Leading women in Ag: Pip Job

Pip Job_headshot landscapeBy Pip Job, Geurie
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Tell me about your childhood, family, home and work?

I was born in Emerald Qld – the first born to my parents who were gem miners at Sapphire. As a kid, we moved around a bit before landing in Dubbo in the 80s. I went to boarding school in Orange where I developed a passion for beef cattle industry – an interest that became a large part of my young adult life.

Later, as a beef cattle producer and property owner at Cumnock in the Central West, I became involved in Landcare. During my 10 years with the Little River Landcare Group as a member, staff member and then CEO, I learnt a huge amount about natural resource management, sustainable agriculture and community engagement. I loved my time working with Landcare and feel a deep sense of commitment to what Landcare achieves and the benefits it brings to communities, and an admiration for the amazing people involved in this network.

I have two boys, Duncan (16) and Jack (14), and live with my partner James (who also has two teenage boys) on a property near Geurie – a busy rural village near Dubbo. We have a busy life running around the country side supporting the boys on the sporting field, at school events and with their busy social lives.

What did you want to be when you left school? Has this changed?

I wanted to study animal genetics. My passion was for beef cattle and I was heavily involved in the sector and on various committees. After deciding to travel and work for a year, plans changed and I ended up going to University as a mature age student studying a Bachelor of Ecological Agriculture. Studying by distance, with two toddlers, a part-time job and a farm business to manage, was extremely challenging.

As Manager for DPI’s Business Resilience program what’s one of the best thing about your job?

I love the difference we make in our communities and for primary industries. We look after the people in agriculture and our team is passionate about what they do and the people they support. I have three inspiring teams: the Rural Women’s Network, Young Farmer Business Program and the Rural Resilience Program. Each has a target audience and the things they achieve as a small team is extraordinary. Having great teams of people is one of the best things about my job.

Why did this type of work interest you? How did it get started?

I believe that my life experiences, the jobs I have had and the fields of interest I have nurtured have all accumulated to this point where I have a strong interest in resilience, community engagement and how we encourage the sustained adoption of best practice.

However, I think the catalyst was when I won the NSW-ACT and National Rural Women’s Award in 2014 to develop a project focused on the social barriers that inhibit a farm family business from reaching its full potential. My observations while working in Landcare, my personal experiences, and my interest in exploring these through the award project, have given me an extraordinary perspective to the complexities and diversity of issues farming families experience.

What steps did you take that were vital in getting to where you are now?

I have always accepted opportunities as they have been presented. Every challenge is a healthy one in my eyes. You learn from every experience and I think my attitude has been crucial to where I am now. Being willing to step outside my comfort zone has been important. I have experienced plenty of challenging moments that have tested my resolve, but I have survived them all and grown along the way.

Who has inspired and supported you along the way?

I’ve had an incredible cheer squad over the years. In my teens I had some great role models. Then, moving into my adult years I had so many men who encouraged me to step forward for opportunities and supported me along the way; even during some personal periods that were very hard. More recently I have had many more women there beside me, helping me to recognise my potential and to reach for the stars.

The most important person in my life that has supported me in a way I feel I could never repay is my partner James. We met just prior to my life becoming crazy, in 2014 after winning the Rural Women’s Award, and he has been a rock. Always there to support me in every way, he has been so incredibly encouraging. His support has allowed me to take on some challenging roles such as the State Drought Coordinator in 2018.

Two women who have really inspired me since joining DPI are Sonia Muir and Kate Lorimer-Ward. Both are extraordinary individuals – highly capable and authentic leaders who do what they do because they believe in the work they do, the people they support and the teams they lead. I feel privileged to have worked with them and to step into the next phase of my career with them by my side.

What have your experiences taught you?

There is a positive in absolutely everything, even when you think there simply couldn’t be. The gift of experiencing a challenge and realising that you were stronger than you thought, or finding that you have a skill when you didn’t quite realise you did, is an awesome gift.

In my 40 years I have experienced a range of things – some I’d happily do again, others I am happy to avoid. All however have given me perspective, built skills, expanded my network, and importantly, helped to contribute to my thirst for knowledge and experiences.

What does being a rural woman mean to you?

It’s about more than me. It’s about how I support those around me, the community I live in, the industry I serve, and the people I care about. It’s about me leveraging my learnings and experiences for the good of others. Being rural is a special thing and how we all connect to make stronger, healthier places where we live and work is essential. Being a rural woman is a privilege in my eyes; especially when you meet so many other extraordinary rural women who are just as passionate about what they do.

Since publishing this story, Pip Job has now been appointed Director of Engagement within Engagement & Industry Assistance at the NSW DPI.

Posted in agriculture, Cattle, Communities, Families, farming, Landcare, rural women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Country Care Link – Celebrating 25 Years driving regional NSW people to medical services

Country Care Link Sr Jan O'Grady-1By Country Care Link
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

‘It’s truly remarkable that we’ve been able to provide such a wonderful, much-needed service for the past 25 years for so many country people who face the uncertainty of sickness and the ever-increasing costs of travelling to Sydney for health care.’ Sr Jan O’Grady, Country Care Link Coordinator.

Open Support’s Country Care Link transport service celebrates its 25 Year Anniversary this year – an extraordinary achievement for a service which has relied totally on the goodwill of volunteer drivers throughout its history.

