Rural Love

AS published in Graziher Magazine.

It was a case of ‘long term listener, first time caller’ for Hamish Felton-Taylor, who seized the chance for a blind date with his favourite radio host, and found that life with Arlie Douglas was just as fun off air, than it was on.

Story: Georgina Poole Photography: Anna Tomlinson

felton-taylor-proofs2.jpg

She’s the darling of rural radio, the voice injecting a refreshingly wicked sense of humour into rousing households across Queensland.

Store sale reports take on new vigour. The glummest of weather forecasts suddenly thrill.

Listeners chuckle and chortle and sometimes even choke on their toast hearing her daily banter.

The Australian National Broadcaster unexpectedly exhilarates when Arlie Felton-Taylor is behind the booth, and quite possibly everyone falls a little bit in love with this quick witted rural reporter.

Certainly for Hamish Felton-Taylor, this delightful stranger became a constant companion during his daily commute from Toowoomba to the Oakey Air Base back in 2008.

“Every morning between 6.15 and 6.30am I looked forward to listening to Arlie, obviously she is an excellent reporter, but I loved her chat – her backhanded complements to Jenny Swan on those truly atrocious daily jokes, the weekly updates on her social touch footy team ‘The Rum and Cokes’ – I found her very, very funny,” Hamish admits.

Arlie laughs that with her early program, she could often get away with being slightly ridiculous.

After three years as an avid listener, Hamish seized an opportunity to make contact when Arlie made a public call out for genuinely funny jokes, in light of Southern Queensland Morning Presenter Jenny Swan’s approaching retirement.

“She read out her email address on air and I emailed in a very inappropriate joke about Kiwis and sheep,’ Hamish chuckles.

“She replied almost immediately confirming that joke was, of course, inappropriate for radio, but our email chat continued once we realised we had a common friend, Hamish’s cousin.”

FELTON-TAYLOR PROOFSjpg2

Suddenly, a vague mention by this said mutual friend that she had a single cousin ‘working as a helicopter pilot instructor at the Oakey Airbase’ became of fervent interest to Arlie, an out and proud cyber stalker extraordinaire.

“I certainly didn’t waste any time putting my journalistic skills to good use and trawled the internet for anything I could find on Hamish,” Arlie confirms.

Lax social media privacy settings or the odd blog make for very good sport when cyber stalking, but alas, Arlie’s search engines continued to return blank.

“Apparently, my new pen-friend was old school and shunned any social media, or internet exposure of any type. I was disheartened, but not undeterred.”

And her commitment paid off, with Arlie celebrating a stalker’s jackpot, uncovering Ep 13 S1 of Top Gear Australia, dedicated entirely to Hamish’s Army piloting endeavours.

The results did not disappoint.

“It really did seem too good to be true, this extremely handsome man in uniform, performing adrenalin fuelled stunts on Top Gear Australia!”

“I thought how on earth is he still single, perhaps there’s something wrong with him?”

No stranger to the entire Queensland social calendar, Arlie was equally perplexed as to how a single man of this calibre could have slipped through the radar, right under her nose in her current abode of Toowoomba.

While Arlie proudly distributed the clip amongst her vast network of friends, Hamish was naively unaware of his newfound status as a viral sensation.

“I really don’t like any sort of attention, I’m quite shy and felt really uncomfortable about the whole Top Gear experience, but I was in the Army at the time I had no say in it all.”

“Needless to say, our courtship outlasted the ill-fated program!”

After weeks of friendly email exchanges, Arlie plucked up the courage to invite this strapping army pilot to the upcoming Horse Futurity show, on which she was reporting.

FELTON-TAYLOR PROOFSjpg2

“He mentioned he’d like to experience a bit more of rural life, so I thought some horse sports could work well – and it also facilitated a cunning exit plan if he ended up being a jerk,” Arlie laughs.

Meanwhile Hamish, who admits he was never confident around women, took a little time to come to terms with the proposed date.

“Women really scare me to be honest, and someone as funny and smart as Arlie, I really worried that she’d find me boring.”

To the contrary, upon picking up his date the pair agree that conversation was easy.

“We were so busy chatting that in fact,” Hamish laughs, “it took us a while to realise that there were no glaring lights beaming from the showgrounds as we approached.”

It was a dark, eerie and certainly uncomfortable approach to the silent showground.

An empty car park, while Arlie laughs allowed for a prime parking position, confirmed their suspicions.

“I was quietly dying by this stage – I had kind of talked up my gig reporting at this event, and it was abundantly clear that it was not on,” Arlie cringes.

Quick to extinguish any awkwardness, Hamish suggested dinner instead at Toowoomba favourite La Pizziola, where the faulty towers of blind dates continued.

“Lets just say there was a quick bathroom exit when I thought I’d lost an earring down my cleavage,” Arlie laughs, “but it was a wonderful night that we still laugh about often.”

So busy were the two chatting, that the waitress had to return no less than seven times just to take their order.

A work assignment for Arlie in America soon after stalled proceedings, and unbeknownst to her, Hamish tragically lost his brother-in-law in the meantime.

“It took me a while to finally get back to Arlie,” Hamish explains, during which time, Arlie adds, she may, or may not have been, frantically dog earring ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’.

“I eventually invited her over to watch the footy, and you wouldn’t believe it, as soon as she arrived I started to feel really crook,” Hamish laughs.

“I finally had her over, and I had to ask her to leave.”

“Mmm, I didn’t over-analyse that sudden ‘bout of nausea’ at all,” Arlie winks.

Needless to say, further, more successful dates followed, until Hamish, every inch the gentleman, finally landed that first kiss.

“Well, that took you long enough!” was not the heartfelt response he envisaged would follow the highly anticipated, and nerve wracking event.

“It’s fair to say I was pretty smitten, and very proud to claim Arlie as my girl.

“I felt like I knew her from listening to her on the radio, but I didn’t at all, and it was great getting to know the real Arlie.”

