for community benefit.


Posted in agriculture, Awards, bursary, business, Cattle, Communities, education and training, Environment, Families, farming, Grants and funding, Innovation, inspirational, leadership, Mentor, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, primary industries, resilience, RIRDC rural women's award, Rural Australia, rural women, RuralWomen, RWN, scholarships, stories, Sustainability, women, Women leaders, women's networks | Leave a comment

2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Finalist: Sandra Ireson

We are happy to introduce you to the third of our four amazing Finalists for the 2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award.

Sandra Ireson is from the Riverina town of Booligal in NSW. She has a keen interest in developing pathways for younger generations to gain a start in primary industries.

Throughout her career Sandra recognised that the younger generation had limited opportunities to gain the basic hands-on training and bush skills to make them employable, resulting in diminishing numbers of young people entering or staying in agriculturally dependent communities and townships like Hay.

To address this challenge, in 2014 Sandra co-developed the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program to give young people the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a career in agriculture. The program provides hands-on training, ongoing mentoring, and access to rural networks and landholders which young people can use to spring board a career in agriculture.

If successful Sandra will use the bursary to build on the success of the Hay Inc. Rural Education Program to develop an adaptable model to promote that can be used by other communities across Australia, contributing to their long term sustainability.

Whether off the farm or from the city young people will have the opportunity to learn all of the practical agricultural skills they will need – from shearing management and wool classing to fixing motorbikes and fences.

The model not only provides a pathway for young people wanting a career in agriculture but it will also provide a network between district landholders, employers and trainees, and the opportunity for ongoing mentoring of trainees into the future.

Sandra was interviewed by Chris Bath on ABC evenings. You can listen to Sandra’s interview to learn more about her project.  (Fast forward 1 hr 20 mins for Sandra’s segment).


Posted in agriculture, Awards, bursary, business, Cattle, Communities, farming, Grants and funding, Innovation, inspirational, leadership, Mentor, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, primary industries, RIRDC rural women's award, Rural Australia, rural women, RuralWomen, scholarships, Social welfare, stories, women, Women leaders, women's networks | Leave a comment

2017 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Finalist: Rebecca Barnes

We were recently thrilled to announce this year’s NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Finalists, who are each achieving remarkable things within their respective industries in NSW. We will share their profiles with you over the coming 2 weeks to provide some more insight into these amazing women and their projects. The first of our four Finalists is Rebecca Barnes from Ballina

After an international career in finance and insurance Rebecca Barnes moved to the northern NSW coastal town of Ballina 20 years ago seeking a career and lifestyle change that would allow her to balance work and family.

When research led her to realise the nutritional benefits and untapped potential of Australian native foods Rebecca and her business partner established Playing with Fire Native Foods.

Australia’s native foods are rich and vibrant in colour taste and nutrition. There are now 15 commercialised varieties available which are in very high demand due to the growing interest from chefs, foodies, nutritionists and the international markets. So much so that demand outstrips supply in more than half of these foods.

An industry leader Playing with Fire Native Foods grows, processes, manufacturers and supplies native foods both domestically, to local farmers markets, gourmet food shops and high-end restaurants, and internationally to Asia, USA and Europe.

With demand currently outstripping supply due to the growing interest from chefs, foodies, nutritionists and international markets Rebecca believes the industry is at a critical point and needs to expand to ensure its survival.

Rebecca would use the bursary to showcase the native food industry by hosting a 2-day conference to provide industry leaders with a platform to connect and share their stories and to educate potential growers about the enormous potential of bushfoods.

For more information on the four Finalists or to find out about how you can apply for the Award please visit The Rural Women’s Network.

Posted in agriculture, Awards, bursary, business, Communities, farming, Innovation, inspirational, leadership, Mentor, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, primary industries, Research, RIRDC rural women's award, Rural Australia, rural women, RuralWomen, RWN, Sustainability, women | Leave a comment

Families in recovery: Are you struggling with a loved one’s use of alcohol or drugs?

Anne Leigh, New England. As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

Transition is usually understood to mean a process, or period of changing from one state or condition to another. Commonly used synonyms include conversion, transformation, adaptation, adjustment and my favourite, metamorphosis—think caterpillar to butterfly.

But this semantic definition implies that our daily reality consists of stasis and I’m only now, at the ripe old age of 58, beginning to understand that nothing, that is, no thing, exists in stasis. Physics explains this much better than I could, but in essence, our every breath in life is a transition, at a cellular level from what was, to what is right now.

