Meet Aimee Snowdon – NSW/ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Alumni Member

The RIRDC Rural Women’s Award has been running for 21 years and acknowledges women’s leadership capacity in effecting change and influence through connecting and collaborating.  Each week we will be featuring an Alumni member who has a keen interest in contributing and sharing their information and expertise across government, industry and community.  We invite you to consider what opportunities are available to engage these women in your activities, such as speaking opportunities, workshops presentations, board and committee vacancies.

Aimee Snowden portrait

Aimee Snowden 2016 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Finalist

Aimee lives on her family’s irrigation farm near Tocumwal in the southern Riverina. She completed her university studies in Agricultural Business Management through Charles Sturt University (CSU) and after working locally in accounting and irrigation, she returned home to the family farm in 2014.

Aimee’s affinity with agriculture resulted from growing up on the land. She is passionate about agriculture and excited to be working in an industry that is innovative, diverse and creative.

As a farm girl, Aimee understands the need to promote and create awareness of the agricultural industry in order to engage with future generations.

Using her creativity and passion for agriculture Aimee is sharing the story of farming in a creative and fun way through her Little Brick Pastoral initiative. She celebrates Australian agriculture through unique photos of a Lego® farmer and hopes that by telling a positive story she will start important conversations around food and fibre production.


  • Agribusiness
  • Administration
  • Photography
  • Social Media


  • Education
  • Irrigated agriculture
  • Mixed farming
  • Young Farmers


  • Finalist: 2016 NSW-ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award
  • Rural Achiever: Royal Agricultural Society, 2016
  • NSW Delegate: GrowAg, 2016 Australian Delegate: Youth  Ag-Summit 2015, Australia
  • Member: Future Farmers Network
  • Member:  Australian Women in Agriculture

If you’re looking for an Award to help you drive change in your community or industry and you would like to develop your leadership skills and broaden your networks, why not apply for the Rural Women’s Award.  For more information go to the AgriFutures Australia Rural Women’s Award

Posted in agriculture, leadership, RIRDC rural women's award, rural women, Women leaders | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tocal students prove they are more than equal

As featured in  The Country Web 2016 Annual.

In 1965 the generosity of Mr CB Alexander allowed the opening of Tocal Agricultural College with its initial enrolments consisting of 15 young, male students.

It was not until 1972 that the first intake of female students occurred. At the time they made up just six per cent of the total student population. Since then, Tocal has paved the way for women to claim their rightful place in Australian agriculture, with female numbers at the College in 2016 accounting for 62 per cent of full-time enrolments. In fact, in 2012 the proportion of females in full-time courses peaked as high as 72 per cent.

Students with calf 2 b&w

Often Tocal’s female students have proven far more than equal to their male counterparts.

No doubt the very first female students to enrol at Tocal were pioneers, entering into what was then considered a mostly male domain. However they proved themselves incredibly capable and many have gone on to achieve great things in Australian farming. There is no doubt that their examples have made it easier for female students at Tocal today to follow their ambitions without fear of sexual prejudice.

Often Tocal’s female students have proven far more than equal to their male counterparts. In 2015 the Dux awards in all three full-time qualifications went to female students. Even the very practical and hands-on Certificate III in Agriculture course, with a large component of technical competencies (including tractor, quad, motorbike and chainsaw operation, fencing and chemical application) saw females take out the top three placings in the course. Furthermore, their dominance was not just due to an overwhelming weight of numbers either as in this course the ratio of females to males was almost exactly 50:50.

Last year’s Certificate III in Agriculture Dux, Ann Shipman, is an excellent example of how a person’s tenacity, enthusiasm and capability can break down traditional stereotypes. Very early in her first year course Ann answered an advertisement to undertake haycarting on a local, Maitland area farm. The owner, Des Richards, was so impressed with her attitude, work ethic and skills that he says, “Ann proved herself physically equal to any male I might have employed and since then I have not hesitated to employ females to work on my farm.

“Ann was competent and hard working. She assisted in hay making, beef cattle work and turkey growing. All these activities might be considered commonly occupied by males but Ann proved to be more than their equal,” Mr Richards went on to say.

Ann was equally impressive when undertaking a practical work placement on an Upper Hunter beef property. Based on her strong performance during that week she was offered part-time work on the Merriwa property before securing a stationhand position with them at the end of the year. The farm is now supporting her to complete her Certificate IV in Agriculture qualification as part of the Tocal Traineeship program.

Recently Ann was encouraged by Tocal to apply for the Women’s Network Hunter scholarship for women in non-traditional or male-dominated trades. She was delighted when successful and awarded the $500 prize money in front of a group of leading Hunter women at the presentation held at Tocal.

The ceremony was reported on by the local newspaper, The Maitland Mercury, which quotes Ann thanking her supporters.

“I come from a family that’s very supportive, especially my father. They always told me ‘you can do it’, regardless of gender. My co-workers and my boss too. Gender doesn’t matter, they treat me as an equal.”