“I also became somewhat of a roadie, venturing with across the State for outdoor broadcasts, Moonie Yabbie Races, Burren Downs Picnic Races, Myall Plains Bull Sales and the likes.”

felton-taylor-proofs3.jpg

While Hamish’s parents, Michael and Helen Felton-Taylor, are originally from the bush, Hamish grew up between Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Sydney, before joining the Army after school.

Arlie, daughter of Jeremy and Robyn Douglas was raised on a number of grazing properties including ‘Congewoi” Kynuna, “Sondella” Clermont and “Oakland” Sarina.

After a Bachelor of Agriculture from The University of Queensland, Arlie ventured to the top end, working with Rite?? In ?? before making the jump into radio.

“I don’t mind a chat, so it made sense, and the ABC has provided me with fantastic opportunities to work in towns like Mt Isa and Longreach – but who knew it would eventually lead me to my husband!”

The couple was engaged in 2011, and typically, it didn’t go to plan.

“We were at Noosa doing a bit of fishing on the river and I had the ring, I really didn’t want to propose on the boat covered in fish guts and sunscreen so suggested we go for a walk to the headland later in the day,” Hamish explains.

“Arlie quashed that idea and wanted to keep fishing, and I was reminded of what a cool chick she was, but it didn’t help my cause.”

Later, Hamish spied a sand flat which would take full advantage of the impending sunset. Yet there was one hitch, Arlie still would not get off the boat – a fact she now acknowledges is due to her competitive nature ‘I was not going home without a bite’.

“Eventually I just had to jump out, waist deep into flowing water with the ring in my hand and hope she’d follow – which she did – and I managed to drop the knee just in time to coincide with the most magical sunset, and then proceeded to put the ring on her wrong hand!”

Now with three children, Fredrick, five, Lucinda, four and Angus, two, Arlie is currently on maternity leave while Hamish works with the LifeFlight Community Rescue helicopter Service.

Theirs is a household with much laughter, and a small hobby farm on the outskirts of Toowoomba affords them a rural lifestyle they both cherish.

“If you put aside the sleepless nights, melting down toddlers and nappy explosions, life is good,” Arlie smiles, “and we do look back on those early encounters and it was all quite mad, but so exciting!”

It’s a love story so unique, perhaps even the queen of yarns herself wouldn’t have believed it possible.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Time Tells

As published in Graziher Magazine, Autumn 2017. 

Story Georgina Poole.

Photos Clancy Job

A city girl with her heart now placed firmly in the bush, Wellington’s Mardi Taylor is breathing new life into the community that embraced her all those years ago, with inspirational results.

 211A8255_copy.png

 

When Hugh Taylor, the handsome young Jackaroo at Carinda in North West NSW got a love letter from his city-based girlfriend Mardi, the whole district knew about it.

With the thick waft of perfume permeating through the communal mail bag, bills and bank statements across the whole region took on renewed vigour, and her lovingly, albeit heavily spritzed ‘love letters’ became the talk of the town.

 “I had no idea anyone even knew about my letters, I could never have guessed it was a regional mail run, usually combined with the fruit, vegetable and milk run!” she laughs.

And so her baptism of fire into country living began.

Born and bred in Sydney’s Southern Beaches, she admits family and friends believed her ‘mad’ pursuing a long-distance relationship with her country beau.

 Both just 19 years old, the couple met whilst Mardi’s family visited her uncle, who was working on one of the Taylor’s family farms in the Carinda district.

“It was a huge eye opener for me, but I instantly loved the open spaces, the shearing, the horses – I really felt at home.”

Something else caught her eye that holiday, with Hugh seconded across from the home block in Wellington to help with shearing.

Admitting to a definite ‘spark’, it was 12 months before they saw each other again.

“I really loved the shearing process so returned the following year – by that stage Hugh was doing a year Jackarooing on a neighbouring station and I happened to run into him at a local rugby match,” Mardi smiles.

After which, the humble Carinda post office never smelt so good.

211A8522_copy

For six years the couple maintained a long distance relationship, unperturbed by Mardi’s heavy university workload and two jobs – not to mention the long hours Hugh committed to the family farm.

Theirs was an old-fashioned, letter based courtship.

“While my friends would go on dates to the movies or to the beach Hugh and I couldn’t even talk much on the phone, because he lived with his parents of course his dad needed the phone in the evenings to do his business.

“It was certainly difficult but so exciting – mum still talks about me checking the mail every day and then racing to my room if there was a letter to pour over every word.”

Their long courtship did however provide her with the necessary apprenticeship for country living.

“I travelled to the farm most weekends but learnt pretty quickly that the work didn’t stop on a Friday afternoon  – if I wanted to spend time with Hugh I had to learn to chip in with mustering, fencing and marking lambs!”

After six years the couple became engaged, with Mardi finally making the move to Wellington 12 months later.

Leaving lifelong friends and a successful occupational therapy career in her wake, it was a time of mixed emotions.

“Of course I was so excited to finally move to the farm and be with Hugh, I was head over heels in love but the realities of rural living were a bit more overwhelming than I expected.”

Taking on the sole OT position at a rural bush hospital, she was staggered by the huge workload, lack of services and the transition from a city hospital.

Mardi4

Support from her new community, particularly the local women, helped alleviate some of these concerns.

“I felt so embraced from the start, there was a beautiful luncheon organised to welcome me and I knew straight away that such generosity would be enduring.”

Mardi and Hugh also embarked on their own special project, renovating one of the most derelict cottages on the property.

“The farm was run by Hugh, his brother Geoff and parents Carol and Bruce, and while there were good housing options for us, we wanted something to make our own.

Again, family and friends thought she was mad. Again she proved them wrong.

“We really wanted to bring something back to life and it was a wonderful project for Hugh and I to work on together – we’ve made a beautiful home, one that all the family and friends love to spend time in.”

