Viewing life on the farm with hope and positivity.

Viewing life on the farm with hope and positivity.
By Liz Bellette-Stubbs

Toad and Amanda Heffernan view life positively on the farm. Toad, a 6th generation dairy farmer from the beautiful Bega Valley in south-eastern New South Wales, has experienced drought, fire and multiple floods, yet views life with hope. He showed this when he married the love of his life, Amanda, in 2019 with their twins, Lenny and Laila, present.


“The sun will always come up tomorrow mate,” he says with a smile.

“Farm life can be stressful when you have to work around the weather or disasters.” Toad says.

Photo Credit Trudi Brown

This attitude, of being able to “roll with the punches” and understand what you can and can’t control in life, is vital to looking after your mental health, particularly when it comes to farming. Sometimes this is easier than others and this is where connecting with one of the Rural Aid counsellors can help. If you notice yourself stuck, are finding it difficult to make decisions or feel like you keep getting knocked by things that would usually roll off your back, a chat with one of our team might be just what you need to clear your head and help you get back on track.

Farm life is special to Toad and Amanda because their children are experiencing a unique lifestyle. “It’s important to give them the experience of playing outside. My children are developing resilience by playing freely on the farm. I don’t worry about a bit of dirt on them,” says Amanda.

The couple know about the importance of being prepared for all eventualities. Toad, a member of his local RFS said, “We need to prepare for hard times. I have signed up with Rural Aid now, before I need them. ”

Amanda reflected on the importance of signing up with Rural Aid, “I knows where I can get support. Staying healthy in mind and body is important to our family.”

Rural Aid offers free counselling by phone, online and face to face on the farm.

Photo Credit Gabrielle Gardner

Toad says, “Don’t be scared to contact them, mate. It will make things easier for you.”

Photo Credit Ethan Ray

Music striking the right chord with stress management

Music striking the right chord with stress management.
By Heidi Gray

Stress, negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions show no mercy and can strike at any time, especially out here in rural communities.

A couple of weeks ago I was found myself in a situation that activated my fight or flight system. This situation itself was to present a talk at a luncheon the following day. While this was no natural disaster, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing. I was driving between Inverell and Glen Innes at the time and for those of you who don’t know that highway, there is very little phone signal. There was no chance to call a friend or colleague to talk about my nervousness regarding my first public speaking appearance since school. Instead, I turned up the radio and heard the unmistakable chorus of “This Kiss” by Faith Hill. for the next 90 seconds I safely did a shoulder dance and sang at the top of my lungs. Afterwards I felt calm, the tingling under my skin had disappeared and my palms had somewhat dried up.

The reason for this story is that we all have a friend living within us called the Vagus Nerve which regulates our parasympathetic nervous system. This will be my first and last scientifically worded sentence – the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for soothing the body and retaining basic function after a stressful, traumatic or emotional body response (fight or flight). The Vagus Nerve runs from the brain to the lower body organs, right past the ear so when we listen to music, the vibrations move down our Vagus Nerve and can provide either a relaxing or positively stimulating effect on the brain and body.

When we listen to a song there is a stimulation effect on our brain which can trigger a memory that we associate with that song. Mine is always “Run to Paradise” by Choirboys. As soon as I hear it I am right back in the arms of my friends singing at the top of our lungs. I literally have goosebumps as I write this just thinking about it. So thank you, Vagus Nerve, I am grateful for you and your ability to help me feel grounded through music and sound when things get overwhelming.

Take a moment to get to know your own Vagus Nerve by thinking about what it likes. What can you learn about yourself based on its reactions in the past?

  • Name : Las Vagus
  • Occupation : Manager of Parasympathetic Nervous System of Heidi
  • Age : 26 pushing 27
  • Hometown : Central Nervous System of Heidi
  • Likes : Aussie rock, folk music, country music, laughter, singing with friends
  • Dislikes : Hearing Heidi’s voice over the music, nails on chalkboards, balloons popping
  • Perfect Date : Rural Aid Banger’s Playlist by the water on a very sunny day, but not hot enough to get sunburnt and potentially moody and tired.

Download Rural Aid’s Bangers Play List

In September we asked for your go-to feel good tunes, and Rural Aid have now put together one almighty playlist that you can tune into on Spotify. Please note Spotify is a free service and you can listen to this playlist without the premium feature. Please keep the recommendations coming in you can email them to Heidi.gray@ruralaid.org.au

The Human Library – From the Wellbeing desk of Marg McKay

From the Wellbeing Desk of Marg Mackay – Rural Aid Counsellor

There are so many stories, untold or unheard, among our farming communities due to natural disasters along with the isolation of living on a farm. It is through the telling of our stories that we build connections and support. It was a reminder about special libraries in Denmark where you can borrow a person instead of a book. It is titled “The Human Library” and the idea is to listen to that person’s story for 30 minutes.

The idea is to enable people to fight against prejudices and to take the time to listen to each other. Each person has a title – “unemployed,” “refugee,” bipolar,” etc, but by listening to another person’s story, you realize how much you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. but instead take the time to walk in another person’s shoes. This project is happening in over 50 countries around the world.

It shows that when we listen to the stories of others, we can both benefit. This seems particularly relevant in our current Covid circumstances. People, including the young are yearning to be heard. “They have so much going on in their life and head, that everyone who is willing to just sit and listen to them is like their saviour” (Lidiya Kesarovska, from Let’s Reach Success).

Over the past two years disasters and Covid have led to the fracturing of these connections. At the same time, concern about mental health and wellbeing have skyrocketed, especially among rural communities. At Rural Aid our aim is to create connections with rural communities where people can have their stories told in a safe and confidential manner on the farm. This is so important during these difficult times of lock downs, home schooling and everyday struggles on the farm. Sharing stories with a rural aid counsellor helps to process and understand what you are experiencing in ways that you may not have thought of and build new supportive connections.

Like the saying by Catherine McAuley, “Never see a need without doing something about it”, Rural Aid has extended its free counselling service to cover all states in Australia due to the need. Please feel free to reach out to our highly trained counsellors to support you or a member of your family on their journey.

Marg McKay is a Rural Aid counsellor in the Wodonga area.