It was fitting that Ann asked Tocal agronomy lecturer, Carol Rose, to support her on the day. Before joining Tocal, Carol forged a formidable reputation in the once male-dominated role of District Agronomist. She did this on the Mid North Coast and in the Upper Hunter Valley during a time when women were seldom seen working on a farm, let alone advising. Her technical competence and practical problem solving ability had even the most chauvinistic farmers flocking to her field days and workshops in search of help.

Today, Carol is but one of many females in significant roles at the College who, by example, encourage younger women to strike out on their own path in agriculture.

For example, Jill Clayton is Certificate IV Coordinator and Animal Genetics lecturer who co-designs the Tocal Brangus herd’s breeding program. Simone Harvey is Horse Breeding Course Coordinator and multiple national Australian Stock Horse champion rider. Steph Teterin is Off Campus Coordinator with skills so versatile she can train two-wheel bikes, use her contracting experience to teach fencing skills or lead a Tocal team to Inter Collegiate Meat Judging success where she has been awarded the Tom Carr Award for Coaching Excellence.

On top of this Tocal has women in other prominent positions such as Chair of the Tocal Advisory Council, Numeralla Free Range Egg Farm Manager, Education Delivery Manager and College Registrar.

Where ever you look, Tocal’s female students (and staff) are proving more than equal!

More information
t: 1800 025 520

Posted in agriculture, Apprenticeships, Cattle, Communities, education and training, farming, Financial Literacy, Gender equality, leadership, primary industries, Rural Australia, rural women, TAFE NSW, Tocal Agricultural College, Transitioning, Women in Trades | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Podmore Foundation – Returning Opportunity, one determined student at a time

by Narelle Sargent, Podmore Foundation
As featured in  The Country Web 2016 Annual.

In 2007, a group of Duntroon classmates from the 1970s, all but one from immigrant or single-mother families, established the Podmore Foundation (Podmore) in gratitude for the vocational and university education they had received at the Royal Military College of Australia. Four years of boarding at Australia’s premier military leadership training institution had been a transformational experience that provided them with military careers that became foundations for successful civilian careers.

Jessa Rogers

 “You are braver than you think and stronger than you seem.  The journey of education is a wonderful one, one that will allow you choice in life and the ability to contribute much to your people.”

Podmore now involves a diverse group of Australians who want to create educational opportunities for others in gratitude for the education they have received. Podmore’s motto, Returning Opportunity is about giving talented and determined young people the opportunity to reach their full potential. Podmore’s purpose is to gather the human and financial resources necessary to create conditions for as many young people as possible to have their lives and prospects transformed by a good education in good company.

In 2008, Podmore partnered with Yalari in the education and empowerment of Indigenous children from Australian rural and remote communities and towns. Yalari currently sponsors nearly 200 Indigenous children to study at 28 of Australia’s finest independent boarding schools. Yalari and Podmore raise funds to cover the significant financial gap between the means-tested ABSTUDY scheme and costs of a boarding school education. The two organisations also cooperate to provide the support and friendship required by these young people, many of whom study hundreds of kilometres from home.

Each year, Podmore hosts a Spring lunch in Canberra to celebrate scholarship recipient’s achievements, introduce and promote the work of the Foundation, and encourage support. At the most recent luncheon On 25 October 2015, guests were introduced to a remarkable young woman Jessa Rogers. a proud Wiradjuri woman and PhD scholar at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University in Canberra.

In 2014, Jessa was awarded the ANU Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Award (Reconciliation) and the 2015 Minoru Hokari Scholarship for her PhD research, which looks at the experiences of Aboriginal and Māori girls attending boarding schools using photoyarn, a method she is developing. Jessa has been working with Yalari scholarship recipients, including the Podmore students in Canberra, to understand their personal stories of determination, commitment to their families and communities, their struggles to excel in schooling far from home and the challenges of growing through their boarding school experiences.

In her keynote address, Jessa told her story: born in Canberra and raised in Queensland, Jessa realised quite early that her family did not have a lot of money.

“As a child, you notice things that others have that you don’t and while this never bothered me so much, I realised in my early primary school years that education seemed to be the factor in determining those who had lots of opportunities and those who had little.”

Jessa remembers asking how people “got good jobs” and hearing about ‘university’—somewhere no one in her immediate family had been.

Her parents, both with year-ten educations, raised her to work hard. Jessa wanted the chance to attend a good school and go on to university (whatever that was). With the help of her parents, Jessa was awarded a scholarship to Nambour Christian College from year seven.

Working solidly for the next five years, Jessa started year 12. In the first few weeks of term, she discovered she was pregnant. ‘I thought my schooling was over’, remembers Jessa. ‘Luckily for me, someone believed in me.’