The service, which provides no-cost transport for country people who need to come to Sydney for medical appointments and treatment, officially began on 3 August 1994 (when Open Support was known as Sisters of Charity Outreach). It evolved out of an earlier initiative called Country Care, which began at the invitation of then-NSW Premier John Fahey in 1992, with hay deliveries to drought-stricken farmers by a team of intrepid Sisters!

The much-admired Sr Enid Doherty ran the early Country Care service, which included the TelePal call-in and chat service for isolated country people, before taking the reins of Country Care Link from 1994 through until 2005. She was followed by Sr Colleen Noonan, and then Sr Adele Cottrell-Dormer, before current coordinator, Sr Jan O’Grady, was appointed in 2010.

While early records don’t show exactly how many regional people Country Care Link has helped during its 25 years, the service has conducted over 9000 trips in the past five years; the number of indigenous clients has tripled; the number of over-65’s has nearly doubled; and the number of children has risen by a quarter.

Until very recently, volunteer office staff took bookings using a paperwork process and a computer database, coupled with multiple phone calls back and forth between drivers and clients, to ensure clients were picked up on time, at the right location, and were safely delivered to and from their destination.

However, last year saw Country Care Link’s biggest behind-the-scenes enhancement, when a booking system using Salesforce software (donated by supporter Salesforce) was installed.

‘Salesforce has been the biggest change to the way we do things, and thanks to Salesforce and Atlas Consulting (who assisted with the implementation), much of what we do is now fully automated,’ says Sr Jan. Now, when a booking is taken, auto generated emails and text messages connect, remind and inform drivers and clients right up until the minute a client gets into their vehicle.

Sr Jan is enormously proud that, 25 years on, Country Care Link continues to provide ‘country folk’, as she fondly refers to them, with access to health care.

‘We’re still going strong because there’s a real need out there by country folk, who must come to the city for medical services which are simply not available where they live. Our no-cost service reduces their stress financially and emotionally, by ensuring they can get to their treatment.

‘We’re also still here because we have such kind people who are happy to be volunteers and give back to the community.’

Sr Jan emphasises that the service is indebted to its volunteer drivers and support staff, as well as many supporters over the years, including the Macquarie Radio Network and Alan Jones, the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA), the Rural Women’s Network and the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Her many trips to rural areas to meet with hospital social workers, to share how Country Care Link can support more families, has brought home to Sr Jan the challenge regional families face in getting to Sydney for vital health care services.

‘If we can help people who are having to do all that travelling by at least being here for them when they eventually get to Sydney – with a smiling, happy friendly face to greet them and take them safely to their hospital or accommodation for the night – then we’ve taken some of that stress away for them.’

A personal experience with Country Care Link
60-Plus Trips in 13 Years: Leonie’s ‘blessed and grateful’

‘I can’t speak highly enough of Country Care Link and its wonderful volunteer drivers. I would never have been able to get to all my many medical appointments in Sydney over the years without them, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me,’ says 79-year-old Leonie Calvi of Coffs Harbour.

Lung transplant recipient Leonie, who lives alone and lost both her sons recently, has been a regular client for over half of Country Care Link’s 25 Years. She’s used the service more than 60 times since one of our friendly volunteer drivers first collected her from Sydney airport to bring her to St Vincent’s Hospital 13 years ago.

‘In the early days, after my transplant, I had to come to Sydney every two or three weeks. These days, despite my recent kidney failure, thankfully it’s not quite so often. But I think I’ve had nearly every volunteer driver they’ve ever had working for Country Care Link at one time or the other.

‘They’re always there with a friendly smile, waiting for me when my plane comes in to take me where I need to go. I’ve even had drivers’ kindly waiting with a wheelchair for me, even though I don’t need one.’

Like many regional NSW residents, pensioner Leonie has only been able to afford to fly in and out of Sydney due to NSW Health’s Isolated Patients Travel & Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) and Country Care Link.

‘Country Care Link has saved me so much money that I’ve never had.’

Ironically, Leonie still fondly recalls the one time, many years ago, when the service didn’t have a volunteer driver available to collect her.

‘But, one of the Sisters (of the then-named Sisters of Charity Outreach) jumped in a car and came and picked me up. I got such a surprise and I thought: Wow, my goodness me! But then, all their drivers have looked after me so well. I feel so blessed and I’m so grateful.’

Country Care Link
Country Care Link provides transport to regional NSW families, couples and individuals who are attending medical appointments and hospital stays. Transport is provided by trained volunteer drivers on arrival and/or departure between the airport, railway or bus station, and their medical appointment, hospital or accommodation. When booking transport, 48-hours’ notice is preferred. To book, call 1800 806 160 or 02 8382 6434, Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 3.00 pm or email: transport@opensupport.org.au. Visit http://opensupport.org.au for more information.

Isolated Patients Travel & Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS)
A NSW Government scheme providing financial assistance towards travel and accommodation costs when a patient needs to travel long distances for treatment that is not available locally.

1800 362 253
enable@health.nsw.gov.au
http://www.enable.health.nsw.gov.au/services/iptaas

Posted in Communities, Community Hero, Families, free resources, Health, inspirational, rural women, stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fat bob and the blonde

Photo 9-10-17, 6 33 55 pm

Hello, I’m Miss Heather, or Miss H for short. So, who are Fat Bob and the Blonde? Well, Fat Bob is the Harley Davidson model I ride and I’m the peroxide enhanced blonde. To make things more interesting, I tow a camper trailer, Mr T.

