Connection Through Digital Technology with Carmel and Adam Wooding

Transcript from the podcast “Speak Out Loud: Stories of Strength from the Southern Downs”

SEASON 2: EPISODE 10

GUEST: Carmel and Adam Wooding, Empower Digital

PUBLISHED: 28rd March 2022

Carmel and Adam Wooding

[00:00:00] Carmel: I think technology is just a tool to facilitate that connection that we as humans want, you know. We need each other. And I think technology is just a way to, to make that happen. Like we can see in online marketplaces like the Buy From The Bush, people want to support each other. And technology gives us a platform to make that happen so that people from the city can support bushfire recovery or flood recovery or drought, by purchasing handmade item from people that really need their purchases.

[00:00:25] Kathryn: Carmel and Adam Wooding join me on the podcast today to chat about how digital technology can help you to thrive by connecting you with your friends, family and community, as well as how digital technology is helping rural, regional and remote businesses across Australia thrive by connecting them with their customers and their teams. Carmel and Adam established their own business, Empower Digital, during the drought and the bush fires of 2019 in Warwick, Queensland. They also had plans to travel around Australia with their business when the pandemic changed what was possible. Their story reflects how important it is to have goals in your personal and your work or business life. But most importantly, it highlights the value of being flexible in how you work towards your goals. So the themes you’ll hear in this episode encourage you to connect and to be flexible in life and business.

Carmel and Adam, welcome to the podcast. Can you talk to our listeners about what your connection is with the Southern Downs?

[00:01:48] Carmel: Sure. Well, thank you so much for having us Kathryn. So my name’s Carmel Wooding and, um, I actually am a born and bred local Warwick girl, you know, I was raised here, went to school here, moved away after uni and moved to the Gold Coast and met Adam. And, uh, you know, the call of the Southern Downs was too strong. And after our second child was born, back we came.

[00:02:09] Adam: I’d love to first of all, acknowledge the Githabul People, um, the, the Traditional Owners of the land, that we are meeting on today. As Carmel said, I was born on the Gold Coast and before moving out here had absolutely no experience of living in the country at all. I’m a real beach boy. And so after I met Carmel and started coming and visiting Warwick, it was definitely a new experience for me coming out and visiting a country town and so as Carmel said, after our second child was born, we decided to come back and spend some time in Warwick while Carmel was on maternity leave and we had very, very strict plans that we were only gonna come and visit for 12 months. And we were definitely going to be going back to the Gold Coast. We were really sure about that, but I think, um, after I think about two weeks, I think it was, I remember Carmel and I sitting out here where we are now and just thinking, This is just so amazing, such an amazing lifestyle out here. Why would we want to go back to the crowded city? So we decided to stay in Warwick and I’ve just really learned so much and really love living out here now. And I think that for us there’s just so many opportunities and um, it’s just such a amazing way of life for us and our kids now as well. So, I don’t know if I can myself a local yet, but I, I definitely feel a lot more connected to the to this area now.

[00:03:34] Kathryn: And Carmel and Adam in 2019, you had a vision to empower small business owners to develop a stronger digital presence. And at that time, the Southern Downs Region was experiencing pretty severe drought and bushfires. And I recall Carmel, I was collaborating with you to offer some rural and regional small business owners, some education and support that they were needing at that time. What inspired you to start your business at that time? And this was pre COVID as well.

[00:04:05] Carmel: Sure. So, I’m actually an educator, I’m a teacher librarian by trade. And so, education has always really been a passion of mine. Adam has always done a lot in the digital space. So, the businesses that he’s worked for before and particularly in the, in the creation of his father’s business, Adam has always done really amazing things with small businesses in terms of getting them online, having an online store and great digital presence. So I think for us, it was kind of natural that both our passions came together. We decided we didn’t ever want to be gatekeepers and do things for people because we believe so much in empowering people and believe so much that people have the capacity to kind of be the master of their own future. They may just need help with the knowledge and skills to get there.

[00:04:51] Adam: Yeah I think that there wasn’t any conscious decision to start at that particular time, for any reason. Other than that we felt like the time was right for us to start our own thing and have our own business for our family. I had spent a lot of years um, working for my mum and dad’s business which was fantastic. They, they are so generous and, so giving and they always made us feel like we were part of that business, but we, we just felt like it was time for us to go out on our own and, and have our own thing for our family. So that’s the reason that we started at around that time.

