From inside the farm gate: Rural women’s stories of thriving and surviving

Living on a farm, and developing anorexia nervosa at age 11, an illness neither correctly diagnosed nor treated until I moved to the city 20 years later, has had great impact on my life. The invisible taunts of shame and stigma followed me everywhere, and alienation from family of origin is an ongoing loss. The experience has made me an ardent and passionate advocate for better mental health services for country people. With pleasure I heartily welcome and support this call-out from behavioral scientist, Alison Kennedy, to rural women in my home State of Victoria:

Alison writes:

A call has gone out to rural farming women in Victoria, Australia, to share their personal story of managing tough times. The women are being invited to share their stories through participation in a digital storytelling workshop.

Examples of tough times endured by rural women include coping with and find a way through and beyond socioeconomic disadvantage, natural disasters and challenges to health or social and emotional well-being.

These often ‘invisible farmers’ will be empowered to work together to validate their experience and create personal stories in a safe, trusted, peer-supported environment—facilitating emotional expression without judgment, building self-confidence, a sense of achievement and encouraging positive social contact.

The resulting stories will be publicly exhibited to rural and urban audiences — giving voice to an unheard group of inspiring Victorian women, promoting communication and encouraging mutual reflection, empathy and understanding.

Workshop dates for From Inside the Farm Gate have been confirmed (January and February 2018 in Hamilton) and applications are invited now from potential participants. An Expression of Interest (EOI) form is available for interested women to complete and send back to us.

More information and the EOI can also be found at:

The three-day workshop is FREE to participating women (valued at $2500 per person) and support can be given to meet the costs of travel and accommodation.

The stories will be shared at the 2018 Women on Farms Gathering, the 2018 Victorian CWA Conference, via social media and on our NCFH website Discussion is continuing with other groups/venues regarding further dissemination of the stories.

For more information contact Alison on: + 61 (03) 5551 8587 or email

About Alison Kennedy PhD, BBSc (Honours), PostGradDipArts (Criminology)

Alison is a Behavioural Scientist who has lived and worked in Victoria’s rural farming community for the past 15 years. Her doctoral research explored the impact that suicide & accidental death have on members of Australian farming families. Alison’s role at the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) since 2010 has included research addressing alcohol misuse in farming communities (Alcohol Intervention Training Program), rural suicide prevention and suicide stigma reduction (The Ripple Effect, and increasing the understanding of rural women’s experience of managing tough times (From Inside the Farm Gate). As a community educator, Alison has worked as part of the ‘Look Over the Farm Gate’ campaign—delivering health and wellbeing workshops to farmers and community members across areas of Victoria experiencing tough times. She also regularly presents to community, health professionals and industry groups on issues of farmer health, well-being and safety.

About June Alexander

I have written nine books about eating disorders since my recovery (my “reconnection with true self”) from anorexia nervosa and other long term mental health challenges in 2006. In 2017, I graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy (Creative Writing). My contribution to the eating disorder field was recognised at the 2016 Academy for Eating Disorders International Conference in San Francisco where I was awarded the Meehan/Hartley Award for Public Service and Advocacy. I am currently a co-chair of the NEDC Steering Committee Evidence of Experience Group, a foundation steering committee member of the annual World Eating Disorders Action Day, and an Advisory Panel member for F.E.A.S.T.

All articles by June Alexander

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