Are you sick of hearing we need to be more resilient? It is certainly a word that has been used a lot over the last few years as we have struggled through a pandemic, financial pressures, environmental disasters and more. And whilst many of us are feeling it, take a moment to consider those in rural and remote areas, especially those working the land.
What pressures are impacting those on the land? These are the people who are intergeneration farmers, producers who must think long term rather than just now. These are the people who can’t just walk away from one job into another, it is a life commitment as much as a job. These are the people at the forefront of having to deal with the practical implications of changes to legislation, changes to import and export pressures, environmental changes, Mining implications and FIFO and labour shortages. Given all this, it isn’t surprising to hear that our farmers are struggling, in fact it has been suggested that the Great Southern is a suicide hotspot.
We keep hearing that we need to build our resilience, but when faced with a constant onslaught of problems it is a little like a pressure cooker. We can handle a range of pressures or problems – but at some point, the scales get pushed too far. For farmer and those in rural and remote areas, perhaps the problem isn’t their resilience, but rather the expectation that they just keep on getting on?
What happens, is that eventually people reach a point of crisis, and they move from resilience to survival. This has implications on how well we deal with stress and anxiety and our ability to make complex decisions. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we start to make poor decisions, lash out, get stuck in a ‘blame’ or negative zone or drawn into conflict. We can’t think strategically – taking on critical information, as we are busy surviving. For our farmers who must think longer term, this is tough.
Then we, the outsiders, expect them to keep producing, to recruit a workforce, to create economical edges and address succession planning issues. Amongst all the future thinking about land care, environment, weed and pest control, animal and harvest planning. It just doesn’t seem fair.
So perhaps it is time we stop talking about resilience, because in these circumstances it doesn’t seem helpful. These people, famers, families, and communities are often the most resilient of the lot of us. What they are, is exhausted, and in some case lacking hope. What they need is real practical support.
Perhaps instead of trying to boost someone and give them a pep talk, what we need to do is just listen. Just saying ‘hey mate, I know things have been super tough. I can’t imagine what it’s been like – but I am here if you want to grab a cuppa”. This is about parking our judgement, and just giving people a moment. Honestly, it can be powerful in ways you don’t expect.
If you find yourself feeling this way, reach out to someone or one of the support services. Connecting to community and leaning into your sense of belonging helps to soften the isolation. You are not alone, and you are not failing because you are feeling this way.
We can all help by shopping at the local shops, farmers markets and small grocery stores who get their supplies direct from the farms. We can share our support for policies and practices that hold meaning for those on the ground as much as us up here in the city.
Surviving isn’t always about your resilience, sometimes it’s about the practical difference we can each make. It is about listening to the needs on the ground. Pushing the burden of change and guilt onto people, saying they aren’t resilient enough, isn’t always fair or right. Sometimes they are plenty resilient, but they have just reached their line in the sand. When we blame ‘resilience’ we push responsibility onto others instead of questioning what we can also do to contribute to solutions. So next time you want to suggest someone isn’t resilient enough, pause the judgement and instead listen to their needs.