The family has since embarked on a successful succession strategy, which Mardi credits to Carol and Bruce’s ‘strong support of everyone doing their own thing, while keeping relationships intact.’

Mardi and Hugh have taken over the family’s stud, Boxleigh Park Merinos, with their first on-property ram sale scheduled for this coming September.

“I didn’t have any dreams to marry a farmer, but I look back now and I’m sure glad I did! I look at the hands-on childhood my three children enjoy, the freedom, the bush picnics and the fact we can all work together in the yards or on the horses and it’s just wonderful.”

After their children, Josie, 12, Shep, 10 and Olivia, 7 were born, Mardi’s need for flexible working hours saw her embark on what is fast emerging as her greatest career achievements, Kidmotion.

A centre for children’s therapy and well-being, located in Wellington, the venture is successful bucking the support service downturn gripping many small towns.

“It had always been a career goal to go into private practice and there is such a huge need in regional areas for therapists, but I couldn’t have anticipated such a great response.”

Again fuelling the trend of people thinking she’s a bit mad, Hugh and Mardi recently purchased the old Wellington Times building to restore into a one-stop therapy hub for children and families.

“I’m sure people think we’re crazy, but it’s a beautiful old building and wonderful to feel we are contributing back to the social fabric of Wellington, we already have a number of innovative practitioners on board so it’s a very exciting development – and great to see a historic shopfront open again.”

Mardi’s innovation has almost certainly put the small town on the map as a therapy destination, with most clients travelling from much bigger centres such as Dubbo, Mudgee and Orange.

“Maybe it’s more affordable to buy and develop here in a smaller town, or there’s not as much pressure for full time hours, which suits working mothers,” Mardi suggests.

Regardless, Mardi’s model has already garnered attention across the State, with professionals from similar communities having visited her site to discuss her template.

Today, Mardi is ensconced in the Wellington community, and has well and truly had the last laugh proving her naysayers wrong.

“My old city friends now love to bring their own children to the farm on holidays and a former OT colleague was even inspired to a tree change retirement just down the road.”

As for her city-based parents? Impressed by Mardi’s country lifestyle, it didn’t take them long to make the tree change themselves, with the couple buying their own paddock next door.

“I do pinch myself often, but I’m a big believer in not forcing decisions and waiting for things to unfold – goals are great but it took me a while to learn not to want everything, yesterday – and I couldn’t be more content,’ Mardi reflects.

And so it seems Mardi Taylor isn’t quite so mad, after all.

Fashion forward and ready to race

When it comes to Fashions on the Field, it’s a jungle out there – and while animal prints remain strong this season, would-be fashionistas best leave last season’s off-the-shoulder look at home, lest risk a real cat fight.

61185393_2353698071553709_4282568923712323584_o copy
Samantha Murphy and Jessica Kelly, 2019 Best Dressed Lady and Runner Up.

In 2019 two of Moree’s most stylish, Sarah Kirkby and Toy Barwick, will be scouting the crowds for the highly coveted Fashion on the Field competition at next weekend’s Moree Picnic Races.
And from behind their cat-eye sunglasses, there will be little this sharp-sighted duo will miss.
“It’s all about the detail and dressing appropriately for the occasion,” advises Toy.
“Pick a certain style, start with one key piece and work around that.”
Animal prints, such as snake and leopard, are strong this season, with the pant suit also making a return to the winner’s circle.

61627730_2353699071553609_5863718454644703232_o
Judges, Toy Barwick in Scanlan Theodore, and Sarah Kirkby in Rixo.

And when it comes to the current Western trend, fashion cowgirls will do well to heed Toy’s wise advice – ‘subtlety is the key, it’s not a dress up party.”
With hair clips, headbands and bows all replacing traditional fascinators and headwear this season, Sarah said she was excited to see what looks would emerge next weekend. “While this season’s headwear isn’t traditional, it’s reflective of fashion’s evolution – I’m looking forward to seeing some beautiful bows and clips – but they need to be obvious enough to be a feature.”
Toy also expressed her penchant for a blazer dress – but warned that getting the perfect length was tricky.
She strongly advises against a length at which it simply appears you forgot your pant.
61205167_2353698654886984_4929529854782603264_o

Mixed prints such as floral and animal was another of the girls’ favourites, and while Autumn colours always looked beautiful, they wouldn’t shy away from Spring hues.
“European fashion is strong at the moment, and features a beautiful, soft pastel palette.”
Likewise, playing with different textures could also score you a spot on the podium, but the girls’ suggested leaving the beautiful silks of last season exactly there.
“While there are some gorgeous silk pieces around, Autumn racing requires a heavier texture.”
This season, the slingback adorns the most well-heeled women, and the girls’ advise that a good block or court heel would elevate this classic silhouette into Fashions on the Field contention.
“Traditionally strappy shoes are a no-no for Autumn and Winter racing, but as long as toes are covered it’s a look we can’t get enough of.”
Toy also said she was looking forward to individual twists on current trends, and loved a bit of fashion risk.

IMG_4281
Best Dressed Couple, Anne-Marie and Eric Carrigan, and runner-ups, Penny and Alastair Jones.

“The pant suit is so strong this year, but in pastel it’s truly something special.”
With Fashions on the Field one of the highlights of The Moree Picnic Races, Sarah enthused that there was always a beautiful cross section of designers on display, and that Moree race-goers were fashion forward and enthusiastically embracing of fashion trends,”
“There is definitely an element of decorum recommended for picnic racing fashions, with anything too tight, revealing, strapless or mid-drift baring to be avoided.”
“Lengths should be not too short, with trousers and jumpsuits acceptable, as long as they are full length.”
Toy advised that a millinery or hair feature was always required for the Fashions on the Field competition, but that a felt and leather hat was preferred over straw.
“Keep in mind the races are a daytime event, so be wary of materials and shapes that are evening like, such as metallic, sequined or high shine textures.
And it’s not all about the fillies, with many a stallion heading in from the paddock for a groom come Saturday.
“For men we’re looking for accessories such as a hat, pocket handkerchief, beautiful watches, cufflinks or sunglasses.”