That someone was the same person who had awarded Jessa her scholarship five years earlier, the principal of Nambour Christian College, Mr Bruce Campbell. Mr Campbell and the school supported Jessa tirelessly. Not only did she continue her year 12 studies, she graduated with an ATAR of 92, two subject awards, the Creative and Performing Arts Shield for that year and a ten-day-old son. ‘I realised what I had known all along,’ said Jessa. ‘Education is the key to unlocking brighter futures for students from all backgrounds, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.’

To get to and from university, Jessa travelled four hours a day by train. She raised her son and completed two degrees, in creative arts and education. Inspired by her own scholarship, teachers and principals, Jessa then accepted a role as a support officer working with Aboriginal boarding students in Brisbane.

That work, combined with her experience as a scholarship student and being an Aboriginal woman, became part of Jessa’s practice in Indigenous education. In the years following, Jessa drew on the lessons learnt with those students as she completed her master’s degree and began lecturing pre-service teachers in Indigenous education.

In the final years of her PhD, Jessa has interviewed 45 students in boarding schools across Australia, including five Podmore scholarship recipients at Canberra Girls Grammar School. Jessa highlighted two key learnings from her research.  ‘For our young indigenous leaders attending boarding school, they face many pressures, sometimes unknown to either family or school. This “in between” space is one that is not researched and is an important topic to yarn  because of the pressure it places on our students.’

The push and pull between expectations of family and school can be over many things. Expectations are not often made clear, leaving students feeling stuck in the middle, unable to meet both sets of responsibilities. ‘For students to succeed, we have to work together,’ says Jessa. ‘The burden should not be placed on our students’ shoulders, navigating the expectations of two important structures in their lives while working towards their own goals for their people, culture and families.’

It is at these crossroads that organisations like Yalari and Podmore come to the fore: providing support and friendship to these young people, aged anywhere from 11 to 18, as they traverse a brand new world far from home.

The other key challenge is that attending boarding school changes the girls, ‘their language, world view, ability to accept certain lifestyle norms and their connection to family and culture are all spoken about as changing when our kids move away for their schooling,’ she says. The concept of “walking in two worlds” is often used to describe the two sets of cultural norms Indigenous students become comfortable living and acting within.

The dedication and commitment boarding school students have to remain away from home and work solidly toward their goals, often in the face of many challenges, inspires Jessa.

To the Podmore scholarship recipients present, Jessa offered this advice: ‘today, I say to those brave and dedicated young leaders making sacrifices in the hope of brighter futures, don’t give up. You can do it. You are braver than you think and stronger than you seem. The journey of education is a wonderful one, one that will allow you choice in life and the ability to contribute much to your people. It is a worthwhile, but difficult journey. Boarding schools are funny places, where you gain new friends that become family, learn independence and understand the ways of a different world. Just don’t lose who you are. You can be whoever you want to be, but never forget where you came from.’

The willingness of the Podmore and Yalari scholarship recipients to contribute to society and think of others is reflective of each of their kind and caring spirits. These young women and men will grow to become our next generation of Aboriginal leaders, in our communities, in their families, in their own homes, and most importantly, in their own lives.

The Podmore Foundation, Yalari and their many supporters across the country are committed to supporting these students and those who will come after them. Like Jessa, they have based their philosophies on education being the key to brighter futures. As Jessa says, ‘when the door opens for us and we find a way through, it is our responsibility to assist those coming behind us.’

Of Podmore and Yalari, Jessa has nothing but praise. ‘You are doing wonderful things,’ she said through tears at the end of her address*.

Since 2008, eight Podmore scholarship recipients have completed their secondary schooling.  Seven have continued with tertiary and vocational education and one works as a doctor’s receptionist in her home town.    In 2016, the first Indigenous boy to enroll at Canberra Grammar School on a Podmore scholarship will begin his secondary schooling in Year 7.

You can support the Podmore Foundation by becoming a member, establishing a scholarship or making a donation.

Posted in Apprenticeships, Communities, education and training, Grants and funding, inspirational, Mentor, Rural Australia, rural women, scholarships, school students, Social welfare, Transitioning, Women in Focus, Women leaders | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Women’s health: 3 steps to treating perimenopause

by Jeff Butterworth B.App.Sc, N.D
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual.

CaptureIf 50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 20, then perimenopause seems to be the new PMS. It’s very common and affects women between the ages of 35 to 50 generally, and we are seeing it starting to happen on a more frequent basis and in younger women.

During the years before menopause levels of progesterone typically decline, while estrogen levels remain stable or even increase. This creates a situation commonly referred to as oestrogen dominance as the ratio of progesterone to oestrogen changes and triggers the following symptoms.

Some of the symptoms that women suffer when progesterone declines include: weight gain, increased PMS, breast swelling and tenderness, mood swings, poor memory, irritability, poor sleep, water retention, aches and pains, heavy periods, fibroid growth.