I was blessed growing up on a farm 30 km out of Coonabarabran, a small town in the Central West. With almost 3000 acres of playground to run free in, I was encouraged to explore, challenge myself, take risks, pick myself up, dust myself off, and use my imagination. I believe those early farm days made me the adventurous and resilient spirit I am today.

I developed a passion for motorcycles early. I don’t know where it came from. We didn’t have motorcycles on the farm. I didn’t know anyone who rode a motorcycle. Yet an intriguing love affair started in early childhood.

At age nine, my parents sold the family farm and we moved to Wagga Wagga.  I was devastated. Becoming a townie took adjusting; I yearned for the big, wide-open space to run free in.

It wasn’t until I left school and moved to Sydney aged 17 and got my motorcycle licence that I bought my first motorbike, a Yamaha DT 175. My parents wanted to kill me. ‘Good girls don’t ride motorcycles’ was my mother’s response! Dad threatened to cut it up with a chain saw if I ever brought it home.

Over the next four years I changed my bikes as often as I changed my jobs and regional towns I lived in. I didn’t own a car – I was a biker. Sunshine, rain, or hail, I rode.

In 1988 I sold my Honda CB 900 to travel overseas. I left Australia with a backpack, tent, and sleeping bag, not returning until 1998 with three children, four bags, and about $400! I don’t remember reading that chapter in Lonely Planet.

I spent the next 17 years as a single mum back in Wagga Wagga. My focus shifted to raising my children and building a career in community/cultural development.

In late 2010 I got back into motorcycling. Then in 2014 I became an empty nester! My three fabulous kids went off chasing their dreams – they had survived my parenting and I had survived motherhood!

I figured it was the perfect time for me to reconnect to my gypsy soul and pick up where I left off when I hit the pause button for marriage and family. I was craving freedom and adventure.

In May 2014, with Fat Bob and Mr T ‘locked and loaded’, I hit the road, combining my three passions – motorcycling, travel, and people.

I ran a blog which gave me the opportunity to flirt with writing – a subject that’s teased me for some time now.

For me, very early into the road trip it became all about the ride. I loved riding through all the amazing landscapes; the more remote and isolated the better. The sense of freedom was addictive. Immerging myself in nature, especially that red dirt. It got into my skin, heart and soul.

I met the most wonderful people along the way; their conversations, laughter, friendship, generosity and stories generosity were priceless.

More recently I have been recovering from an accident – a limb threatening injury! In late 2016 I was on a borrowed motorcycle when the headlight failed as I crossed a bridge at night in Far North Queensland. It has been a long recovery – physically, mentally and emotionally. And, I have discovered things will never be quite the same again – it is a permanent injury!

I used my recovery time to self-publish a book: Fat Bob & the Blonde – Girl Torque. It is an entertaining memoir about my travels, however, important messages of resilience, adversity, thinking big and creating a life you want are also woven into Girl Torque.

I am finally back riding my beloved Fat Bob and out on the road again with Mr T in tow and I am combining my three passions again.

However, things are a little different this time around, as I reinvent myself and transition Fat Bob and the Blonde from a travel blog into my work. I now use my motorcycling and travel experiences as a metaphor to living life, empowering people, in particular women, to live their life at full throttle, through my author talks, motivational speaking and workshops. My greatest wish is for people to gain inspiration, courage and motivation and to go out and do what makes them happy – to create their journey and follow their own unique road map!

Posted in Communities, inspirational, resilience, Rural Australia, rural women, stories | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CWA of NSW welcomes new president

 

stephanieBy Stephanie Stanhope, Bega
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

The role of President of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW is not a role you do alone. It is done with the input and support of the members of this association, and especially with the support of my family.

I have been a member of the CWA of NSW for 13 years. I encourage all women to become involved with the CWA – it has given me a network of support, camaraderie, and new horizons. To get involved, head to the CWA of NSW website to join online, and get your local branch details.

Living on a property out of town I know the daily challenges that can make life a little harder and I look forward to the opportunity my new role provides in speaking up for our members and representing their interests to policy-makers at all levels.

I am really focused on issues faced by women living in country NSW, like social isolation, financial strain, and access to health services.

I have four living children, three sons and a daughter, as well as a daughter who was stillborn but who is still an important part of my family. I also have two adorable, toddling grandsons. As the youngest of 10 siblings I am grateful for the ongoing support from my older brothers and sisters, who continue to encourage their baby sister with all of my pursuits; although unfortunately we have lost two of these siblings in the last 12 months. I know I would not have obtained or be able to sustain this role without their ongoing support.

I live in the beautiful Bega Valley in South East NSW. My ex-husband and I owned and operated a three hundred cow dairy supplying the Bega Cheese factory. The business survived droughts, floods and the deregulation of the dairy industry. After the sale of the business in 2002, I now live on a small portion of what was our farm.

Some of my experience includes serving on the catchment management board, the dairy industry development board, as well as holding positions at group and state level of the CWA of NSW. I am an avid knitter, and cook for competitions.

Rural industries are the backbone of regional and remote NSW. They support the surrounding communities as well as comprising a major part of our export market. As drought conditions continue to worsen across NSW we need to find solutions to support and address the hardships primary producers are facing, and also those of rural businesses that are not primary producers.