Yet, even though our bodies are shedding and recreating our cells constantly, we humans generally conspire in a shared illusion of solidity—we like things to feel familiar and think that life is predictable, for the most part. Change rankles if we haven’t asked for it.

Anne Leigh

‘Sometimes what’s happening in our families is so close-up, so stressful, that we don’t see the range of possible strategies for dealing with the situation in a healthy and productive way. ANNE LEIGH

Six years ago I left inner-urban Melbourne for the green and pleasant land of the New England Plateau. I was aware that my life would change—that was obvious—but what wasn’t obvious in those early days of ‘resettlement’ was that my entire inner life would also change.

I was no longer a community development coordinator (not yet employed), I wasn’t in the role of a mother (both daughters lived in different States), I wasn’t in the role of wife/partner, (I’d moved to NSW months ahead of my husband, who had to remain in Melbourne to wind up his business), so not a spouse either. I remember sitting on the verandah of our new (very old) house and realising I didn’t know a soul in my new life. I felt like I’d been cut adrift from my moorings—and it felt strangely unsettling, to say the least.

As I pondered the adjustment discomfort I was experiencing I reflected that change causes particular and significant disturbance for those who haven’t set out to create change in their life, and especially not within their family relationships.

This led me to remember the many families I’d worked with over a 20-year period; people whose lives had been thrown into chaos by another’s problematic alcohol or other drug (AOD) use, whether legal drugs like prescription medication and alcohol, or illegal substances like heroin, cannabis and, in more recent years, methyl amphetamine (ice).

The stigma of ‘drugs’ renders families of drug users largely invisible in our community, and ordinary families, just like us, who find themselves in this situation, fear judgement and rejection by their friends and neighbours. It’s a terrible situation to be in as a family, especially for parents. You can imagine when people are out socialising in their friendship or work networks and other parents are talking about their grown-up children and how well they’re doing. Many parents have said how they dread anyone asking them about their young adult drug user; they don’t know what to say, so they ‘cover’ for them if they’re living a drug-dependent life.

Stigma places huge pressure on a family to keep up a coping facade. This also applies to legal drugs, like alcohol. If the drug user is living in the family home, the parents, partners and children spend a huge amount of energy trying to pretend that things are okay when they’re not and, over time, this takes a really big toll on their mental and physical health. This is all exacerbated when the drugs are illegal and that creates an additional layer of difficulty—that now my child, spouse, parent or sibling is seen and treated as a criminal because of what essentially is a health issue.

One of the most common causes of anxiety for parents of drug users is a pervasive sense of guilt. Parents see other families where there are no (apparent) problematic drug issues and torture themselves with the thought that somehow they have contributed to their young adult’s drug dependence. Constant self-scrutiny is corrosive to other family relationships, especially where each parent’s values differ so that there cannot be a cohesive family response to the unsafe drug use happening in their midst.

In fact, the current science attributes a range of factors to someone becoming drug dependent. Parental or spousal blame is way too simple. This is a complex problem for society and government, which is why I think we deal so ineffectively with it, as a society, or as policy makers. It involves among other intangibles, a person’s genetic inheritance, their personal resilience, or coping capacity, their exposure to and influence by others, usually peers. It would be impossible to qualify or quantify accurately the reasons in each individual case.

The many reasons why someone ends up drug dependent are a red herring for the rest of the family; it confuses the issue by allowing them to focus solely on the drug user’s trajectory, when they need to be able to focus on their own needs.

Families benefit by knowing what responses can make the problem worse and what responses can actually help all parties. For example, parents are biologically programed to protect their children. We just forget that there comes a time, when our child becomes an adult, when we can’t do that anymore; we can’t save them from themselves. For spouses, adult children and siblings too, the urge to rescue situations is strong, but only when the drug user is allowed to experience the consequences of their choices do they gain opportunities to make different (better) decisions with different (better) outcomes.

In other words, when families stop ‘cushioning’ their drug user from the natural consequences of their problematic drug use. i.e. no money, no job, nowhere to live, burnt relationships, debts, poor health etc…, the drug user is faced with a very different daily reality and may be in a position to consider their quality of life.

Stopping rescuing behaviours sounds really easy. It’s actually one of the hardest things a parent ever has to do, with the degree of difficulty exacerbated by the absence of any helpful literature in the myriad ‘parenting’ books available. There are, after all, no chapters entitled: ‘What to do if your child grows up to be drug dependent’. The very lack of public discourse creates a sense of shame and blame for parents who are usually the very people most concerned with the health and happiness of their young adult drug user.