[00:05:23] Carmel: And to be honest, Kathryn I think, um, you know, you did have a part to play in that because the opportunity came at that time for those local businesses to get support. And I think that was a real moment for Adam and I to go, Well, the need is out there for somebody to be doing this work. And I guess we were in a place where we were able to offer that to people as well.

[00:05:41] Kathryn: I also recall that at that time you had some plans to travel across Australia and that you were hoping to spend 2020 doing quite a bit of travelling. What impact did the COVID 19 pandemic have on your plans?

[00:05:56] Adam: You’re exactly right. We couldn’t have chosen a worse year to embark on a trip around Australia. No one could have foreseen what that year was going to bring but in terms of the impact for us, so we had planned to continue with our business while we were travelling. I remember that when the pandemic hit, we had about four or five projects lined up that we were planning on working on while we were travelling and everything, all those businesses, pulled out of those projects. So, at which we completely understand because it was such a turbulent time and no one knew what was going to happen. And um, we completely understand that those businesses just needed to put those projects on hold. But it was really stressful for us because all of our work just fell through and we had rented our house out so we didn’t have anywhere to come back to. So we were travelling but we had lost all of our projects. There was a couple of weeks there where it was, I found it really stressful, I think Carmel was handled it a bit better than I did, but, um, it was a really stressful time when that all started. But we fortunately made some changes to our business and started to offer some webinars and um, all kinds of different things like that. And really quickly, our business went in a little bit of a different direction and, and we were very fortunate to make new partnerships with other organisations and start focusing on helping businesses who needed to transition to online sales really quickly to make that transition. Then found a whole new market and are our business has gone into a totally different direction. That’s what we’re focusing on now.

[00:07:26] Carmel: Yeah, so, um, the plan for 2020 was to travel around Australia in a caravan with three children. Our business plan at that point was to run workshops in small regional towns and do a lot of in-person work to be honest because Adam and I are both very passionate about relationships, and very passionate about meeting people where they’re at. So when COVID hit, um, we did return to Warwick. It was about March. So we’d been on the road for about two months. And I think just the uncertainty, you really want to be close to home when, when you’re faced with that level of uncertainty. As Adam mentioned, we did, you know, have to rethink things, Well, can we make that personal connection through online meetings? And of course, we now know that we’re in the era of Zoom and Google Meet and all of those kinds of platforms that make that connection really easy. So, you know, we stayed in Warwick we got our business back on track. We kind of felt a bit more confident in the world and then we were really lucky. We were able to take off again about August, and managed to get five months of caravaning and working on the road in, um, where we got to go through the Northern Territory, did the entire coast of South Australia and the Victorian coast to Geelong before we had to come home and settle back into reality.

[00:08:31] Kathryn: So lots of adjustment and adaptation of the business but also of your own personal and family plans for travel.

[00:08:39] Carmel: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And our family dynamic and all of those kinds of expectations as well.

[00:08:46] Kathryn: Were there any surprising benefits for yourself, for your family or for your business through all of that?

[00:08:52] Carmel: Well, as Adam mentioned, COVID actually had quite a silver lining for our business because we found very quickly that what we were able to offer people was really beneficial and value adding to those businesses. People needed to get their businesses online because people just weren’t out to purchase things in bricks and mortar stores. So the services that we offered were really in demand. So COVID actually, even though our business did go in a completely different direction, it’s actually a really solid direction for us. And, really a way of working that we’re really passionate about and something that we, we actually really love. And in terms of our family, I think it taught us all to be a lot more flexible, taught us to be a bit more resilient I guess. You’ve got to see the silver lining in things, you know. COVID’s been a really hard time for lots and lots of people. And I don’t ever want to downplay that at all, but I think for us and for our family and for our business, we’ve actually come through COVID feeling confident that, that our business has grown and we’ve been able to help other businesses as well.

