Originally from a small family farm in the South of England, Kelly Barnes has since forged a life in the Southern Grampians town of Dunkeld, Victoria. Seldom without the company of her two kelpies, Kelly is an active member of the Dunkeld and District Country Women’s Association and is passionate about the health, safety and well-being of those in the rural communities. Kelly recently completed tertiary education in agricultural health, medicine and sustainable communities, and showcased her remarkable story of resilience via the National Centre for Farmer Health’s Digital Storytelling Workshops. To view Kelly’s story, please click here.

When asked what concerned Kelly about the work health and safety of those in rural industries, Kelly highlighted the mental health of those consistently working long hours and seldom getting away from the farm. She also identified the various risks associated with hand-feeding, and the necessity to “always use a safety vaccinator when using oil-based vaccines” so as to reduce the likelihood of needle-stick injuries. Kelly’s advice to other rural women is simple – back yourself, be persistent and don’t underestimate your ability to enable life-saving change. She also acknowledged the power in one person’s capacity to affect a large scale cultural shift by setting a good example for others.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Loving, careful and thoughtful.

Tell me something interesting about yourself...

I grew up on a small family farm in the South of England and I have been living in Dunkeld, Victoria since 2011. 

I have two kelpies who I love to bits and I am an active member of the recently revived Dunkeld and District Country Women’s Association! 

I like to go paddle-boarding in my spare time and also enjoy listening to audiobooks.

What's one achievement you are most proud of?

I am most proud of being strong enough to follow my dreams and make Australia home.  

What makes you truly happy?

I am truly happy when I am with great friends and family, relaxing and chatting.  

What do you love the most about being a rural woman?

I love the open space and fresh air of the country and I admire the strength and resilience of rural communities. 

Rural women are faced with many challenges, but they also have great opportunities to run their own businesses and really make a difference to those around them. Rural women rally together in times of need and really show the true definition of it taking a village to raise a family.

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.

Oh so many times!!

Working long hours in dusty sheep yards in direct sunlight has become much more of a concern to me as I have gotten older. Constantly working long hours and weekends and not taking time out to get off the farm and unwind can affect mental wellbeing. 

Running alongside a moving ute and trail feeder, pulling the slide to feed out grain – or leaving the ute in low gear and hopping on the back to throw out hay – is a recipe for disaster! 

What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?

Using a feeder wagon with an electric-operated slide and/or a trailed hay feeder eliminates the risk of getting run over. 

Always use a safety vaccinator when using oil based vaccines greatly reduces the risk of needle stick injuries. 

Slowing down and taking a few seconds to stop and think – accidents often happen when people are rushing. 

"Don't doubt your ability to affect change, and be persistent! Women are much, much more cautious and risk aware so are in a great position to identify risks. We are also extremely strong and determined, and when we get together to support each other we can really make things happen!"

Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done? 

During the quiet times, e.g. after harvest. 

When working for someone else or on a different property that is not familiar. 

When working for someone else when their safety protocol is more strict or more strongly enforced.

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?

Don’t doubt your ability to affect change, and be persistent! Women are much, more cautious and risk aware so are in a great position to identify risks. We are also extremely strong and determined, and when we get together to support each other we can really make things happen!

Rural people are naturally inquisitive and will always be keeping an eye on what the neighbour is doing. Start small and encourage others to follow. 

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Put your health and wellbeing first and don’t take your body and mind for granted. 

Share your story!

Everybody knows someone who’s been hurt at work in rural industries.

No matter what role you fill, where you come from or how long you’ve lived in a rural or regional area, we are ALL responsible for looking out for the health, safety and wellbeing of ourselves, and of others.

Thirty years ago no-one wore seatbelts. Today we do it without even thinking about it.

Join the conversation today.

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