Originally from Melbourne, Melissa is a self-professed ‘tree changer’. Now based near Kyneton in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, this kind, courageous and determined rural woman is happiest when spending time with her children. Melissa was the Victorian 2018 AgriFutures Rural Woman of the Year, and is the curator of This Farm Needs A Farmer; an initiative which seeks to connect other tree changers with farmers willing to lend a hand. 

When asked what concerned Melissa about the health and safety of those in rural industries and communities, Melissa reflected on her and her husband’s initial lack of knowledge and experience on how to manage and maintain a rural property. As such, Melissa is an avid believer in the importance of speaking up, communicating well and in asking for help, especially when it comes to preventing yourself or someone else from getting hurt.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Courageous, determined and kind.

What's one achievement you are most proud of?

Professionally – creating This Farm Needs A Farmer.

What makes you truly happy?

My children.

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

The community I am a part of.

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.

When we first moved to our rural property and all the unknowns of repairing and managing the property. The learning curve was steep and we quickly found we had so much to learn.

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

Talk to each other – if you’re not sure what to do or how to go about it, find a trusted knowledge source to get the job done. Communication – voicing my concerns and addressing them together.

"Talk to each other - and if you're not sure what to do or how to go about it, find a trusted knowledge source to get the job done."

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

The slower pace of winter means more planning time is available.

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?

Lead by example.

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Everyone knows someone who could be making smarter, safer and healthier choices.

No matter what role you play, where you live or what you do, we all have a responsibility to look out for the health, safety and wellbeing of ourselves and those around us.  

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

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