At the moment, drought would be the major issue CWA NSW are dealing with. And with drought goes water. Prioritisation of water is critical for human needs, and regional water users in terms of both water supply and water quality should be afforded the same standards as metropolitan residents. There also needs to be a more transparent balance between social, economic and environmental factors in water management. With the ongoing pressures of drought and water, rural communities need help now more than ever, especially in terms mental well-being and health services. Access to health services clearly remains sub-par in rural remote regional NSW.

The most important thing that I have learned in my life so far is – you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.

More information
t: 02 8337 0200
e: info@cwaofnsw.org.au
http://www.cwaofnsw.org.au

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

How to Boost your Coping Capacity

couch 11 (2)

By Natalie Stockdale

Having lived on the land for many years, enduring unprecedented droughts in one of Australia’s harshest climatic areas, I can truly empathise with the strain and pain associated with the drought. The tips shared below can help to reduce stress and build resilience. I encourage you to select the ones that resonate with you and commit to incorporating them into your daily life.

1. Harness the power of the heart. Practise Quick Coherence, an evidence-based, HeartMath technique, for 2-3 minutes morning and night. Practise it also when anticipating or recovering from a stressful experience.

Step 1: Focus your attention on the area of your heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart, breathing a little slower than usual. Try inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds, but most importantly, find a rhythm that feels comfortable.

Step 2: Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling such as appreciation, love or care for someone, some time, some place or something in your life. Sustain that feeling and enjoy being in coherence, one of the best gifts you can give your mind and body.

2. Eat with care. Be mindful of everything you put in your mouth. Is it nutrient dense? Are you hungry, or eating due to emotions? When you eat take a moment to appreciate the origin of the food – the animal, the plants, the growers, the cook! Chew thoroughly – by chewing many times you will eat slower which can help your digestion.

3. Lift your energy. Make time to do the things that simply make you feel good gardening, walking, tennis, painting, knitting, reading or socialising. Do these activities as often as you can.

4. Sleep well. Ensure you get at least seven hours sleep a night. If you have trouble sleeping try: diffusing lavender essential oil in your bedroom and/or practising the Quick Coherence technique. Ensure your room is quiet and dark. Avoid stimulants such as computers, television, caffeine and alcohol. And ensure you exercise during the day so your body is fatigued.

5Slow exercise. Incorporate a slow form of exercise such as yoga or Qi Gong into your day. It will help you stay present in the moment and foster a sense of calmness. As little as 10 minutes each morning can help set a good tone for the day.

6. Think thoughtfully. Thoughts are energy so be aware of your thoughts and focus only on what you want, not what you don’t want. You want rain, not drought. Focus on rain and the abundance that rain brings. Channel your thoughts and energy towards your desired goals.

7. Social support. Connect with friends, family, community groups, anyone who makes you feel good. Practise discernment and connect with people who support your wellbeing, rather than those who increase your stress.

8. ​Engage your sense of humour. Greek philosopher Epictetus said, ‘It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters’. By choosing laughter you will improve your immune system, longevity and relationships! When possible, switch on your fun radar and enjoy the lighter side of unexpected events.

9. Be kind. Acts of kindness improve the wellbeing of the giver, the receiver AND the observer? Serotonin, the ‘feel good’ hormone is released in all three scenarios. Simple acts of kindness – such as a compliment, patting your dog, helping a neighbour – are contagious and tend to make all involved feel good.

​10. Remember that it will pass. Nothing is permanent. Just like each day and night, seasons, tides and lives, and hard times are all temporary. When you’re in the depths of despair, remember that it will pass. It will rain.

11. Attitude of gratitude. People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, less anxiety, sleep better, and they have better heart health. Start a gratitude journal and every night reflect on your day writing three things that happened for which you are grateful. You’ll soon accumulate a bank of reasons to be happy.  

12. Connect with spirit. Whether you call it God, the universe, Mother Earth, ask for help. Wayne Dyer said that if we knew who walked beside us every day, no one would be lonely.

13. Plan your low-stress life. Once you discover what you truly value and want in life – tomorrow, next year, in five years and all the way to the end, you can set goals, prioritise your actions and move forward towards your vision of a successful (low-stress) life.

14. Never give up. Admiral James Stockdale survived over seven years of imprisonment and torture during the Vietnam War, when many fellow servicemen in the same circumstances did not. We can learn from his ‘never give up’ approach which ultimately saved his life and became a legacy for others who are experiencing adversity. Maintain faith that you will get through your abyss AND, at the same time, undertake whatever actions are required to get you through.

For more stress management tips see: www.stockdalewellbeing.com

Posted in agriculture, anxiety, Communities, Families, Health, mental health, resilience, rural women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daring to Dream – Lucy Moss

lucyBy Lucy Moss, Coonamble
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

Rural business woman and entrepreneur Lucy Moss says Mink & Me was born out of a desire to create a fun, welcoming space that felt like home – somewhere to catch up with your friends surrounded by colour, design and enjoyment. Located at Coonamble in the North West, the boutique business is an eclectic mix of gifts and homewares that are good for your soul.

Initially opening in October 2015, Lucy says it didn’t take long to outgrow the original premises and so in 2016 and again in 2018, she sourced a bigger space and completed renovations at what is now a community collective of six business’ under the one roof.

Lucy says she spends a large quantity of time scouring the internet and travelling around the countryside (including overseas) to bring in an eclectic mix of products – everything from artwork, indoor plants, rugs, antique furniture and Moroccan rugs. She especially loves to support the local talent with over a dozen artists’ works stocked on the shelves.

