Women show how to be more resourceful

Women show how to be more resourceful

Agribusiness
Master of ceremonies Di Darmody (left), ABC, facilitated the panel discussion with Walkers Hill Vineyard owner Tania Henderson-Bray, Shire of Corrigin chief executive officer Natalie Manton, Curtin University agribusiness student Jordy Medlen and author Fiona Palmer, Pingaring.

Master of ceremonies Di Darmody (left), ABC, facilitated the panel discussion with Walkers Hill Vineyard owner Tania Henderson-Bray, Shire of Corrigin chief executive officer Natalie Manton, Curtin University agribusiness student Jordy Medlen and author Fiona Palmer, Pingaring.

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A panel of women discussed the importance of being resourceful in the country at the Women in Farming Enterprises annual seminar, held recently at Lake Grace.

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A PANEL of women discussed the importance of being resourceful in the country at the Women in Farming Enterprises annual seminar, held recently at Lake Grace.

Facilitated by ABC presenter Di Darmody, four women shared stories of how being resourceful has benefited their professional development.

Fiona Palmer, Pingaring, said a diverse background of living and working in regional WA has led her to become a 'Jill of all trades'.

But she is now best known as an author, with a raft of best seller rural fiction novels under her belt.

Being an author is something Ms Palmer never intentionally set out to become, it just happened.

Given that she said spelling wasn't her strong point, it's a true example of how gaining experience in completely unrelated fields can direct you on a path that suits you in the long-term.

With children at home and running a local small business, Ms Palmer said life was very busy and "I think my escape was creating a story in my mind".

"I didn't have time to read so I created stories which were inspired by where I lived and my community," Ms Palmer said.

"And it just grew and grew until I had to start typing it out.

"And over a few days I ended up with a story and my family and friends encouraged me to try and get it published.

"So I really did just fall into the job, but it has worked perfectly."

Ms Palmer grew up in the region and always knew she wanted to stay there, but finding work that she loved and wanted to do long-term took some time, and can be a challenge for many women in regional areas.

"I knew I didn't want to leave (the area) but to make that work means trying to find jobs to make life sustainable out here.

"And it's not just about finding any job, I wanted a job that I love doing to build my life.

"In saying that, it is daunting, my kids want to come back, especially my daughter, and the way communities are getting smaller and smaller, many parents are not sure if they want their children coming back, but I also know how I felt at that age, so I don't want to stop them either."

Ms Palmer said having a thick skin and a willingness to have a go at anything helped her become resourceful.

Like many people who grow up in the country she loved being involved and learning the hands-on work and being able to overcome her fears.

"It was so rewarding to be able to overcome things I was scared of and accomplish something," Ms Palmer said.

"I think doing that from a young age helped me step outside my comfort zone.

"I hated public speaking, but becoming an author, one of the biggest jobs is public speaking to promote my work.

"I think some of the scariest, toughest things to do are the most rewarding."

Like many university graduates, Natalie Manton found it difficult to gain employment after her degree, but eventually secured a position which she said was a "character-building experience." which taught her more in six months than four years at university.

At just 21 years old, Ms Manton was working as a financial counsellor, advising people on how to manage their money.

"In my first week, I didn't really know what I was doing but knew I had to make it look like I did," Ms Manton said.

Ms Manton has had an extraordinary career progression which has led her to her current role, as chief executive officer at the Shire of Corrigin.

Having done various roles at the Shire before she became the CEO, such as community development officer, finance officer and deputy CEO, Ms Manton had the opportunity to try different positions in local government, which while they gave her freedom, also enabled her to figure out what she was best at.

But when applying for the CEO position, Ms Manton had a lot of doubts.

"There was half of me that was keen and the other half of me was chicken," she said.

"I guess I was pleased that I took a chance, and I would have been happy if I didn't get the job because someone was better than me - that would have been completely fine.

"But I don't think it would have sat well with me if three years later, I looked at the person that got the job and wished I had given it a go."

Having good mentors has been an integral part of Ms Manton's career success and she has sought involvement in mentoring programs to help advance her professional development. She said although mentoring could be awkward, embarrassing and daunting, it gave her a nudge and even a push when she needed it.

"I gave myself the questions, but my mentors helped me with the questions," she said.

"Just find someone that you look up to and admire and aspire to be like and just by talking with them and asking questions, it can be very valuable."

Despite growing up on a sheep and cropping farm at Lake Grace, Jordy Medlen had never considered agriculture as a career path until she had a taste of the city life and realised it wasn't for her.

Now in her final year of her agribusiness degree at Curtin University, Ms Medlen has a strong passion for agriculture.

She said her ag degree was dominated by men but she felt equal to them and not judged on being a woman,

"When I first started, there were 80 students (in my cohort) in total, eight of us being female," Ms Medlen said.

"Now in our final year, there are 35 of us, and all eight women are still there."

Ms Medlen said she has found the "go getter attitude" of other women in the industry inspiring and if her recent history is anything to go by, she seems to have a bit of that herself.

Rather than waiting for opportunities to present themselves to her and accept them, Ms Medlen has sought them herself.

This suggests Ms Medlen is not just one to wait around until an opportunity comes along but make them happen herself.

With just a few months of her degree left to go, the agriculture industry is about to get a young 'go getter' in its midst.

"I think the role of women in farming is changing because I think the perception is changing and women working in the industry has become more accepted," she said.

"With technology becoming a big part of agriculture, I can see a lot of women taking up those roles and farmers in general becoming tech savvier.

"So I would like to go into that industry and take on those opportunities."

Owning and operating WA's most inland vineyard is likely to present its own array of challenges.

Add some children and the determination to operate the business on their own, Tania Henderson-Bray and her husband Jared sure know a thing or two about resourcefulness.

With the desire to buy more land and move a little outside of Lake Grace, the couple decided the best way for them to achieve that was by purchasing the local vineyard, Walkers Hill.

Ms Henderson-Bray said the decision was inspired by her husband's longing to move back and live on the land.

"As the saying goes, you can take the boy out of the bush, but you can't take the bush out of the boy," Ms Henderson-Bray said.

"There have certainly been challenges along the way, particularly water and the weather.

"But we can't do anything about the weather, so we can't worry about it, we just have to keep moving."

With just the couple running the business, Ms Henderson-Bray said finding the balance between family and work was also difficult, but family always came first.

"Family is always a big priority for us and if we have to take the kids somewhere or something happens, we just have to close during the day," she said.

Ms Henderson-Bray said seeing the community come together through her business is the best part about her work.

"I'm very supportive about community events and about our town growing and keeping services in town, so to see people coming together to enjoy themselves is wonderful," she said.

"They pretty much forget about everything else that is happening outside of the event.

"Everyone is happy and it allows them to forget about their problems for a bit and that gives us the will to keep going."

Ms Henderson-Bray had some practical advice for others who were starting out in a rural business - "don't give up".

"There will be challenge after challenge after challenge - there is no quick and easy ride through anything," she said.

"It's important to ask questions and don't be afraid if you don't understand something that people in local government or planning and development organisations tell you, make sure you are clear on what they are talking about."

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