Another hormone which is influenced is testosterone. Testosterone levels may start to decline during this phase and can be quite difficult to observe. These symptoms can be: reduced sex drive, reduced response to sex, reduction in general sense of wellbeing, reduced energy and ambition, depression and reduction in muscle mass.

The final piece to the puzzle is the reduction in oestrogen levels leading into menopause. The ovaries reduce production of oestrogen, which triggers the elevation of follicle-stimulating hormones and luteinising hormone, which triggers the characteristic symptoms of menopause. The ovaries continue to produce some oestrogen along with the adrenal glands, however if the drop is dramatic and the adrenals cannot cope then symptoms can be dramatic until the body balances itself and may include: hot flushes, reduced energy, night sweats, vaginal dryness, depression, mood swings, dizziness, headaches, memory loss, urinary incontinence, arthritic aches and pains.

So it is critically important that from the age of 35 and leading up to 50 that women are aware of the changes that are starting to occur and support the endocrine control centres during this phase to avoid these symptoms and ensure a healthy menopause.

If these symptoms are suppressed with hormonal treatments or ignored, then the underlying attempt of the body to try and manage this transition naturally is sabotaged and it leads to a range of other issues, such as: weight gain, thyroid reduction, skin breakouts, mood swings, depression, irritability, insomnia, premature ageing and premature menopause.

3 simple steps to treating perimenopause naturally

1. Diet and lifestyle
Eating a low processed, alkaline and high antioxidant diet is important to allow the bodies detox and elimination systems to work efficiently. One of the reasons why oestrogen increases is because the body lacks the ability to metabolise oestrogen in particular. So it requires optimal liver and digestive function.

If liver function is sluggish then many of these symptoms develop so we suggest taking an additional liver support supplement containing natural amino acids and herbal medicines.

For digestion it is important to take fermented drinks and vegetables to build up the gut’s natural balance and defences. These bacteria assist in the breakdown of hormones excreted by the liver. Our eight week program has recipes for these drinks.

2. Manage stress levels
Stress is a common issue with women at this stage of life with busy lives, running households and careers to manage. Often women take care of themselves last and stress impacts on the endocrine balance.  The adrenals become exhausted and cannot take up the additional production of oestrogen leading into menopause and the result is the dramatic symptoms of menopause. So managing stress is critical. Ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, yoga and meditation are all really important to ensure stress levels are kept to a manageable level.

3. Balance the hormone control centre
We know hormones are starting to shift at this time of life towards menopause. It largely depends on how well your body copes with this process. Your hormonal control centre, the pituitary and hypothalamus axis is the centre that regulates your hormones. What we often find is diet and lifestyle sometimes are just not enough to correct the underlying imbalance.

This is where some key herbal medicines come into play. Sage, vitex and black cohosh when combined together have a unique synergistic effect that nothing else can achieve. Luckily, Happy Hormones contains the perfect ratio of these three herbs.

Happy Hormones works directly on this control centre to allow the body to balance its own hormone levels naturally. And let’s not forget this is a natural process. You should not have any symptoms. Women living a traditional lifestyle and eating traditional foods don’t experience menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms. So it’s very much a western condition and we need to rely on natural medicines to allow the body to control its own hormone levels.

The current approach to treating perimenopause in particular is to replace any deficient hormones, namely progesterone and testosterone or DHEA, which is another hormone which is reduced. Although there may be initial relief the problem with this approach is threefold.

First, when you provide the body with an external hormone it immediately reduces its own natural production. So when menopause rolls around the situation is only compounded.

Second is the oestrogen levels stay elevated. This does not treat the issues of oestrogen dominance and having prolonged elevation of oestrogen is not good for the body on many levels relating to cancers.

Finally, the supplementation of hormones confuses the endocrine system, leading to the body lacking the ability to control hormone levels, resulting in further hormonal imbalance.

It’s a slippery slope once you get onto it, however thankfully there are effective natural options that can help you to regain your health and restore a natural sense of calm and balance.

Jeff Butterworth is a Naturopath with over 20 years experience specialising in treating hormonal disorders. Jeff developed the Happy Hormones ( program after discovering a unique way of treating hormonal disorders that has long lasting and dramatic results.

Posted in anxiety, Communities, Depression, Families, Health, mental health, rural women, Transitioning, women, women's networks | Leave a comment

Bridging the urban/country divide

by Taryn Soderman, Rabobank FX Program
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual.

Ten city teenagers – from Muirfield High School in Sydney’s west – have been given a taste of ‘life on the land’, spending a week with five farming families in the Riverina last September.

Dudley family with Caitlin and Kate - Finley Show

Charlie, Harry, Bill and Simone Dudley with city students, Caitlin Pollitt and Kate Milne at the Finley Show.

The visit was part of an innovative Farm Experience (FX) Program, developed by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank to help bridge the ‘urban/rural divide’, giving city teenagers the opportunity to spend a week on-farm, living with a farming family and learning about life on the land and food production.