IMG_4275.jpg
Best Dressed Man, Brent Taunton, 4th from left.

Again, men should avoid straw hats, and the girls’ said the Trilby had also run its course.
“Men can pull off some really handsomely shaped hats – there are some lovely Akubras and the like – just don’t wear them in from the paddocks please!
“Polished shoes and a matching belt also go a long way, and you just can’t go past a well fitted suit or sports jacket – not too baggy, not too long and not too tight.”
And with a high calibre prize package befitting the quality on offer, it’s worth putting your best, well-heeled, foot forward next Saturday, May 25.

IMG_4297
Millenary Award, Jamie Moore in a Penelope Haddrill hat.

Coveted prizes include generous packages from major sponsors, Beauty Matters and Assefs, plus a plethora of goodies from sponsors including a pair of RM Williams boots thanks to Syngenta.
Gates to The Moree Picnic Races open at 12.00pm, with the event also including a quality six race line up, Marquee Luncheon, Calcutta and an evening Marquee Dinner Dance featuring The Voice’s Rennie Adams.
Tickets to the evening Dinner Dance are currently available at http://www.moreepicnicraces.com.au

Future Faces of Cotton

IMG_9365

Mingling with ease amongst agricultural heavyweights and innovators, impressive in their school uniforms, Moree Secondary College students attending last week’s Cotton Conference inadvertently piqued the attention of the industry.

With only four students taking the initiative to attend the 2018 Cotton Conference, held on the Gold Coast, their presence signified a refreshing boost of youth, and reassurance that the faces of the future are engaged and willing.

Alliyah Davison and Chris Sim joined St Philomena’s student Jack Montgomery and Armidale’s Tiffany Tarrant.

Moree’s Janelle Montgomery, who organised the group, said they received fabulous feedback throughout the three-day conference, with delegates genuinely thrilled to see high school students taking part in the conference.

“I just thought it would be a great opportunity for the kids to see what the industry is about, meet people and get a broader picture of the career opportunities within cotton,” Janelle explained.

“Everywhere we went people were really interested in where we were from, and how smart the students looked in their uniforms, they represented their schools beautifully.”

With many stopping to chat to the students, Alliyah admits much discussion surrounded the urban/rural divide.

IMG_3281 (1)

 “It was really interesting to see what their concerns were for the future of the cotton industry as more and more kids move away from regional areas and the farm – I think that having us, and many university students there, served as a type of reassurance in a way.”

Originally from Sydney, Alliyah admits agriculture was something she hadn’t quite ‘wrapped her head around’, but having befriended many in the industry since moving to Moree, she was intrigued.

“How could one crop could draw so much attention and spark so much interest nationally, and internationally? I felt like there would be no better way to uncover this than to go to a three-day long convention held purely for the plant itself.”

Chris was inspired to discover more about whether a career path in the cotton would suit, and jumped at the chance to talk face to face with people already in the industry for a deeper understanding of job opportunities.

With the conference consisting of formal seminars, focused masterclasses, inspirational guest speakers and networking opportunities, Alliyah and Chris took full advantage of the opportunity.

When first arriving at the conference there was a constant buzz – people of all ages, gender and from just about everywhere all eager to discover something new – it really set the tone for a great conference,” Chris says.

And while here in Moree we’re used to checked shirts and boots, Alliyah laughs that it was quite the scene watching 2,500 ‘bushies’ descend on the gold coast.

“It’s quite an unusual setting for cotton conference!”

Guest speakers proved popular, with American futurist Thomas Frey’s discussion on a new aged world featuring driverless cars and planes and ‘smart’ technology featured in everyday items – such as chopsticks that measure nutrient content – was particularly fascinating.

“Even though not directly related to cotton, the insights the speakers had about working with new people in different industries was something which I found extremely interesting and practical – especially for someone deciding what career to pursue in the future,” Chris said.

Armed with new information and insight up her sleeve after every session, Alliyah also found the sessions extremely worthwhile.

“Some of the stand out sessions for me were the ‘Paddock Pitches’, which was a shark tank like scenario where up and coming businesses in the cotton industry would pitch their unique ideas to a panel of judges including Steve Baxter himself.”

“There were also a number of WINCOTT (Women in Cotton) events, led by some amazing women working in cotton, that were so welcoming and inspiring.”

IMG_3311

“I learnt a vast array of information, including some bewildering statistics about the industry, including the fact that 51 per cent of people working in cotton actually live in the CBD of Sydney or Melbourne, and that 80 per cent of Melbourne school kids believe that cotton actually comes from sheep,” Alliyah despairs.

“I also found the technological advancements in the cotton industry so fascinating, from robotic tractors and self-filling water tanks – it’s an exciting future to be involved in, and I certainly see opportunity in a marketing career, one that I may not otherwise have considered if not for the conference.”

Chris also admits a much broader awareness of the industry’s potential thanks to the conference.

‘I didn’t grow up on a farm so agriculture was not something at the top of my list. “However after speaking with people from the cotton industry I now realise there are definitely career options I could see myself pursuing.”

“I learnt heaps about cotton specifics like how to test the activity of the microorganisms in your soil, so following a research scientist path really stood out to me, and is something I plan to look into.”

A new era in Ag

IMG_9531
Agriculture is on the cusp of a revolution, with renewed enthusiasm fuelling a transformation.

Precision ag, increased production capabilities, water saving innovations are all reflective of an industry brimming with opportunity.

And now one of Australia’s rural heartlands is calling forth an agricultural army – a vibrant, skilled workforce to lead into the new age.

‘Join the Ag Revolution’ is an initiative of Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association, created to showcase and promote rural industries, and the passionate people behind them.

Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association Executive Officer, Zara Lowien, said the campaign, which launched this week via Facebook, would target social media platforms with a targeted audience of young graduates.

“Australian agriculture has a lot to celebrate – we are a world leader in terms of production, sustainability and quality, and the innovation in the industry is mind blowing.”

She believed much of the advancement in the industry was thanks to the ‘can do’ attitude the industry enjoys.

DSC_0171.JPG

“If there’s one thing rural Australia does well, it’s take initiative – we’ve developed infrastructure, designed new tools and equipment, created export markets and spearheaded water saving innovations, all thanks to our visionary Australian rural community.”

“We want to spread these great messages, while also giving all our industry bodies, and individuals, a platform for a strong, united voice.”

With the project also aimed at tapping into skilled youth, Zara hopes it encourages job seekers to consider rural careers not traditionally associated with agriculture.

“Agriculture is now so diverse and technologically advanced that career options are endless, from robotic engineers to drone analytics, the job opportunities are changing and we need to get that message out.”

In Moree alone she said the local irrigation industry had evolved to include lucrative industries such as horticulture and olives. “Here in the Gwydir we produce 32 percent of NSW cotton crop with nearly 80 percent of it irrigated,” Mrs Lowien said. “We also have the largest pecan orchard producing 90 percent of Australia’s pecans and a growing citrus industry.”

“We want ‘Join the Ag Revolution’ to promote the positive future of agriculture, its value to people in regional communities and our commitment to a sustainable environment across Australia.”

The campaign will also feature a number of engaging video releases, created by renowned film production team, Rabbit Hop Films.

The testimonials revolve around local employees, empowered and excited by the future of ag.

Sascha Estens, Director of Rabbit Hop Films, said there was a genuine enthusiasm in the rural sector that made compelling content.

DSC_0124

“This campaign is also about selling a lifestyle, and with themes based around ‘think outside the city’, we want to celebrate all the fantastic aspects of rural life and grow our communities.”

“Ours is a unique lifestyle and one I think young people are excited to embrace, particularly if they know there are worthwhile career opportunities for them.”

Supported by the NSW Government, Gwydir Valley Irrigator’s Lou Gall said the organisation hoped ‘Join the Ag Revolution’ would become a platform, not only for the Moree region, but the whole of rural and regional Australia.

“Australian agribusinesses is looking for people with new ideas and skills to help revolutionise the industry – this initiative was created to form a collective community of people that are proud to be a part of Australian agriculture.”

She said she was thrilled to be promoting rural Australia, from the coal face, via this high-quality campaign designed entirely by local talent.

“We have the most amazing talent out here in the far corners of the bush, and with so many exciting opportunities on the horizon, we couldn’t be more proud – and it’s time to spread the word!”

For more information see facebook/jointheagrevolution

City girls at home in the country

As published in New England Living magazine, Summer 2018

They sacrificed lucrative corporate careers in the name of love, but two Moree ‘farmer’s wives’ have found you can have your cake and eat it too – all while simultaneously producing the key ingredients to bake it.

IMG_2150

Susannah Pearse and Libby Carter were strangers, both treading Brisbane’s well-worn corporate path during their 20’s, blissfully unaware of how far their worlds would diverge from the concrete comfort of Eagle Street.

For Brisbane raised Susannah, a former Marketing Manager for Coles Hotels Group, country living was a foreign concept.

“I grew up in a very suburban household – we had no rural ties and I’d certainly never been to a working farm, I don’t think I even knew any country people,” she admits.

Libby, however, having grown up in the small north Queensland community of Ayr, knew first-hand the charm of country living and admitted it was always a ‘niggle’ in the back of her mind.

“My father, Bill Dowdle is originally from Gunnedah and was an agronomist in the North West. Ironically, I was in fact born in Moree,” Libby explains.

It was over 17 years ago, at Queensland University of Technology, when Libby first met now husband Andrew Carter, the pair both studying Law and Commerce.

“We were so young, but had a similar background and probably a desired to replicate that for our own future family.”

Although, at the time, having both secured graduate programs in large firms and later, careers in corporate London, Libby admits small town living wasn’t at the forefront of her life trajectory.

“All I remember of those early visits to Moree were the flies and the heat,” she laughs.

“Meanwhile, my family was thrilled I was dating a Moree boy, holding onto the romantic notion I may end up where my parent’s started out – I soon realised there was nothing romantic about rural living!”

IMG_2157

With Andrew’s family based 70km west of Moree at ‘Bungunya’, she said the pendulum swings between feeding sheep in drought to wading through floodwater to rescue bogged stock.

“It really does have to be in your blood, working with stock is not always that pleasant,” she laughs.

This was realised first hand, only weeks out from their wedding.

‘We’d had four years working in London, me in Capital Raising and Andrew in Mergers and Acquisitions, they were big jobs in a pre-GFC market, and while we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, we wanted to move back to the farm to raise a family,”

“We moved home in the October, to be married in November, with a spot of lamb-marking in between.”

Needless to say, a kick in the nose by a lamb just weeks out from her wedding knocked out any international delusions of grandeur, and UK wedding visitors to the farm were left suitifiably ‘mortified’ by the Carter’s new lifestyle choice.  

Susannah’s course to Moree was slightly more whirlwind.

“Like many young unsuspecting Brisbane girls, I met my country boy on Caxton Street. Oscar was working in Brisbane for Ag Force, and, as I’d never met a farmer before I was quite intrigued.

Laughing at her naivety, she admits “It did take me quite a few weeks to established he was from Moree rather than Moura or Morven, it was all quite novel initially.”

Even her first few trips to Moree were fanciful, with Oscar pulling out all the stops to showcase bush living.

“There were barbeques on the Gwydir River, romantic picnics in the paddock, country races and we even went horse riding, a pursuit we have never endeavoured since!”