We asked Lucy to tell us about her little bit of paradise in the country and how she brought her vision to life.

What gave you the motivation/inspiration to follow your dream?

It was something I had thought about for years but it had never been the right time. When I moved to Coonamble, I became friends with a woman who was running a beauty salon and I saw the opportunity and went for it. It was a great starting point as we could not only share overheads, but also create a dynamic and energetic space using a combined business model.

At what point did you realise your dream was possible and what was it that made you think you could really do it?

The community support was amazing. Everyone rallied behind us, we teamed up with some local creatives and they chipped in with a paintbrush or some renovating, and we were off. We outgrew the space soon after and we are now in our third building. Each time we’ve added more businesses, including a cafe, hairdresser and yoga studio, complementing our original business model.

When you were a child, what did you want to ‘be’ when you grew up?

I wanted to be a landscape designer but ended up deferring, and eventually I landed in Coonamble after a few questionable life choices. Just kidding, happy to be here! My husband grew up in Coonamble and when he returned to work on the family farm, it was a package deal and I came too. I think about how different my life would be if I did become a landscape designer, however I still have the design fundamentals happening right now, I’m just not playing with dirt!

How did your childhood influence you in later life?

As a kid I was quite crafty and thrifty. I set up flower stalls outside my house. I was always scheming and hustling, and these entrepreneurial endeavours were encouraged by my parents. I have always loved colour and have never been scared to take the plunge and have a go.

Who are your role models?

Pip Brett from Jumbled. Pip has gone from humble beginnings to create an amazing business that is internationally recognised and a true asset to regional NSW. Her style is unique and infectious.

What does success mean to you?

Success is bringing excitement and happiness into people’s lives and homes. Always dreaming of the next step and building on what you have. Collaboration and creativity.

What has been one of the biggest barriers you have had to face, what happened, and how did you overcome it?

Finding suitable spaces is hard. Every space has required lots of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, and quite a major renos.

Another challenge is trying to do something different and stand apart from other similar businesses. I love finding new and exciting things and being a point of difference. I’m constantly on the lookout for new products, including travelling overseas to Morocco and Indonesia to source unique items. The same stock is rarely reordered to keep the shop looking fresh and exciting every time people come in.

Also I should probably add all the usual business bits and pieces here. Cashflow and this ridiculous drought.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? What is your vision for the future?

I would like to expand the brand and grow my online presence and continue to hold events and source exciting and unique products from all over the world.

What would you like to say to other women who may be just starting out on a daring to dream journey?

Don’t be afraid to say yes, you never know what opportunities will pop up. Have a go and work it out along the way.

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

Q Fever. Serious. Preventable

Q feverBy Kylie Catts, Barradine
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

My Q fever experience is typical of how I contracted the infection – I was working in dusty cattle yards in June 2003 with cows and new born calves.

It was about two weeks later that I started to feel unwell with what I thought was the flu. Being a Registered Nurse, I self-diagnosed and told myself I just had to tough it out for a few days.

I became progressively worse, with an intense headache, nausea, lethargy, general aches, a high temperature and profuse sweating, and my skin really hurt to touch. I did not have a cough or upper respiratory tract infection symptoms.

My symptoms went on for about five days. I remember laying on the floor in the lounge room, not really aware of what was going on around me, with our two small children – Riley (nearly three) and Jessica (14 months), running around. I didn’t even have the strength to stand up.

My husband Jason arrived home not long after and said I needed to go to the hospital. He took me to our local hospital in Goondiwindi where I underwent a number of tests, including a lumber puncture, as they thought I had meningitis.

As I became increasingly worse I was transferred to Toowoomba hospital. There was still no diagnosis and my symptoms were getting worse. I now had limited lung capacity with plural effusions in both lungs, a swollen liver, pancreas and gallbladder, to name a few.

After 10 days in hospital, with a slight decrease in symptoms, there was still no clear diagnosis; however, I continued to be treated for pneumonia.

Our son Riley then started to get similar symptoms. He was taken to our local hospital and then transferred to the Brisbane Royal Women’s & Children’s Hospital. Riley also had the severe symptoms, the same as mine. He was under the care of a Doctor Nissan who had a keen interest in Q Fever and diagnosed it straight away. The doctor then ordered blood tests for me – it came back positive for Q fever too. We are unsure if Riley contracted the infection off my dusty clothes or while he was at the cattle yards the following day.

Our recovery took about 12 months with continued lethargy. I sought assistance from natural therapies, to help repair our livers and assist in general recovery, which I feel was very beneficial as now we don’t have any of the ongoing symptoms or relapses you hear about from other people who have had Q Fever.

We were extremely concerns at the time for our 14 month old daughter as at the time there was, and still is, no vaccine for children under 15 years old. Dr Nissan was trying to get funding to develop a vaccine for children back in 2003 but to my knowledge there is still none available.

Q Fever had a huge impact on our health, but it was also very disruptive to the rest of our lives. We were really fortunate to have a very supportive family and friends to help us through the recovery.

Q fever- the facts
Source: NSW Health

Q fever is a bacterial infection that can cause a severe flu-like illness. For some people, Q fever can affect their health and ability to work for many years. The bacteria are spread from animals, mainly cattle, sheep and goats. Even people who do not have contact with animals may be infected.  A safe and effective vaccine is available to protect people who are at risk. Screening is required to identify who can be vaccinated.

