The stereotype that your typical Aussie farmer is a blokey man who wears a straw hat is outdated. In fact, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES), women are estimated to take up around 32 percent of agricultural workers. Leading industry body AgriFutures suggests this figure is likely higher, as many women are not adequately recognised for their contributions.
With new generations coming through, a gender balance in the agricultural industry is slowly forming. Of all students studying agricultural science at university, 55% are women. Beyond traditional farming, careers in agriculture have extended to a range of professions, including finance, food innovation, engineering and programming, and entrepreneurialism.
Women in agriculture are also among Australia’s hardest workers. They work tiresome, long hours on properties. On top of this, they do even more domestic work that city women – 75% complete five or more hours of domestic work every week, 16% higher than the national average. Women in agriculture also complete more volunteer work and earn a substantial 75% of their income from work completed outside the farm. This provides necessary financial support during harsh economic times for their families.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, here we uncover five Australian women in agriculture you need to know about.
Karin Stark has long been acutely aware of climate change. She completed a degree in Environmental Science and Sustainable Development, but noticed the brutal effects of climate change for herself when she moved with her partner to his NSW farm, “Waverleigh”.
Over the years, “Waverleigh” has been exposed to harsh floods, unforgiving droughts and sweltering summers. Karin has taken action to operate in an environmentally friendly way since she started opening the farm with her partner. She had a 500kW solar diesel hybrid irrigation pump, the largest in the country, installed. This has reduced their CO2 emissions by 500 tonnes annually. Plus, it saved them $170,000 a year in energy costs. It will likely be paying for itself within five years.
Karin believes using these large scale solar pumping applications will be a gamechanger for irrigated agriculture. Keen to share her story so that others can benefit from the use of renewables on their farms, Karin founded the National Renewables in Agriculture Conference and Expo. She is also the Director of Farm Renewables Consulting.
Darrylin Gordon is a Jaru woman and pastoralist from Halls Creek in Western Australia. She works on the Ngunjiwirri Aboriginal Corporation-owned Lamboo Station, located in the Kimberley region. Passionate about developing the life-skills of Indigenous Australians, Darrylin runs three-month-long camps to help them to find sustainable work in agriculture, mining and tourism.
In 2018, Darrylin achieved runner-up at the WA AgriFutures Rural Women’s Awards. Her two bursaries she received, worth $15,000, were poured right back into her program.
Darrylin is passionate about breaking down cultural and social barriers that prevent Indigenous Australians from accessing opportunities for work and training.
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Allison works on her family’s 2,500 acre farm. She performs rigorous physical work on the farm, as well as managing the accounting and marketing of the business. Allison sits on the board of the Hunter Land Services and the National Parks and Wildlife Services’ regional advisory panel, northern inland. On top of this, the mother of three manages to work part-time for the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal. Here, she works on projects with rural communities to help them combat burnout.
Allison studied Agricultural Science at Melbourne University. By the age of 21, she had bought her own farm, after having worked at Landcare. After eventually meeting husband Daniel, who also had a farm, they purchased their own farm in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria. While they continued to work their corporate jobs while farming, they eventually took on farming full time.
Fleur McDonald has managed to sell over 600,000 copies of her books. She is one of Australia’s leading rural literature authors. Fleur’s work has been inspired by her life on farms. She grew up on her parent’s property in regional South Australia and now resides on her 8000-acre property in regional Western Australia.
When Fleur started working on farms in the 1990s, it was uncommon for women to identify themselves as agricultural workers. Often Fleur was ridiculed for her choices. She also experienced sexual harassment at the hands of an overseer.
Fleur is now the Company Secretary and a board member for the industry body, Women in Agriculture. She also runs a not-for-profit organisation, Breaking the Silence, which assists women and children escaping domestic violence.
Chris Ferguson is a goat grazer who works between far north-west and central New South Wales. She runs the popular social media blog, Life in the Mulga. She’s a passionate advocate for rural Australia, and has amassed almost 9k followers on her Instagram and Facebook blogs. Chris utilises her platform to raise awareness of the challenges impacting life in regional Australia.
Having worked on farms since she was young, when Chris was 30, she and her then-husband purchased land for a farm. Years later after her separation, Chris bought out her ex-husband’s share in the property and farmed as a single woman for several years. She later re-partnered with another farmer, who she later purchased a large farm with.
Chris strives to show the real face of agriculture in Australia, and the important role women play in agriculture, through her social media. Noting the lack of people and businesses located in regional areas, Chris hopes to see more people choose to live in regional and rural areas, and believes this will have a critical impact on the growth of the Australian agricultural industry.
Global Rotomoulding is proud to have a strong connection with Australia’s agricultural industry. Women play a vital role in agriculture and are key to the future developments of the industry. To learn more about Global Rotomoulding’s agricultural products and services, explore our website or chat with our helpful team.