IMG_5353

And while the flat North West Plains were a stark contrast to the rolling green hills of her imagination, she smiles that ‘it only takes your first sunset to fall in love with the landscape.’

With the couple soon married, the possibility of life on the farm was always a consideration, however the calling came far sooner than expected.

“I was always open to the idea, and then in early 2007 Oscar’s parents’ made the call that we had to be home to sow the next crop in May!”

Oscar and Susannah run a mixed cropping operation in the Pallamallawa district, with three young children Gregory, Eleanor and Josephine.

“I have a huge respect for the lifestyle out here, and for the work, you can see the fruits of your labour, literally, and it feels like a far more noble pursuit than sitting at a city desk, detached from the outside world.”

And while these confident, savvy brunettes’ share a very similar backstory, it’s only recently their paths have crossed, in a fusion the whole community can be thankful for.

Both women work at the Moree Plains Shire Council, and are shaking up the Local Government Sector.

Libby has worked at Council since she first moved to Moree, ‘as the town’s biggest employer I thought it would be the best way to meet people’, while Susannah was employed 12 months ago.

Together they are the genius behind the ‘My Moree’ Campaign, a promotional project using Facebook to share inspirational local stories.

“Like any rural town we have issues, and it’s easy for people to dwell on the negative, so we wanted a vehicle to remind people of all the great reasons we live in Moree,” Susannah explains.

Using local filmmaker Sascha Estens of Rabbit Hop Films, the highly engaging videos share stories from within the community, instilling pride and showcasing the region’s diversity. The campaign also included a local photography competition, professionally displayed at the Moree Plains Shire Council, from which a number of talented photographers were uncovered.

“It was such a positive, successful project for our little town, and the feedback has been phenomenal, we’ve learnt of many people stopping off in Moree for a look thanks to the ‘My Moree’ message,” Susannah beams.

“I, and so many of our local friends, just love living in Moree, it’s a fantastic community and your certainly get back what you put in. I am also thrilled to be raising three little farm children and restoring those traditional city/country ties which had been lost in my own city network,” Susannah smiles.

Both women are a case in point of the benefits of rural living, with Libby admitting that she would never have enjoyed a work/life balance living in the city.

“We now have two delightful young daughters, Isabelle and Grace, and they probably would have been raised by nannies if we continued our city careers, or I would have had to step away from work,” Libby explains.

“It’s so refreshing that here in the bush I can still fulfil a meaningful career, help on the farm and be a mum.”

“One”, she laughs, “who can even commit to canteen duties and committees!”

The potential for future concepts and locally driven initiatives also fills Libby with delight.

“There are so many women with skills in Moree who we’re excited to tap into. Having moved from the private to the public sector, there was a definite shift in culture, but I feel wonderful about potentially mentoring some of the staff and inspiring them to push boundaries and strive for better than ‘good enough’.”

“And I’m excited to see what other locally led initiatives we can develop, because at the end of the day our locals are our best advocates.”

And while both these women have may have married into well-established local families, they have certainly fast established a strength of reputation far beyond the farmers’ they married.

To view the “My Moree’ campaign, simply access the page through Facebook.

An outback beginning

As Published in Graziher Magazine, Spring 2016.

Photography by Louise Gronold

Seven years ago Ele Deane’s world crumbled.

The heady bliss of bringing a newborn baby home shattered by the inconceivable tragedy of losing husband, Mike, in a plane accident.

img_2879.jpg
Ele Dean

At just 30 years of age with their son Trip only six weeks old it’s a devastation that seems incomprehensible, but as Ele reflects, it’s in these profoundly life changing events that one’s true strength is revealed.

“You never quite know what you’re made of until life throws you a curve ball, in the blink of an eye I went from a girl to a woman solely in charge of a new beginning,” Ele reflects.

“I had to pick myself up, put on my boots and ask myself honestly, who am I? Who do I want to be? What do I want for our son?”

Raised on a grazing station south of Hughenden her love of the land and cattle played a key consideration, and the young mother and son bravely relocated to Longreach to continue the family’s grazing business.

“I did discover a lot about myself and my strengths, but most importantly I also realised that I only had one chance to live the fullest life imaginable and that I must really ‘live’ it.”

Bubbling beneath the surface, a deeply engrained love of fashion and visionary business prowess niggled, and when a retail space came up in Longreach’s main street, Ele didn’t hesitate.

“I felt there was a space in the market for high quality designer labels in Longreach, it’s the hub of the west, servicing areas as far as Augathella to Cloncurry and there was a real lack of niche retail fashion available in the region.

Her punt paid off and the aptly named, The Tack Room Boutique, is now one of the region’s premier fashion boutiques.

“In horseracing a ‘Tack Room’ is a room in a stable where bridles, saddles and accessories are kept, it was a fitting name for our stylish collection of racewear, designer clothing, homewares and accessories.”

Her ‘stable’ includes nationally acclaimed brands such as Samantha Wills, Mavi Jeans, Pasduchas, Binnywear and Maison Scotch.

She laughs that ‘The Tack Room’ was always destined to be an odds-on favourite.

“I had a very big vision from the start and knew the business had huge growth potential – I won’t lie, it was a big challenge in those early days juggling family, physically manning the store, ordering and buying but I certainly had the passion and determination to see it through.”

The Tack Room this year celebrated its fourth birthday, Ele’s vision elevated to reality at a meteoric pace.

With her no nonsense, can-do attitude Ele and her team enjoy a reputation as one of the leading retailers in rural Australia and recently reached a pinnacle of her ambitions branching online with The Tack Room Boutique.

Instagram also has proved revolutionary.

“Our front door faces onto the main street of a small country town, but now I feel we have a side door open to the whole world though Instagram and our online store, it is just so exciting.”

With the likes of ‘Getaway’ presenter Catriona Rowntree and jewellery designer Samantha Wills “regramming” Ele’s photos, it not only provides a well-deserved buzz but also a benchmark in the fast paced and competitive retail fashion industry.

