Born in Adelaide, South Australia Cathie first experienced rural life as a teacher at Curramulka Primary School. Shortly followed by a stint at the Mintabie Area School, Cathie has since spent the last 27 years on a farm just outside Melrose, near the iconic Flinders Ranges. Cathie is not only a teacher, but a life-long student; a graduate of a Masters of Business Administration (with more study on the horizon!), a mother, a wife and a farmer.
When asked what concerned Cathie about the work health and safety of those in rural industries, Cathie highlighted the inability to delineate between what is ‘work’ versus what is ‘home’. Cathie believes that education is the cornerstone for identifying and managing risk, and that by spending more time working ‘on’ your business – rather than always working within it – business owners are better able to identify opportunities for improvement.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Friendly, caring and loyal.
What's one achievement you are most proud of?
Completing my Masters in Business Administration.
What makes you truly happy?
Spending time with my family.
What do you love the most about being a rural woman?
Meeting other inspiring rural women!
Tell me about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing on the farm, boat or in some other aspect of rural life.
I cannot recall any specific incidents, however the family farm is not only our work environment, but also the family home; so keeping the family and our workers safe is our number one priority. From machinery to chemicals, electrical equipment to fuel, dams etc – there are always work health and safety risks the need to be managed in our own backyard!
What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?
Education is the key! Ensuring everyone is aware of the potential risks and feeling confident to report any hazards. This helps to minimise the work health and safety risks on our property.
Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done?
I believe if everyone takes ownership of work health and safety on our property and ensures work health and safety issues are regularly discussed during meetings and over the dinner table, it starts to become ingrained in our everyday lives.
If you could give any advice to another rural woman about work health and safety in rural industries, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?
It’s never too late to start changing the culture! In my experience, most farming families are flat out working ‘in’ their business and taking care of the immediate tasks. Working ‘on’ your business helps to identify what areas we can improve on.
It can be hard to change ‘the way things have always been done’, but by implementing just one small change at a time, it will help to change the culture of our work health and safety practices for future generations.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Work health and safety is really just common sense – documented! No one has the perfect system, so just do whatever works for you and your rural business!