Families unfamiliar with the phenomena surrounding addiction or drug dependence think that ‘saving’ the drug user from the consequences of their drug related behaviours will magically cause them to reduce or even stop their unhealthy drug use. However, we know that the desire to change behaviours, in this case to reduce or stop using drugs at dangerous levels, has to come from the individual concerned. No amount of threats, coercion, blackmail or manipulation on the part of the family (who are motivated by a genuine desire to somehow just make them stop!) will improve the situation and can sometimes actually make things worse.

Both the drug user and the family are under extreme stress in this situation and families need to learn how to look after their own needs as a primary focus.

Generally speaking, someone who is drug dependent is either actively ‘using’ or in recovery. People sometimes mistakenly interpret ‘recovery’ as ‘cured’. However, one’s vulnerability to drug dependence, or any other addiction can remain for a very long time, even if the person abstains from drug use. There are recognisable stages and personal development occurring through a drug dependent person’s life and so recovery is viewed as a process, rather than an outcome or a single event. There are many definitions of recovery; I like this one, which comes from the United States: “Recovery is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential.”

The families of drug dependent people also have their own recovery process too. This is the growth and development that they go through during their loved one’s concurrent process, except for families it’s about managing things like anxiety, instead of drug cravings, and learning to respond differently to the things that cause conflict for families. Families too learn to meet their own needs, eventually, by drawing on their own inner resources and becoming untangled from the quite toxic dynamic that can result when two people or groups—the drug user and the family or parent—try to control each other.

These days my work doesn’t include the drug user, as their needs and wants are often at odds with what the rest of the family needs and wants. The family needs support and information especially if their drug user remains determined to use drugs at problematic levels.

So a huge part of finding a way out of the maze of confusion and high stress levels is finding the inner strength to reach out and ask someone for help.

This is where we come back to the alarming issue of ‘change’ I spoke of at the outset. In my work with families, in order to put one’s hand up for help, families must be able to withstand and overcome the sense of dread that can accompany feeling out of control, or knowing that one cannot do this alone.

Needing to get professional help can feel synonymous with the collapse of the family’s structure—what was secret will now be uncovered. This can manifest as a sick-to-the-stomach anxiety which requires much courage to move through, as it can seem like disloyalty, or betrayal, especially if there has been a verbal or even tacit agreement that ‘we won’t tell anyone’. The risk of physical assault also sometimes has to be reckoned with. Asking for help is no small achievement.

Having worked with many families affected by problematic AOD use I have seen the outcomes and effects of seeking help and the consequent skills development and personal empowerment that ensues. It’s a very hard trek—I liken it to a mountain trek—it can be a marathon moving toward recovery, but the alternative is a marathon that can seriously undermine positive family functioning. Marathons are doable if you know where you’re aiming for and you’ve learnt how to use the right equipment. What starts out as a frightening family experience can result in a life-enhancing metamorphosis for each family member who takes up the challenge.

More information

Anne Leigh—Specialist trainer/facilitator
m: 0406 001 577

Posted in Drug support, Families, Health, rural women, stories, The Country Web | Tagged | Leave a comment

Be bold for change – the importance of International women’s day

Guest blog by Marie Sullivan OAM

Editors note: Due to being out of the office yesterday and having some scheduling issues our special guest blog from Marie Sullivan in celebration of International Women’s Day was not distributed. So this is a belated ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ from the Rural Women’s Network. We hope you enjoy reading about the importance of this special day and why we should take the opportunity to celebrate this important day with other women. 


8 March 2017 marks International Women’s Day (IWD). It’s a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Each year there is a new theme and this year’s is #BeBoldForChange. Worldwide, men and women are being called upon to help forge a better working world – a more gender inclusive world.

So if you believe that International Women’s Day is some new-fangled event organised by women hell bent on stirring the possum and whinging about their lot in life, think again.

The earliest observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York. In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized in Copenhagen. The outcome was a proposal to establish an annual International Woman’s Day (singular). 100 women from 17 countries agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including the right to vote for women.

In many countries, it took a long time for women to get suffrage, notwithstanding these early efforts. New Zealand was first cab off the rank in 1893 followed closely by Australia. Australian women- with the exception of Aboriginal women- won the vote in 1902, but it took years before they stood as candidates in government elections.

In the following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. All over the western world, women pressed for the right to vote and to stand for parliament. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918. On March 8, 1914 London witnessed a march from Bow Street to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square. Meryl Streep played Mrs Pankhurst in the 2015 film Suffragette.