[00:09:48] Kathryn: Connection to community and to each other is one of the key characteristics of a healthy and a resilient community. And we’re seeing that from the research that’s coming out of the bushfire recovery studies and so forth. Throughout the pandemic businesses and individuals have really searched for solutions to this problem of isolation and feeling disconnected and the issue of distance. And yet people who have been living and working in rural areas and regional communities are really used to dealing with these issues of distance and connection. How is technology, because that’s the industry that you’re working in, how is technology helping communities, including Aboriginal owned businesses to connect with each other and to thrive?

[00:10:38] Adam: I think that technology is playing a huge part in all those things that you mentioned. So I think that there’s so many different aspects that technology is helping in. So I think first of all, the ability for business in those communities to sell their products to either domestic um Australia-wide market or international market. So there’s amazing platforms that make it so easy for those businesses in, in those rural and um remote communities to be able to reach a global market, to be able to create a following and create an awareness of their business and what they have to offer and to be able to then sell their, products and then bring income into their local communities. So I think that technology is playing a huge part in businesses, in um regional and, um, and remote areas. And I think also the ability for people in those communities to communicate and connect to other communities or, um, other relatives or people that are in different areas by being able to have virtual meetings which I think are so powerful. And with our business, we have formed relationships with people in communities all over Australia which is just incredible and and we would definitely not be able to do that without those digital tools.

[00:11:55] Carmel: Yeah, I agree. And I think, just a couple of things on that, Kathryn. So firstly, you know, I think technology is just a tool to facilitate that connection that we as humans want, you know. We need each other. And I think technology is just a way to, to make that happen. Like we can see in online marketplaces like the Buy From The Bush, people want to support each other. And technology gives us a platform to make that happen so that people from the city can support bushfire recovery or flood recovery or drought, by purchasing handmade item from people that really need their purchases, not just buying them online from Amazon or whatever. The other thing I think that is important to note is while technology is amazing, we need to be aware that we’re not all at the same level of access. When we were travelling around Australia in our caravan, it became really apparent to us. Even just, you know, we had our mobile phones and, and all of that kind of, technology. However, there were places that we went that technology just wasn’t available. There wasn’t an internet connection. We couldn’t stay there. We heard a really interesting point as we were travelling. There is an indigenous community, kind of on the Northern Territory South Australian border who had no, no internet, they had no phone towers and it wasn’t until the police needed to set up the COVID checkpoints between the states that they went Oh, well, there’s no internet here. We better get some phone towers put in. So that facilitated that community being able to access technology. So I think we do need to remember that we are really blessed. Even though we’re in regional Queensland, there’s lots of places in Australia that don’t have the access to use this technology to have that connection that we have.

[00:13:29] Kathryn: So it sounds like what you’re saying is these technologies can be wonderful tools for us to connect. Accessibility can be an issue for some people. Is there anything else that you would like to share with us around digital technology and how that can help or perhaps where it’s not helping individuals to connect with each other or for communities and businesses to connect with each other?

[00:13:53] Carmel: I think for me, one of the things that really has become apparent in our business is we do have quite a number of people and look a higher number of people in regional and rural areas who just think technology is not for me. I’m too old. I’m too old school. I didn’t have the opportunity to use it in the past. It’s too hard. And one of the most delightful things about our business is seeing somebody who says in our first meeting, Oh look I’m not tech savvy, go on to run a successful e-commerce store or to have a successful presence on social media. And I just really encourage everybody that there is no such thing as I’m not tech savvy. Everything in life is a learning and technology is no different. And I think there’s just so many potential benefits, particularly for business owners, to just give it a go, dip your toe itn the water. Like you can’t break it. It’ll be fine.

[00:14:45] Kathryn: Because that is a big fear, isn’t it? That if I touch something or press that button, it’s going to break.

[00:14:50] Carmel: That’s exactly right.

[00:14:52] Adam: We’re just so fortunate to have been part of so many incredible stories and so many incredible businesses. So we’re very fortunate to work with an amazing, amazing, organisation that’s based up in East Arnhem Land. And, it’s just this incredible community that has a, has a natural spring that’s on their land. And they are just doing really innovative things. So that they’re bottling their water and selling that online Australia-wide to generate some income for their community so that they can employ teachers and build more facilities. So that’s been an incredible project that we’ve been part of. And so many other businesses around Australia in, in really rural and remote places that have used technology to transform their lives and transform their communities. So, I think technology is a really positive thing and, and has huge potential for such a big impact on rural and remote communities in Australia.