“Samantha Wills has long been an inspiration, as a young female her business success is phenomenal and as my own personal style tends towards bohemian luxe, I’m a huge devotee to her jewellery designs.”

Winning the Queensland Rural Regional and Remote Women’s Network Business award in 2014 and collaborating with the Australian Wool Innovation and its Ambassador Catriona Rowntree to create an authentic, local Wool Fashion Show is also fair justification of Ele’s creative talent.

img_2887-e1515746981636.jpg
Ele working from her home office

Amongst The Tack Room Instagram followers, she reveals that the most interaction comes from posting photos of real customers, be it in store or on a shoot.

Ele is staunch in her desire to always use local talent and it’s a decision she believes enhances the personality and appeal of her business.

“People love seeing real women – women they know, women who are local – we have so many talented, gorgeous people out here so I make a very conscious effort at every level of business to support local.”

The use of local photographers and locations on fashion shoots is also a given.

With a keen eye for photography and visual imagery, her surrounding rural landscapes provide a constant source of inspiration.

“I am passionate about advocating rural Australia and making the most out of what we have, so our photoshoots are always set locally in the paddock.

“Rural shoots are not only visually stunning, I believe it gives our brand a point of difference and personality plus this fusion of beautiful elegance in the bush has become our signature.”

“There is a huge middle ground of rural women who want something more upmarket than the stereotyped moleskin and gingham but more practical than the super edgy urban designs.”

“Rural women appreciate a good cut and know the brands they like and trust, our choice of designers certainly depicts this.”

And with a clientele from as far afield as the Northern Territory and Western Australia, this savvy businesswoman never underestimates the power of good, old fashioned country customer service.

img_2889.jpg
Behind the scenes

“We are a small business with a face and an extremely personalized service which is very reassuring for many women, particularly those unfamiliar with online shopping or seeking some one-on-one styling advice.”

“It’s so rewarding to build mutual rapport and trust, particularly for women who live in some of Australia’s most remote corners where access to designers and beautiful pieces can be a challenge.”

“We also get a real buzz when we post orders internationally.”

With the Longreach region, like much of rural Queensland, recently crippled by drought, Ele is grateful to her local clients and hopes that her business has provided slight relief from the challenges of drought.

“Personally I feel the shop has allowed me to take time out from the harsh realities of grazing and I hope when women come in to browse or leave the shop with something beautiful, even something small, they too have enjoyed that experience.”

“The opportunity to meet so many amazing, inspirational women reaching their goals, particularly in times of drought has been so exciting.”

With her business taking off and her frenetic energy and positivity infectious, Ele’s personal life too has also enjoyed a fortunate turnaround.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, romance sparked between Ele and her now fiancé, Phillip Avery, at a cattle pre-testing course.

“We were both literally covered in manure feeling our way around the reproductive organs of about 600 cows but I love our romantic story and wouldn’t change it for the world!” She laughs.

Archer, now two and India, one, followed and the couple will be married in December this year.

Running a beef grazing operation together from their home in Longreach, the sting of drought is still fresh.

“My heart will always belong out there in the paddock with the cattle, my three children and Pip but unfortunately due to the drought our stock have been agisted away for the past couple of years.”

However, with her infectious positivity she is quick to assure that the days when her young family can enjoy musters and cattlework together are just around the corner.

“We’ve had some rain and the children still find the green grass very unusual but I’m sure there is more rain to come and a few good seasons are in front of us.”

An avid believer in the law of attraction, she has a strong sense that the universe is guiding her.

“I truly believe that if you focus and really visualize what you want, that path will open.”

“I love that I can run a grazing business, be a full time mum, and operate a retail fashion business from my home in the country…it ticks all my boxes.”

“My message to other women is that there are beautiful rainbows after the rain – be courageous and trust that your heart knows the way.”

The First Lady of the West

As published in Graziher Magazine, Spring 2016

IT’s often said that a man is only as strong as the woman behind him, but the secret to popular rural politician Mark Coulton’s success steps up firmly beside him.

A wife, mother and former teacher, Warialda’s Robyn Coulton may not be the political face of western NSW, but her contribution is none the less.

IMG_9791

Often dubbed ‘The First Lady of the West’, it’s not however a moniker that sits well with this modest Federal Member for Parkes’ wife.

“I could never do what Mark does and I don’t try to – people often joke that they get two for the price of one but he is certainly the one for the job, not me,” Robyn deflects.

Married for 35 years, it’s obvious the couple is a tight, well-oiled machine, with Robyn a constant companion on the road and in Canberra.

“Politics can be lonely, particularly in an electorate this size; the distances are vast and Mark’s time at home is rare so we made a conscious decision to do this together, otherwise why bother being married,” Robyn explains.

And in an electorate spanning 393,000 square kilometres – from Boggabilla in the north, past Lake Cargelligo in the south, Warialda in the east to Broken Hill in the west, Robyn is much more than just a travel buddy.

“We certainly spend the majority of our time on the road and realized early on that this travel time needn’t go to waste.”

Like a mobile personal assistant, Robyn is unwaivering behind the scenes – checking emails, drafting letters, answering phone calls and of course, sharing the driving.

Shrugging off her contribution with a smile, she concedes Mark would be awake all night catching up if not for their team effort.

“I never planned to do this much but practically it makes sense, it’s time we would otherwise spend apart – although I’m sure there are times when I’m chatting away or fiddling with the radio when he would prefer to be alone!”

IMG_9831

She admits keeping the balance between wife and troubleshooter can be tricky, and resists getting too close to cases.

“I don’t want to be like staff, it’s fraught with danger for me to get too involved, and that of course can be hard to manage when we’re together 24/7.”