The FX Program resulted from a national survey undertaken by the bank that showed for city kids, spending holidays on the farm with their country cousins is largely a thing of the past, with three-quarters of city-based teenagers knowing little or nothing about farming.

Year 10 students, Caitlin Pollitt and Kate Milne were two of the city teenagers who jumped at the chance to spend a week on farm, travelling over 700 kilometres to Bill and Simone Dudley’s 3000 hectare beef and cropping property, Cornalla East, between Deniliquin and Tocumwal.

Immersing themselves in country life, Caitlin and Kate spent the week mustering cattle, helping out with the shearing, marking lambs, vaccinating cows, monitoring the wheat crop and a myriad of other day-to-day tasks associated with running a farm.

“We couldn’t believe how hands-on we would get,” Caitlin said. “From herding the cattle from the passenger side of the truck, to working the stock in the yards and helping with the tail docking.”

Kate agreed, saying, “a lot of people get the impression that farmers just ride a tractor, but it is so much more than that, with farmers constantly faced with decisions that have an impact on their whole livelihood”.

Farm host, Bill Dudley said his family got involved in the FX Program to “challenge some of the perceptions held in the city.

“We wanted to show the sophistication of modern farming practices, and how we as young farmers, manage the complexities of running a farming business,” he said.

Mr Dudley said his family had also learnt a lot from the two girls and how, despite their different backgrounds, they were not too dissimilar from his own children, sharing an interest in sport and community participation.

Rabobank’s head of Sustainable Business Development, Marc Oostdijk said the FX Program not only gave “city students the opportunity to discover first-hand where food and clothing comes from, but also opened their eyes to the range of exciting careers in agriculture”.

“We hope that by experiencing rural life, students will take back to their families, as well as their schools and communities an understanding of farming life. And that they will then take it one step further by considering a career in agriculture,” Mr Oostdijk said.

To give students an insight into the range of occupations outside the farmgate, they spent a day off-farm touring local agribusinesses.

Both Caitlin and Kate said it opened their eyes to the range of “other professions you could have”.

“Even if I wasn’t involved like Bill is on the farm, it solidified my mindset to the many other opportunities in the industry,” said Kate.

For Caitlin, the experience has also changed her mindset, giving her “a lot more confidence and independence”. “As I had to do things for myself and when you are working as a team you have others depending on you,” she said.

Mr Oostdijk said the FX initiative, which has run programs in Rockhampton, Geraldton Narrogin, Albury and Kadina in 2015 and early 2016,  with plans afoot for Moora and Albany in late 2016, was a direct initiative of Rabobank’s Client Councils – groups of the bank’s farming clients around Australia who meet to discuss issues and implement ideas to contribute to the sustainability of rural communities.

“Our Client Councils give our farming clients the opportunity to canvas the big issues facing the sector, and the challenge of retaining and attracting youth into agriculture is one of their four key objectives,” he said. “The FX Program is a great example of how big challenges can be tackled on a small scale to make real, long-lasting differences.”

More information
Taryn Soderman
FX National Program Coordinator
m: 0416 697 449


Posted in agriculture, Communities, education and training, farming, landlearn nsw, networking, Rural Australia, rural women, school students, Tourism | Leave a comment

Time running out to nominate your ‘Hidden Treasure’

Nominations closing soon for the 2017 NSW Hidden Treasures Honour Roll.


The annual Hidden Treasures Honour Roll is an important tribute which captures inspirational stories, documenting and celebrating the unpaid work of women who are ensuring the viability of so many important and crucial community groups and charities such as emergency services, the arts, environment, social justice, education and sport organisation, and so many others within rural and regional communities.

The Rural Women’s Network is seeking your help to nominate rural women volunteers in NSW who give so much of their time to improving our communities and neighbourhoods. You can nominate a friend, family member, colleague, community worker – any rural woman who you believe makes your community a better place to live.

If you know a worthy woman volunteer, why not nominate her today by sharing a short ‘story about her contributions.’

All nominations will be included in the 2017 Hidden Treasures Honour Roll which will be unveiled at the NSW Rural Women’s Gathering in Narrandera on 28 October.

Nominations are open until 28 July 2017.

For more information call 02 6391 3706.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’  Helen Keller

Posted in agriculture, Communities, Community Hero, CWA, Environment, Families, farming, Health, hidden treasure, inspirational, mental health, networking, NSW Rural Women's Network, primary industries, resilience, Rural Australia, rural women, RuralWomen, RWN, Social welfare, stories, Volunteering, women, women's networks | Leave a comment

Smart ways to leave farming

by Ted O’Kane, Goulburn DPI Rural Resilience Officer.
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual.

Respected Monaro grazier and cattle breeder, Howard Charles, cites a number of logical
reasons for ‘half retiring’ and leasing his property but admits that if it were not for his
wife Anne’s declining eyesight, he could well have put the decision off for some time yet.