What is Q fever?

Q fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii. It is spread to humans from cattle, sheep and goats and a range of other domestic and wild animals. Even people who do not have contact with animals may be infected.

What are the symptoms?

Many infected people have no or few symptoms. People who do become sick often have a severe flu-like illness. Symptoms begin about 2-3 weeks after coming into contact with the bacteria and typically include:

  • high fevers and chills
  • severe ‘drenching’ sweats
  • severe headaches, often behind the eyes
  • muscle and joint pains
  • extreme fatigue (tiredness).

Patients may also develop hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) or pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Without treatment, symptoms can last from 2-6 weeks. Illness often results in time off work, lasting from a few days to several weeks. Most people make a full recovery and become immune to repeat infections. Occasionally, people develop chronic infections up to 2 years later which can cause a range of health issues including heart problems (endocarditis). This is more common for pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems or previous heart problems. About 10% of patients who are sick with acute Q fever go on to suffer from a chronic-fatigue-like illness which can be very debilitating for years.

How is it spread?

People usually get infected by breathing in the Q fever bacteria that is in the air or dust. Cattle, sheep and goats are the main sources of infection; however a wide range of animals including domestic and feral dogs and cats, feral pigs, horses, rabbits, rodents, alpacas, camels, llamas, foxes, and Australian native wildlife (including kangaroos, wallabies and bandicoots) can also spread the bacteria to humans. Infected animals often have no symptoms. The bacteria can be found in the placenta and birth fluids (in very high numbers), urine, faeces, blood or milk of animals who are infected with or carry the bacteria. The bacteria can survive in the soil and dust for many years and be spread over several kilometers by the wind.

You can get infected with Q fever by:

  • breathing in the bacteria that is in the air or dust:
    • while birthing, slaughtering or butchering infected animals (especially cattle, sheep or goats). These activities carry a very high risk of infection.
    • when handling infected animals, infected animal tissues, fluids or excretions or animal products or materials that have been infected including wool, hides, straw, manure fertiliser and clothes (e.g. washing clothes worn when birthing, butchering or slaughtering animals)
    • while herding, shearing or transporting animals
    • while mowing grass contaminated by infected animal excretions
    • when visiting, living or working in/near a high-risk industry
  • direct contact with infected animal tissue or fluids on broken skin (e.g. cuts or needlestick injuries when working with infected animals)
  • drinking unpasteurised milk from infected cows, sheep and goats.

Who is at risk?

Workers in the following occupations are at high risk of Q fever:

  • abattoir and meat workers
  • livestock and dairy farmers and farm workers
  • shearers, wool classers/sorters, pelt and hide processors
  • stockyard/feedlot workers and transporters of animals, animal products and waste
  • veterinarians, veterinary nurses/assistants/students and others working with veterinary specimens
  • wildlife workers working with high-risk animals (including Australian native wildlife)
  • agriculture college staff and students (working with high-risk animals)
  • laboratory workers (working with the bacteria or with high-risk veterinary specimens)
  • animal shooters/hunters
  • dog/cat breeders, and anyone regularly exposed to animals who are due to give birth
  • people whose work involves regular mowing in areas frequented by livestock or wild animals (e.g. council employees, golf course workers or staff of mowing businesses in regional and rural areas).

All workers who enter workplaces in which Q fever may be present are also at risk of infection. This includes tradespeople, contractors, labour hire workers, sales representatives, buyers and council workers.

Other people may be at risk of Q fever through contact with high-risk animals outside of work. Infections have also occurred in regional and rural areas by breathing in infected dust and particles in the environment.

Other people at increased risk of Q fever include:

  • family members of those in high-risk occupations (from contaminated clothes, boots or equipment)
  • people living on or near a high-risk industry (e.g. neighbouring livestock farms, stockyards housing cattle/sheep/goats, meatworks, land being fertilised with untreated animal manure)
  • visitors to at-risk environments (e.g. farms, abattoirs, animal saleyards and agricultural shows)
  • horticulturists or gardeners in environments where dust, potentially contaminated by animal urine, faeces or birth products, is aerosolised (e.g. lawn mowing).

How is it prevented?

A safe and effective vaccine (Q-VAX®) is the best way to prevent Q fever infection. Vaccination is highly recommended for people who work or intend to work in high-risk occupations. Vaccination is also recommended for everyone aged 15 years and over who has the potential to be exposed to Q fever during activities outside of work, or in the environments in which they live or visit.

For those who are not immune (through vaccination or past infection), the following measures can reduce the risk of infection:

  • wash hands and arms thoroughly in soapy water after any contact with animals
  • wear a properly fitted P2 mask (available from pharmacies and hardware stores) and gloves and cover wounds with waterproof dressings when handling or disposing of animal products, waste, placentas, and aborted foetuses. This should not be considered a substitute for Q fever vaccination.
  • wear a properly fitted P2 mask when mowing or gardening in areas where there are livestock or native animals
  • wash animal urine, faeces, blood and other body fluids from equipment and surfaces where possible
  • remove and wash dirty clothing, coveralls and boots worn during high-risk activities in outdoor wash areas. Avoid taking these items home to reduce the risk of infection to your household. If you do take them home, bag and wash them separately (should only be handled by those immune to Q fever).

How is it diagnosed?

