It's lovely to finally welcome our very own Voice of the Outback, Fleur McDonald, to the blog today to give us some insight into how the status of women in agriculture has changed over the decades.
Fleur has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she went jillarooing, and co-owned an 8000-acre property in regional Western Australia.
She likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia and is the best-selling author of Red Dust, Blue Skies, Purple Roads, Silver Clouds, Crimson Dawn, Emerald Springs and Indigo Storm.
|Credit: Chelsea, Proof of Life|
Fleur lives in Esperance, WA with her partner, two children and two dogs who keep her company while she writes.
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When I started farming twenty plus years ago, the industry was still very male dominated. In fact, the first job I applied for, stated JACKAROOS only apply. Being a bit of a rule breaker, I didn’t take any notice and applied anyway. I didn’t get it.
Since the beginning of time, women have been involved in agriculture, but more as ‘farmers wives’ not jillaroos, farm-hands or managers working for farm businesses. ‘Farmer’s Wives’ have worked alongside their husbands, sharing the day to day management of the farm or station, office work, plus other workloads, such as raising children and caring for families, their community and homes. More often that not, they’ve been hidden and unacknowledged.
Wanting a job as a jillaroo in the early 1990s, found me well and truly in the minority.
Luckily, I found a forward thinking manager by the name of Tim Lewis, who ran a large property in Meningie SA, for Perry Gunner. I remember he said to me: ‘Is this all the experience you have?’ I nodded, then he continued on: ‘Well, it’s the old adage isn’t it? If you can’t get experience, then you can’t get a job. And how are you supposed to get the experience if you can’t find a job?’ he paused for a bit before adding: ‘Well, you’d better start Monday.’ I was the first woman who ever worked for Perry Gunner under Tim, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity Tim gave me.
Even with a bona fide job, going to field and information days was intimidating, finding myself too scared to ask questions in case I sounded stupid or uninformed. I felt I was constantly having to prove myself as a woman within the industry.
Today, this (mostly) isn’t the case.
More and more, women are becoming visible in our industry.
We contribute equally on farms, farmer representation organisations, in agribusiness, R&D, banking, animal health. The list goes on.
Women are choosing to work in all parts of our industry and are being elected on their merits and skills.
A mixture of voices – men and women is a necessity. We don’t think alike; can see different sides. I liken it to a mixed farm – sheep are needed in a cropping operation; they compliment each other. A combination of laudatory voices within our industry, will help it grow and go forward.
It’s an exciting time to be a woman in agriculture and agriculture is a strong, vibrant and exhilarating industry.
About the Book
While mystery surrounds the accidental shooting of a her husband, Fiona Forrest struggles to preserve the family farm in a suspenseful, pacy and action packed novel from the author of Crimson Dawn and Indigo Storm.
Fiona Forrest is devastated when her husband Charlie commits suicide after the accidental shooting of his mate Eddie. Though Fiona decides to keep farming their successful property, rumours that she intends to sell keep circulating.
When Detective Dave Burrows arrives to sign off on the investigation into Eddie's death, his suspicions are aroused by some strange anomalies at the scene. As Dave becomes increasingly convinced that something sinister is going on, Fiona finds herself dealing with a series of disasters on the farm . . .
By the bestselling author of Crimson Dawn, this suspenseful novel about a woman fighting to preserve her husband's dream, and a detective determined to uncover the truth will keep you guessing till the very last page.
Sapphire Falls by Fleur McDonald is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now at the following links:
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