Howard and Anne Charles

Howard and Anne Charles. The change … is a transitional one …

Breeding his celebrated Kydrabah Murray Grey stud cattle and merino sheep, it would have been easy for the still fit 72-year-old to maintain the status quo and keep running his 1375 hectare Nimmitabel property, Rockybah, as he has done since 1980.

But with neither of his adult children interested in taking over the farm and, by his own admission, starting to feel his years, Howard knew retirement was something that could not be put off forever. Still, he concedes that, “Anne’s eyes (she has macular
degeneration) were the real catalyst for the change.”

The change, though, is a transitional one where the Charles remain happily living in their home among the magnificent country garden Anne has developed from something akin to a moonscape 35 years ago. They remain happy to do so, contributing to the local community they love, as long as Anne’s eyesight allows her to drive.

“I can’t stay here if I can’t drive and Howard has to drive me everywhere. We don’t know
when that will be, but when it happens it will mean moving to a town,” she says.

The flexible lease arrangement the Charles’ negotiated with two local landholders, Jim
Haylock and Charles Keighley, in September 2014 also means Howard remains involved
to some extent in both management and the physical running of the property.

Anne and Howard enjoying their ‘half retirement’ at their home, Rockybah “I do believe that farming is a young person’s game, not only physically, but keeping up
with the technical advances as well. I am now what is called the ‘weeds, wire and water
man’ and that’s a bigger job than I thought,” Howard explained.

“I’m only half retired so I am not walking around saying, ‘What will I do now?’ But if
Anne’s sight deteriorates quickly, we are in a better position to change our arrangements
than if we were still running everything.”

The innovative lease was negotiated by farm consultant, Jim Symon, McMichael
& Associates, Albury, who consults independently to all three parties. Two events on flexible transition options have been held (one in Cooma in 2015 and most recently August 2016) where Howard outlined aspects of the lease and answered questions for people wanting to know more about the process. The lease conditions provided a good example of how a well-considered and flexible lease could provide a viable option for farmers wanting to retire from the business but still wishing to live in their own homes, he said.

Based on the rationale that farm wealth was built from the capital growth of the asset more than from income, Mr Charles wanted a lease that prioritised the protection of the asset.

“We built flexibility into the agreement that meant the lessees weren’t put under pressure when the season gets tough. We certainly needed an income but our main focus was to protect the asset. It’s not perfect but we are still working on it,” he said.

Mr Symon said the lease aimed to bring the right people together in a deal that wasn’t necessarily about maximising monetary gain but rather tried to meet everyone’s needs in a way that was sustainable. This was the key, he said, to the success of any farm lease.

The lease of Rockybah has also provided an opportunity for Jim Haylock and Charles Keighley to expand their grazing enterprises though a newly formed business partnership, although they were not previously close friends and live some distance from each other and the lease property.

The partnership runs merino wethers and agistment cattle, allowing the flexibility to trade in line with seasons and also to minimise labour. Farm jobs are prearranged and performed together. For both Jim and Charles, the deal provides extra scale and income for their farm businesses and the possibility of being able to hand a viable operation onto their children.

“It is a good short-term option to increase income but should also lead to me being able to increase my capital base as well— depending on whether the kids want to carry it on. There is no need for me to knock myself into the ground into my 60s and 70s if the kids are not interested,” he said.

Similarly, for 59-year-old Mr Keighley, leasing more land as an adjunct to the 890 hectare property, Woburn, he owns at Bungarby, will hopefully assist at least one of his three sons to get a start in farming.

“We are talking to Jim Symon now about farm succession issues and while Woburn still needs a lot of investment, we hope we can set up the transition to the next generation over the next 10 years or so,” Mr Keighly said.

More Information: Ted O’Kane, DPI Rural Resilience Officer.  m: 0427 781 514
e: ted.o’


Posted in agriculture, Communities, Elderly, farming, Health, primary industries, resilience, rural resilience officer, rural women, Sustainability, The Country Web, Transitioning | Leave a comment

Small business program makes getting advice a piece of cake

by Sonya Martin, Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner.
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual.

Greg and Angie Wilton from Mullumbimby have cooked up a successful business creating delicious pastries, cakes, tarts, breads and savory delights.


Greg and Angie Wilton from Mullumbimby.

“Keeping up with demand is our biggest problem,” Angie said. “We go to the farmers’ markets in Byron Bay and Mullumbimby and sell out every time without fail.”

“We could easily sell another 25 per cent but we can’t bake enough because we just don’t have the space.”

The Wilton’s started small five years ago and their wholesale bakery grew organically until they came to a fork in the road 18 months ago. They had to decide whether to continue down the wholesale path or follow Greg’s dream as a baker with a retail outlet.

“We take pride in what we do. If we had gone big with the wholesale business, we would have become more of a production line.

