Responsible, caring and passionate, Hayley Dawson grew up on a cattle stud in Western Victoria and now lives on a sheep and cropping property near Glenthompson, Victoria. Through her business The Rural Naturopath, she is committed to helping those in rural and regional Australia demonstrate self-care, using online appointments to help those who can’t see her in person. She says one of the greatest things about being a rural woman is the ability to pursue your dreams and to ‘make your own rules’, and she loves how rural women stick together to support and empower one another. She believes that with rural women often providing behind-the-scenes support for rural men, caring for themselves is good for everyone.
When asked what concerned her about the health and safety of those in rural industries and communities, one of Hayley’s biggest concerns is what she calls ‘farmer fatigue’ – when long hours and high levels of stress contribute to poor decision making or health concerns. She combats this by planning work, prioritising jobs and delegating, as well as slowing down and avoiding rushing wherever possible. She believes the best time to talk about safety is during a long drive and encourages rural women to push for the changes they believe in. Hayley is a firm believer that “your health is your greatest wealth”.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Responsible, passionate and caring.
Tell me something interesting about yourself...
I grew up on a cattle stud in Western Victoria with a real passion for all-things agriculture.
In my later years in high school, I became sick and had to make many lifestyle changes to overcome my health issues. I then took a gap year in Western Australia and worked in the agricultural industry before coming to the realisation that I really wanted to help people improve their health… and that’s what lead me to become a naturopath.
We have more than 20 chickens but can’t get the eggs because I have a massive fear of chooks.
Roasted cauliflower and broccoli would nearly be my favourite foods.
What's one achievement you are most proud of?
What makes you truly happy?
Helping those in rural and remote areas overcome their health issues.
What do you love the most about being a rural woman?
I love that there are so many opportunities for rural women to do what they love. There are no rules, you can follow your passion and really make your dreams come true. The power of technology is bringing my dreams of helping to improve the health of rural Australians to life.
I love that rural women stick together, help each other out and really support and empower each other to achieve greatness.
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 worry a lot about something I call ‘farmer fatigue’. Farmers work very hard, long hours under high levels of stress and that can often result in bad decision-making and rushing to do jobs, which can then cause farm incidents.
Many farmers also struggle with sleep due to their mind being on constant overdrive with the day-to-day stressors that come with running a farm. They then wake up only to work a long day, often doing physical work, and this happens day after day. After a while, that fatigue may turn into a major health issue or result in an incident.
I have seen one fairly minor incident happen on the farm as a result of rushing and being tired – a free lesson and a good reminder to SLOW DOWN.
What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?
One thing we try really hard to do to prevent injury is to take our time and not rush. We talk about the jobs for the next day, write a list, prioritise them and delegate where needed. This takes away some of the stress, provides a plan and doesn’t keep you constantly thinking about what’s on the job list for tomorrow while you’re trying to sleep.
Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done?
I find it’s sometimes a good time to talk about making changes while you’re in the car and travelling somewhere. You might have an hour of just sitting in the car travelling to town, so you may as well be talking about how you can be safer or make better decisions on the farm.
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?
Push for what you believe in. Be the one to make the change.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
My favourite quote: “Your health is your greatest wealth.”