The United States finally began allowing women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1921 a leading suffragette, Edith Cowan, was the first woman to be elected to an Australian parliament when she won a seat in the Western Australian Legislative Assembly. In August 1943, 22 years after Cowan was elected, Australia finally elected women to Australia’s Federal Parliament when Dorothy Tangney became Senator for Western Australia and Enid Lyons (later appointed Dame Enid by the King in 1943 and Dame Enid of Australia in 1980) was elected to the House of Representatives. Wife of Prime Minister Joe Lyons (who predeceased her leaving her with twelve children), four years after his death, she won the Division of Darwin in north-western Tasmania becoming the first woman in the House of Representatives and remaining in office for 8 years.

Aborigines, male and female, did not have the right to vote until 1962 secured by changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and not as a result of the 1967 Referendum which amended the Constitution to allow for Indigenous people to be included in the census, and to give Federal Parliament the power to make laws in relation to Indigenous people.

It took until 2016 for the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives, when Linda Burney won the federal seat of Barton in the 2016 federal election. She was also the first Aboriginal graduate from the Mitchell College of Advanced Education Bathurst (now Charles Sturt University) where she obtained a Diploma of Teaching.

Did you know that Switzerland did not give women a full right to vote until 1971: it took a referendum to achieve this! It took until 1991 following a decision by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, for Appenzell Innerrhoden to become the last Swiss canton to grant women the vote on local issues. Women in South Africa only got the right to vote in 1994; in Saudi Arabia King Abdullah issued a decree in 2011 ordering that women be allowed to stand as candidates and vote in municipal elections, but their first opportunity did not come until December 2015, almost a year after the king’s death in January.

Today the event is sponsored by the United Nations and has been since 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace. Some people celebrate the day by wearing purple ribbons.

On March 8, 2011 the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, IWD events took place in more than 100 countries. Australia issued an IWD 100th anniversary commemorative 20-cent coin. In the United States, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be “Women’s History Month”, calling Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on “the extraordinary accomplishments of women” in shaping the country’s history. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges”. In spite of her recent defeat in the US Electoral College vote, Hilary Clinton continues to encourage optimism for the future for women and girls.

U.S. Army officer Lt Col Pam Moody

U.S. Army officer Lt Col Pam Moody with a group of Afghan women on International Women’s Day 2011

I joined my first International Women’s Day march on International Women’s Day 1975 in Sydney when I was an optimistic young student at the University of Sydney. While some progress has been made, not nearly enough has occurred. The national gender pay gap is currently 16.2% and has hovered between 15% and 19% for the past two decades. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186. It will take the hearts and minds of committed women and men worldwide to accelerate progress.

Posted in rural women, women | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Communities in focus: Create a positive future for your family farming business

By Pip Job, Department of Primary Industries. As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

When I speak to farming families, I am often asked for advice or insights relating to succession planning. More often than not, people wish to share their succession horror stories or the deep fear existing in family members to even whisper the word succession. Recently I had a lady share with me how wonderful their succession process went and that the whole process was driven by her husband. Unfortunately, post implementation of their new plan, her husband struggled with the change in leadership and struggled with the shearing team, looking to his son for guidance and direction. His mental wellbeing deteriorated as a result; despite the best of intentions to undertake succession. One might ask if the transition of the succession plan required deeper exploration.

Pip Job

Pip’s Positive Farming Footprints workshop, delivered through DPI is a one-day workshop to walk farm families through the diverse range of people problems that can stop a business from reaching its full potential.

One thing I have learnt is that transitioning to something new requires so much more than a nice paper plan. There are foundational requirements that will make the transition process smoother and also sustain the wellbeing of everyone in the business. Farm families must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses across factors such as family communication, business acumen, mental wellbeing, passion alignment, work-life harmony, their attitude towards learning and leadership styles.

Communication is essential and effective communication can lift a business from good to great. Not everyone is a great communicator, but there are strategies that can be put in place by a family to improve their communication skills. Simple strategies such as weekly meetings to discuss operational matters (who will do what, what’s needed) can remove significant stress whilst also being great for business acumen. Quarterly strategic family meetings to review budgets and plan for the quarter ahead are also highly beneficial for both the business and the people in it.

Creating an environment in your family business where people are safe to introduce new ideas and provide feedback on aspects of the business is easier said than done. Sometimes great effort is required as an individual to break old habits and to foster a new culture of communication in the family. Most often, the way we communicate is inherited from our parents and a transition to a new communication style can be difficult and require great determination and resolve. Becoming more aware of ourselves and exploring personal development is a great way to help you improve your skills and there are all sorts of courses, books and online resources at our fingertips these days to explore.