“By moving into retail instead we could keep our boutique, artisan approach. We wanted to be the ones who controlled how the product was displayed and treated.

“More importantly, we really cared about how our customers talked about the product. It was a no-brainer in the end.”

The Wilton’s made the decision to open Scratch Patisserie in Mullumbimby to maintain their ‘made from scratch, baked with love’ philosophy.

The shop opening coincided with the birth of their second child, a time Angie now describes as, “Crazy!”

Growing week-on-week is the worst small business problem to have, but growing has made Angie and Greg appreciate the importance of building structure into their business.

“We were feeling a bit overwhelmed. We felt like we weren’t managing the business as well as we could. We’ve never had a business plan, although we’ve attempted one many times and when we became responsible for eight staff we knew it was time for goals and more of a focus.”

The Small Biz Bus couldn’t have driven into Mullumbimby at a better time.

“I jumped on the bus six months ago to get some advice and see if someone could point us in the right direction.”

Firstly, Angie and Greg were connected to a local Small Biz Connect business advisor, Sam Tebbutt, who started helping them with a business plan.

“It was really practical advice. It also plugged us into another service the Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner was offering— the Regional Activation Program.”

The Office of the NSW Small Business Commissioner launched the Regional Activation Program to better reach regional small businesses. The program achieves this aim by engaging with regional communities to activate small business opportunities through specialised programs, assistance and tools. After visiting each town participating in the program and working with key stakeholders, a series of workshops were developed.

Two workshops were held in Mullumbimby on topics local businesses felt would assist them the most—Visual Merchandising and Women in Business.

“I really liked the Visual Merchandising workshop. It came at a good time because we were developing a range of packaged products for our biscuits, jams, chutneys and relishes.

“The workshop took us through all the stuff we needed to know, like making sure labelling and packaging was perfect and targeted to our customers. Brian Ambler from Australian Retailers Association took the workshop and also came around the next day to give us advice specific to our display and setup.”

Following the workshops the Wilton’s took action.

“One piece of advice that really stuck was that we needed more of our logo image and colours around the shop to help us to get the brand message out. Now we have a great big plaque of our logo on the wall as you come in.

“Brian also made suggestions about signage, and we’re putting more under the awning on the street front. The idea is that people will see us out of the corner of their eye and be tempted to come in.”

As well as the suggestions, Angie said she really appreciated the confirmation of all the things Scratch Patisserie were doing right.

“It was great to get encouragement that we’re doing a good job. Brian said the place looked great.”

The Regional Activation Program also held a Women in Business workshop in Mullumbimby, which Angie also attended.

“I’ve made some good contacts and have already been able to do some business with a woman who runs food tours in the region.”

A quick glance at the pastries, cakes, tarts and tortes on Scratch Patisserie’s website leaves little doubt about why the business is growing. Greg and Angie continue to work with their Small Biz Connect advisor to plan and prepare for that growth.

More information
t: 1300 795 534
Posted in business, Communities, education and training, rural women, small business, Transitioning | Leave a comment

Transitions of life

by Lynda Williams, Biblah Farm.  As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

family photo (2)

‘Over the years we have happily settled into life at Biblah Farm.’

I have had numerous transitions throughout my life that took me away from my home at Wongali, Nevertire.

My first transition was going from Warren High to boarding school in Sydney at the age of 14.  This was a big shock to the system—to leave the wide open spaces of home for the confines of inner city living. The city does give people opportunities though, so after school I completed my nursing training there.  At the end of my course, I longed to get back to the country.  It surprised me that some of my nursing friends in Sydney (that came from the country) were keen to get back there too.

I took a position at Dubbo Base Hospital.  It was great as I had several friends there, so it was easy to find people to share a house with as well as people to socialise with.  In those days we loved going to B&S’s.  It was a great way to meet people and catch up with long-lost friends from all over the countryside.

My next transition from Dubbo was a trip overseas travelling around the world.  I was lucky enough to find a great travelling companion in my nursing friend Shazza, from Walgett.  We had a lot in common and never had a dull moment.  We split up for six weeks in the UK to work and make some money.  It was an amazing experience and one that I would recommend to everyone.

Returning from my trip, I had to transition back into working life.  It was difficult to get a full-time nursing position so I found myself with temporary positions in Ivanhoe, Walgett and Tottenham.  This was a great experience meeting people and broadening my nursing expertise in such things as venipuncture, cannulating and even suturing at Tottenham Hospital.  I would work in these towns for a while, then come home in between times and give Dad and Mum a hand at Wongali.  That was the good thing about being in the country, it always enabled me to get home frequently, and there’s no place like home!

After a while I started a full-time nursing position at Parkes Hospital. Parkes was a wonderful place to live and work, with extra-friendly people.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.  On my days off I would venture home or over to Coonamble to see my boyfriend Tim.  Whilst at Parkes we became engaged, which led me to the biggest transition of all.