A small snapshot of life for Robyn reveals a prior 48 hours spent ‘on the road’ at a meeting in Narrabri, overnight in Dubbo for meetings and media, a function in Warren and skipping a postponed meeting in Trangie before returning home to their property Clamally Park, Warialda at 10.30pm.

It’s a selfless and committed woman who can forsake her own career and home and thrust herself onto the sideline of the Australian political jungle, without an inkling of complaint.

“I’ve seen a number of marriages in parliament not survive. We were in our late 40s when Mark went into politics with our children all but grown, we were flexible enough to approach it as a team.”

“At first it was a big shock, we both had independent careers and here we were flung into a car together travelling huge distances to some of the most isolated corners of the State –  let’s just say it took some adjusting,” she laughs.

Today life is a far cry from her days as the young Sydney teaching graduate posted into the great unknown, and slightly disconcertingly named township of Gravesend, 36 years ago.

“I am the eldest of seven children from a very Sydney based family – as the first to go through University the whole concept of leaving home, let alone to working outside Sydney, was very foreign.”

Envisaging a working adventure based in a coastal town, Robyn admits she was ‘gutted’ when allocated Gravesend.

“Rural Australia really was very unfamiliar and I think the whole family was in shock!”

The scorching January heat had rendered Warialda and neighbouring Gravesend virtual ghost towns, and tears flowed readily during her first week.

“Mum kept saying to me not to give up before I’d even started and once school began things got much easier, as a new teacher I was fully embraced by the community.”

Having committed to three years in the region, Robyn laughed off locals’ frequent suggestions ‘You know what happens to teachers who end up in the country?”.

Just six months later she became a statistic, having met young local farmer Mark Coulton.

Married the following year, Robyn embracing country living with gusto, enjoying a long teaching career in Gravesend and Warialda while Mark expanded their farming operations into the Gravesend and Crooble areas.

The couple has three children, Claire 32, a policy director for the NSW Education Minister, Sally 30, a doctor and Matt 27, a senior water advisor for the Federal Government.

It wasn’t until 2005 with the children away for education and Mark, the inaugural Mayor of the Gwydir Shire and farming full-time, that Robyn retired to focus on the home front.

In 2006 the family sold its farming operation and moved to Warialda, and Mark made his political ambitions known.

“I think I was very naïve to the magnitude of the travel involved and the time spent away from home; I don’t think even Mark realized the enormity of it all.”

A factor she hadn’t anticipated was the reduced opportunity to engage in her own community.

“It’s really hard to remain connected socially to friends here in Warialda and Gravesend when we’re away so often.”

“We have missed deaths and funerals of family friends simply because we are a bit off the radar which is hard.”

IMG_9846

Always the optimist, she reflects on the trade off, that being a small part of so many communities within NSW is a rare privilege.

“I shouldn’t be amazed, but country people are so wonderful and inclusive. Despite the size of the electorate I still feel welcomed as part of the community wherever I go.”

Regardless, the role of ‘politician’s wife’ has taken some adjustment.

“I still get nervous going to events, I’m not social by nature like Mark and while I’ve found it easier than I thought making conversation with strangers, it doesn’t come naturally.”

With offices at Moree, 80km away and Dubbo, 450km away, Clamally Park is hardly central to the job; however as their home and sanctuary, they never entertained the thought of moving.

“Time here now is rare and precious but it’s a wonderful escape from everything, and you just can’t beat a night in your own bed!”

And with both daughters currently planning weddings at the family property, Robyn laughs that mowing and gardening are fast moving up the list of priorities.

“It’s difficult as we’re home perhaps one night a week. Gardening is therapeutic, but it’s hard to fully switch off knowing the dysfunction and challenges that need so much attention.”

You never know how long a career in politics will last so for now Robyn is clearly more than happy to enjoy the ride exploring the West.

And of course retail therapy in outback NSW’s hidden gems such as Ewe Two on Dandaloo in Trangie or enjoying a coffee at The Silly Goat, Broken Hill is also, she laughs, fair compensation.

 

 

 

Live Life Like Sal

Baz and Sal.
Sally and Baz

One of Moree’s most beloved community members needs our help, and needs it fast.
The chances are you know Sally Kilner – mother of Lucy and Matilda, wife of Baz, operator of Kilner’s Livestock and selfless community volunteer – personally.
If it’s not the thick Scottish accent that gives her away, her hearty and infectious roar of a laugh is hard to miss.
Sal has touched all sectors of our community through her involvement in local groups including the SES, Scouts, the St Philomena’s and Moree Primary School community and the Moree Saleyards and it’s time we kindly ask for the community to help give back.
After two huge fights against cancer in recent years, the Kilner family has been devastated by news that Sally’s cancer has returned for a third time.
Just as alarming is the fact that despite private health insurance, most cancer support services only provide financial assistance for initial cancer treatment, and subsequent cancer treatments need up front payment.

IMG_4583
Sal, post surgery, with some of the committee of the livelifelikesal campaign.Enter a caption

IMG_4596 Jude Munro, Sally Glynn and baby Charlotte with Sal Kilner daughter Matilda and friend Georgie Humphries.

Sal’s treatment is not straightforward. It requires a team of 12 different specialists, up to eight scans and tests per day initially and up to $15,000 in anaesthetist fees per surgery. Very little of this cost is covered by Medicare.
For the next two months Baz Kilner, a second-generation Moree transport operator, is set for a baptism of fire as he takes two months out of the truck to care for Matilda and Lucy.
Prime movers will be replaced by Prime Possum and a dolly is about to take on a whole new meaning.
The Kilner Family needs a hand, and in light of this a ‘Live Life Like Sal’ awareness and fundraising committee has been established.
We are currently planning a family fun day event on September 16 and are kindly asking the community to consider any sponsorship, cash or auction item donations, and to come along and support this very worthwhile event.
With her family based all over the world, Moree has become Sally’s family, and it is heartbreaking to see such a vibrant, happy and eternally positive local dealt this next challenge.