Farm family businesses need to enhance their business acumen and this is an important part of transitioning ownership to the next generation. Understanding the passions of people in the business is important. As too is financial literacy and having business goals, and a strategic decision-making framework to work within is crucial. Family farms are a complex business model; meshing business, family and life together. Adding layers of stress (climatic, economic, etc…) make our investment in our own mental wellbeing crucially important. There are so many balls to juggle in agriculture, but after all, with practice, we can master it.

The new Positive Farming Footprints workshop delivered through DPI is a workshop developed by Pip Job, 2014 NSW/ACT & National Rural Women’s Award Winner and is now approved through the Rural Assistance Authority for the NSW Farm Business Skills—Professional Development Program.

The one-day workshop walks farm families through the diverse range of people problems that can stop a business from reaching its full potential. The interactive and engaging style ensures that families leave with a greater insight into their strengths and a list of areas in which they will work to strengthen and provides them with a range of tools and tips to take home and apply immediately.

More information

Pip will be giving a presentation on family communication and achieving harmony at a special IWD event – Women.Agri.Business – hosted by MBC this Friday 10 March at Eugowra. The event is aimed at empowering women in agribusiness through increasing their education, knowledge and understanding. Event organisers MBC said ‘we recognise that primary production is a complex business. It is important for women to develop strength in tax & finances, risk management & marketing, as well as building expert relationships and asking for help as and when needed.’ You can still purchase tickets however you will need to get in quick.

Contact details

Pip Job, Senior Project Officer
Business & Social Resilience Programs
Department of Primary Industries
m: 0437 241 688

Posted in farming, rural women, stories, The Country Web | Tagged | Leave a comment

+From small beginnings

By Marama Warren, Milton. As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

Rug maker, farmer and grandmother Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson are friends and neighbours from Milton who have not let distance be a barrier to following their passion.

Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson

Miriam Miller and Jacqui Thompson

Last October I followed (by email), the entertaining adventures of these two remarkable country women (in their 80s) as they travelled to Tel Aviv, Brussels, The Isle of Uist in Scotland, the USA and Canada.

Miriam’s family emigrated from England when she was 13. They lived in North West NSW for several years before moving to Nowra where she later met and married dairy farmer Alan Miller.

In the 1970s Miriam set out to make a rag rug to cover the hardwood floor in the big old family homestead. Her grandmother had made rugs in England and so she asked her father (who had helped his mother make these mats when he was a young man) to help get her started.

No one else seemed interested in this old craft but Miriam persisted and slowly, over years, made several large rugs for her home. Her four children were enthusiastic and helped cut up recycled clothing and worn blankets to make rugs.

In 1994 Australian Country Craft and Decorating magazine featured an article about Miriam. Her friend Jacqui Thompson thought it was timely to get others involved as people were beginning to be interested in recycling. Jacqui placed a notice in the local newspaper inviting others to a meeting at Miriam’s house on the first Friday of every month. Seven people came and the Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers was formed and has been meeting ever since. People travel from Sydney, Canberra, southern and western NSW to come to Milton and rug days are so popular the group now meets twice a month.

In 2001 the Australian Rug Makers Guild was formed and Miriam was elected President. She also published the first book on rug making in Australia, titled Proggy & Hooky Rugs.

Miriam Miller with local rugmaker in The Gambia

Miriam Miller with local rugmaker in The Gambia

Miriam and Jacqui have travelled the globe meeting fellow rug makers, sharing ideas and giving workshops—often overcoming language barriers by connecting through craft. Rug making has enriched these two women’s lives as well as the lives of others. They have hosted many international ruggers in Milton and even visited The Gambia in West Africa to work with a charity teaching blind and partially sighted people to make rugs so they can earn a living.

“From such a small beginning, living in a small rural town and reviving an old craft where people treasured every small scrap of fabric, we now have friends all over the world and use Skype to talk with people wherever they may be, show each other our rugs, send messages by email and share information through blogs and YouTube,” says Miriam.

These two passionate rural women have created a craft revival trend and become part of a vibrant international community that has brought the world to them as well as opened doors to take their skills and knowledge out into the world.

Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers Banner

Narrawilly Proggy Ruggers Banner

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Call for stories – The Country Web 2017 Annual issue

The 2017 annual issue of The Country Web will explore the theme ‘Connect and Collaborate‘. We want to hear from you about creating meaningful connections, mentoring and sharing wisdom, books and people that have inspired you. Contributions are required by 21 April 2017 for publication in August 2017. Email your contributions to

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