Tim and his brother Neale purchased Biblah Farm during our engagement, which was to become our new home.  Biblah Farm is situated 65 km out of Coonamble.  About 20 km of the road was bitumen and the rest dirt.  Even though I consider myself a country girl through and through, to begin with, this place, way out of town, seemed quite isolating to me.

Over the years we have happily settled into life at Biblah Farm.  We have had the odd drought and rain at harvest time, but on the whole we are going alright.  I have ended up with my great friend Shazza (now called Shar) just down the road; how lucky can someone be?  Tim and I have four beautiful children, who have now made their own transitions to boarding school and university.

I wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world and I hope we have instilled the love of country life into our children.

Posted in agriculture, Communities, Families, farming, inspirational, resilience, Rural Australia, rural women, RWN, stories, The Country Web, Transitioning, women | Leave a comment

Money: Life transitions and your finances

By Jo Stephens, Financial Adviser.  As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual

Life is ever-changing. During our lifetime many aspects of our lives will change, bringing highs and lows of certainty and uncertainty, comfort and fear of the unknown.

There are many agents of change— graduating from high school or university, getting married, having children, changing careers, death of a partner or divorce and retirement. Whether these transitions are expected or out of the blue, each one has the potential to change our lives as we know them.


‘Change is often angst ridden and emotionally and financially challenging.’

Whilst this angst cannot often be eliminated, forward planning may minimise the impact, particularly financially.

As a financial adviser many people assume my role is solely as an investment adviser, and whilst that is definitely one small but significant facet, my primary role is to explore what is important to my client and understand what it is they wish to achieve. Financial advice is a multifaceted discipline that draws from many different knowledge areas and life experiences. My role includes educating the client so that when they make a decision they are making an informed one that gives them the best possible opportunity for success.

Agents of change

Graduating high school is an exciting time as we take our first steps into the adult world and is a time of great opportunity with many paths open to us. Do we continue with our education? Do we enter the workforce or even take a gap year and explore the world?

Once we are past the pain of HSC results and selecting a university, choosing to continue our education may also mean accessing Centrelink payments to assist with accommodation needs and supplies.  How will the course be funded? What will that mean for the future?

Entering the workforce means thinking about superannuation, perhaps a first car, or moving out of home and becoming truly independent for the first time. What is the right way to choose a super account? Why is it important to worry about something that won’t happen for another 40 or 50 years anyway? Budgeting and saving can become a priority to assist in buying that car or to pay rent and other bills.

Choosing to go down the path of a gap year, whether spending the year at home or abroad, also brings in the need for budgeting and saving. A gap year can assist you through the tough decisions of continuing with education or moving into the workforce.

The transition from single to married life is often the beginning of joint finances and perhaps the purchase of a first home. Understanding each partner’s financial philosophy, including budgeting and saving habits can make a big difference.  Protecting your own lifestyle can become a priority.

Married life can evolve into married life with kids; bringing with it more considerations and responsibilities. Saving for future education costs and learning to survive on one income are two considerations many of us have been through or will go through. The extracurricular costs of children has a large impact on the family budget. Ensuring your income and lifestyle are well protected is essential.

Unexpected life changes such as the death of a partner are often emotionally overwhelming. This is not the ideal time to begin thinking whether you can now afford the mortgage. The loss of an income from the death of a partner will have a financial impact.  You may also need to consider what to do with any life insurance payout, how to make it last. The surviving partner needs to consider their future—can their current lifestyle be maintained? Refocusing on budgets and savings plans is essential.


Retirement is one area where people often seek my advice too late. Retirement means you will be reliant on your superannuation, savings, investments and wealth created personally over your working life with perhaps some government assistance thrown in.

Funding one’s own retirement should be of  paramount concern for those of us aged less than 45 years as access to the aged pension may gradually become more restricted. Retirement savings can be more easily achieved by doing a little for a long period of time rather than a lot in a small amount of time. Many people believe they can put in lump sums of money as they approach retirement to ensure their financial future in retirement, and while this may be the case for some, many of us will need to use the benefit of compounding interest on top of our contributions if we wish to have a worry free retirement. Seeing an adviser five years before retirement does not allow for many wealth creation strategies to be effectively employed, whereas those who see an adviser quite early in their careers or even 10 to 15 years before retirement, are more likely to have a higher success rate of living the retirement they desire.

Many considerations go into retiring, especially for farmers and business owners.  What to do with assets held such as farmland or a business and its premises?  How do you effectively use these assets to fund retirement? As financial advisers, we can assist in succession planning for farmers to pass land onto the next generation. We can provide strategies that will minimise capital gains tax for assets sold and assist you to use the benefits of the sold assets to fund your retirement.

Posted in Communities, education and training, Elderly, Financial Literacy, leadership, NSW Rural Women's Network, rural women, The Country Web, Transitioning, women's networks | Leave a comment