The initial suspicion of a Q fever diagnosis is based on symptoms and an understanding of the possibility of coming into contact with the bacteria in the previous 6 weeks. Make sure your doctor is aware if you belong to one of the risk groups described above. Blood tests are required with repeated testing two to three weeks after symptoms begin to confirm the diagnosis.

How is it treated?

Early treatment with antibiotics can get you better sooner and reduce your risk of long-term complications. It is important to seek early medical attention if you develop symptoms of Q fever and are in one of the groups at risk of infection. Chronic (long-term) Q fever infection may require long-term antibiotics.

What is the public health response?

Laboratories must notify the local public health unit of any confirmed Q fever cases. Public health unit staff investigate each case to determine the likely source of infection, identify other people at risk of infection, ensure control measures are in place and provide information to cases.

More information
For Factsheets on Q Fever Vaccination, Q Fever and Farms and Q Fever and Veterinary staff visit: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/q-fever.aspx

You can also call your local public health unit on 1300 066 055.

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The Financial knack of ‘Women in Black’

Annie Rodgers

By Lily Rodgers, Hunter Valley.
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

At the top of the Hunter Valley, home to a cluster of rural properties, there is a group of forward-thinking, financially- savvy females who call themselves Women in Black. Hailing from backgrounds far and wide and participating in a variety of occupations from farming to teaching to accounting to fire-fighting, one thing these women all have in common is ‘the land’. The land and all it stands for; the beauty, the struggle, the uncertainty.

These women have lived through all seasons and it is perhaps this powerless uncertainty that urged them to find an alternative interest with the added bonus of an income, separate to their farming husbands. Like all good ideas, it started with a group of women and a bottle of wine.

The idea of starting this committee was conceived in 1999, and the inaugural gathering was held on a cold winter’s night in 1999 at a property near Cassilis, NSW. Whilst these 20 women had big plans for this baby, knowledge on the stock market, shares and portfolios was as scarce as a full damn in a drought.

Reminiscing on the bumpy but amusing ride in the beginning one reflects ‘’now I came to the group with nothing to offer but the membership fee and the love of a good ‘gathering’. I thought PE was what you did to raise a sweat and a 52-week high and low was just life!’’. Another asks herself what the motivator was, ‘’I look back and think, was it the edification of the uninformed, something with a new focus or the fun of a monthly gathering over a wine justified by learning?’’

In for a penny, in for a pound – or $300 per member plus $50 per month after that – and Women In Black was born. To make the group work and possibly a fundamental factor in its continued success today, the members were determined to set it up in a proficient legal way, involving a ‘constitution’ with which to abide by and a partnership requiring every meeting be minuted.

Each year, the committee votes on positions of President, Secretary and Treasurer, which are shared among the group. One of the founding members confirms the value and skills such positions have added to her life, ‘’looking back, I am now pleased to have had the opportunity to take the President’s role for a term. Greatly helped along the way, I grappled with the minutes, learned to type and very gratefully handed over when the time came’’.

The bold decision was made to go sans Share broker as the purpose of the group was to learn about shares themselves. With logistics out of the way, it was time to get the whiteboard out, bring in friends who knew a thing or two about the market as ‘guest speakers’ and learn by experience.

It was decided that each month a member would take it in turns to host the diverse group of girls where shares (and countless other topics) are discussed and investment opportunities are reviewed…some more than others! It is this wholesome hospitality combined with the camaraderie experienced when catching up so regularly, that has led to an environment where, ‘’everyone feels relaxed and equal so there is no problem with members offering their ideas’’.

Twenty years on and the multitude of highs and lows (literally and financially) that come with it and the group is a fully- fledged financial phenomenon. Fuelled with, ‘’ignorance, wine and good cheer’’, the idea that the women could form a partnership with a focus on developing financial literacy, information gathering and trading on the stock market was evidently a noble and successful one.

Whilst benefiting financially has been a bonus, most importantly the group have had the chance to come together over the past two decades to laugh, cry and share stories among similar women who have to deal with the trials and tribulations of Australian rural life. As members confirm ‘’our meetings are a treat with much knowledge exchanged and also frivolity which is a great antidote to the stresses of Australian farming life’’.

Going into its 20th year, Women In Black is currently made up of 14 ladies, having seen some go and new members join, there are 8 who have been there from day one.  The club has managed to remain, ‘’in the black’’, successfully accumulating an excess of $200,000 worth of shares multiple times over. Many have raised children from new-born to adults over the 20 years, and much alike to their abilities in this regard, the investment club has prospered through parallel foundations of friendship, laughter, hospitality and a mothering instinct.

 

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Lawyer and young mum’s trio show you can do it all

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By Dannielle Ford, Alice Byrnes and Kirsty Evans, Orange
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

In April 2019, Alice Byrnes, Dannielle Ford and Kirsty Evans became owners and directors of the first all-female partnership law firm in Orange, NSW.

Over the past 10 years, each of the women have obtained tertiary qualifications, worked as employed solicitors and raised five children under the age of three between them, whilst having partnership aspirations in the back of their minds. The women supported each other through parental leave and one day over a cup of coffee at a local café they voiced their ambitions to become directors of a law firm. This dream quickly turned into a reality and within months they had purchased a well-established law firm which had been trading in the Central West for over 35 years.

Dannielle began her journey in the profession 10 years ago when she was employed as a secretary at the firm which she now jointly owns. It was there that Dannielle realised her true passion for the law and she completed her law degree by correspondence whilst working full-time.

