THERE are parts of Gippsland that look set for a decent season but also plenty of locations where farmers are teetering on the edge of disaster.
And what Warren Davies, the so-called ‘Unbreakable Farmer’ wants you to know, is you’re not on your own.
And in a keynote speech at the South Gippsland Dairy Expo last week he told his story of resilience, that he freely admits, he may not have been telling, so low did he go after drought, flood and family troubles almost made it impossible for him to go on.
“I came here to tell my story in the hope that it might spark a conversation about mental health and the challenges faced by farmers, all farmers,” said Warren.
“I must stress straight up that I’m not a social worker, I’m not a doctor or a psychologist; I’m just here to tell my story.”
And he took the crowd of people in the
Korumburra Showgrounds Complex, at the
Reids-Fonterra breakfast on a journey from dairy farmer in central Victoria to property manager, to real estate agent, on-farm consultant and finally inspirational speaker, through to where his life is today.
“I want to talk about resilience, persistence and determination. The name Unbreakable Farmer, and I’ve registered it came about when someone introduced me as that when I was giving one of these speeches for the first time but the reality is I’m not the unbreakable farmer,” he said, going on to say just how broken he was by a series of misfortunes.
He also noted that his struggles with mental health went right back to his school days when as a family they moved from the city to the country and he was bullied after being asked in class about something he hadn’t been taught at the other schools.
It ultimately resulted in him dropping out of school at a young age. Sport was his savior at that stage, playing a good standard of football, making friends and being picked in regional teams.
But, after going into business with his parents and partner, if didn’t take into account that mother nature was his other partner, being hit by floods which ran knee deep through the house in October, killing lush pastures just as the cows were hitting peak production… oh yes and his new wife was nine months pregnant at the time.
A major family break-up followed next and then drought not long after the young couple purchased the family farm. They went broke, he belted his best mate in a footy match, costing him his friendship group, and he spiraled down in an unhealthy mixture of anger, shame and guilt until his physical health also started to deteriorate.
He learned some important lesssons about communication, staying connected with your community (collective wisdom, support and keeping you accountable) and seeking some professional help and taking it seriously.
“What is resilience? Being able to bounce back from adversity, like a bungy cord but you’ve got to look after the cord.”
He also said that to help stop rural suicide, he felt he needed to be prepared to tell his story, in an effort to break the cycle.
He listed many places to get help including Virtual Psychologist.
If you are feeling stressed or depressed, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and they can put you in touch with appropriate services.