Dannielle has knowledge of the firm from the ground up and it is her loyalty and dedication to the firm that her partners admire most. From early on in her career, she immersed herself in not only the law, but also the business of running a law firm.

‘It’s important to be passionate about what you do, however you also need to have strong business plans and marketing foundations in place in order to disrupt the marketplace in which you operate’, says Dannielle.

Dannielle is married to a local painter which means their routine often sees Dannielle’s husband on early starts and early finishes allowing the pair to juggle their careers and day care pick up and drop off between them.

For Kirsty, 2019 was the start of several new beginnings. January saw the establishment of a family farming partnership with her husband and by April 2019 Kirsty was working as a director of a law firm whilst her husband worked towards sowing their first crop at Trundle.

Kirsty’s youngest child was only six months old at the time of the purchase of the law firm and with her husband working away she said it was important to extend her network of support in order for the pair to achieve their goals.

Kirsty’s strategy to facilitate her new role as a director whilst having a family has been to offer her clients flexible arrangements outside of the traditional nine to five work model.

‘We recognise that our clients have businesses and families of their own. We want to be able to offer our clients the flexibility of obtaining legal advice at times that are more suitable to their lifestyle.’

In regards to the family farming partnership Kirsty said, ‘Farming has always been a part of my husband’s life and I am excited, and daunted, that we are both achieving our goals at the same time. However, I have never checked the weather forecast so much in my life!’

Alice was born and raised on a local orchard and relocated to Sydney to complete her tertiary qualifications at Sydney Uni and UNSW. She obtained extensive knowledge working in a large corporate law firm before returning to Orange in order to achieve a work-life balance whilst raising her children.

Alice has a particular interest for employment law and is an advocate for creating awareness around flexible working arrangements for families.

Alice said, ‘I’m not sure if people realise they have the right to request flexible working arrangements with their Employers. Sure, there is a criteria to be met under the Fair Work Act and businesses can refuse on reasonable grounds, but in the first instance, ask!’

To help Alice ease back into her a five-day working week, her husband approached his own employer and is now working a four-day week to share the parental load.

Alice says her tip for working mothers is, ‘You may have to work late at night when all the babies are asleep, the distraction of Netflix is turned off, when your husband turns in and the dog is curled up at your feet’.

All three women agree that in order for women to achieve continued success in their professions there needs to be a shift in the perception that only one parent is the provider to allow for parental responsibilities to be distributed evenly.

Posted in business, Communities, Families, Gender equality, inspirational, leadership, rural women, Women leaders | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vet by day – ‘Miss Vet’ the artist by night

jillian_kelly_dr_firefly_pictures-9-of-20.jpg

By Jillian Kelly, Coonamble
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual

I haven’t always wanted to be a vet. When I was small I wanted to be ‘a hairdresser like Aunty Wendy’, then as I grew older, a journalist, then a jillaroo. I was top of the three unit maths class in high school and told by the teacher I was too clever to be a jillaroo, and that I should go to university. So I decided to be a vet – I figured this was the next best thing to being a jillaroo.

The cut off to get into Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney was a UAI of 98.45, and I achieved 97.3. Despite having an interview and begging the sub-dean of academic admissions at the uni for a place in the course, it looked like becoming a vet was not going to be a possibility.

Mum and Dad wouldn’t let me head north to be a jillaroo, so I decided I would enrol in Accounting at Charles Sturt University at Bathurst. Being an accountant sounded like a pretty stable way to earn a living in a small town.

Anyone who knows me even slightly will know that my attention span is short. I hate being in an office and my tolerance for numbers and detail is not good. Being an accountant would have spelt disaster for both me, and the accounting profession! It was nothing short of a miracle that the University of Sydney reconsidered and decided at the eleventh hour to offer me a place in Veterinary Science, and the rest is history.

I’ve been a vet now for 14 years, eight of them as a District Veterinarian.  I’m based in Coonamble, my hometown, and the love I have for this land, the animals, the people and productive agriculture keeps me going through the tough times.  And there have been some tough times.

In this district, stock have been hand fed for five out of the eight years I’ve been in this job and the impact this has had on stock numbers, animal welfare, peoples mental health and the ability of our community to regenerate has been immeasurable and long lasting.

It’s had its impact on me too. Throw the Sir Ivan Fire response, and having to destroy thousands of burnt animals, plus a few RSPCA starvation cases on top of my day-to-day drought caseload, there have been times that I have been a complete wreck.  Instigating the weekly drought smoko was a wonderful initiative to improve knowledge, production and welfare outcomes on the farms in our area, but it sure did expose me to some confronting conversations and situations with some very burnt out and stressed producers.

It was hard to wind down, but in 2015, I started to paint, after randomly buying a set of kids’ watercolours at Target. I kept painting, sold a few at my friend’s gift shop in Coonamble and started to make cards and take commissions. I still paint regularly under the name Miss Vet (on Facebook and Instagram) and find it is the best outlet to practice mindfulness and completely switch off from the dry, harsh daily grind of what I do for a living. It’s important to me to express both sides of my personality – the tough, dirty side that is elbows deep in an animal carcass during the day, and the dress and lipstick wearing Miss Vet after hours.

It has become important to remember myself and my own wellbeing during this drought that just won’t end. I am no use to anyone if I’m upset, stressed and unable to cope. It is ok to turn the phone off and take some time out regularly, to reboot with a brush and some pretty paints.

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