[00:15:50] Carmel: And Kathryn you mentioned about, you know, were there any negative things that I see about technology. So of course I’m an educator. I’m in the education field. And of course, I think it’s just always important for no matter who you are, no matter what age to just maintain that information literacy and remember that everything you see on Facebook, isn’t the truth. So, you know, social media and particularly with our young people, you know, there’s a lot of comparing yourself to others. There’s a lot of, What am I doing wrong in my life because their life looks so good. And it’s in the business field as well, not just in individual life. But I think again, let’s just, let’s just remember that everyone has their bad days, they just don’t post about those days.

[00:16:26] Adam: Yeah I think that you just remind me of another negative aspect as well is, which is really, really bad at the moment is people who are trying to take over other people’s social media accounts and that sort of stuff by gaining access because people have, maybe really poor passwords or not very good security measures in place. So I think we’ve come across a couple of things very recently where, because people haven’t set up very good passwords or are maybe using the same password for multiple accounts, that sort of stuff, that either their bank accounts or their social media accounts or business systems have been broken into. And so that’s caused huge problems for those businesses. So I think, that’s just another area that we come across fairly often that I think business owners need to really be making sure that they have really good passwords and really good security measures in place.

[00:17:17] Kathryn: Thanks Adam. I was going to ask do you have some suggestions on how we can manage some of those challenges with technology? Because just like when COVID came and you had to adjust and adapt and flex your plans and find solutions to those problems that you were having, we can also look at some of these other challenges we have in life like the downside of technology. How can we see our way around that? How can we flex or adapt or adjust what we’re doing to reduce the challenge that we have in that area?

[00:17:50] Adam: Yeah, I think just some practical tools that people can use. So I think that first of all businesses need to just make sure that they are keeping all of their software up to date, making sure that they’re using the latest versions of all the different apps and programs that they use. I think that it’s extremely important that businesses use a password manager to manage all their passwords. I know that can be a little bit of a process to get that set up but it’s definitely worth the time and effort to do that. It can make a very big difference. And by using a password manager, make sure that you are using a different password on every different account that you have. And I think turning on two-step authentication wherever possible is also really worthwhile to do that too. And I think just being really careful about, um, about what links that you click on and who you share sensitive information with as well is really important.

[00:18:51] Kathryn: Adam, you mentioned an organisation that you’d worked with in East Arnhem Land, helping that organisation to develop their online presence and that there were so many benefits for that organisation in being able to do that. Reflecting on that process of being involved with some of those more remote communities, how does that feel to know that you’re part of facilitating their connection with the wider world?

[00:19:20] Carmel: Kathryn that was actually a community in East Arnhem Land. And they created this business called Knowledge Water. Their community is steeped in education, but they have a transient population. So their Homeland school is always under threat of being closed. So they kind of just went, Well, what can we do? How can we change this outcome for our children? But they didn’t want their children going to school in the nearest town four hours away because they were worried about the things that kids could get up to. They really wanted them on Country. And so yes, they just developed this plan to bottle in a sustainable way, their natural spring water and sell that and use the profits from that to then, um, long-term they hope to bottle it onsite. At present it’s not. But you know, they are educating teachers from their community to become educators in the community at their local Homeland school. And think to be part of that really did show us the power of technology because these guys are really working for their own self-determination, the ability to control their own future. Um, and so many communities unfortunately do feel powerless when their young ones have to move away to get work because there is nothing on Country for them to do. And I think really for us, the ability to be involved in that project was super affirming. It was never just a job for us, you know, we’re still connected to that organisation. We plan to work with them in an ongoing capacity. We rejoice at their successes. It’s just, um, you know, I think that’s how we work. We really do get involved with the businesses because we care about their outcomes.

[00:20:46] Kathryn: That’s really beautiful Carmel. And I’m thinking too, that the business that you’ve set up for yourselves here in a regional part of Queensland, because of technology, you’re actually able to reach out to some of these more remote communities who also are now becoming more connected and being able to be part of their world, part of their community, but from a distance.

[00:21:11] Adam: Definitely. It still blows us away every day that we’re able to run our business in a regional town and connect with all these incredible organisations and businesses and communities all around Australia and do that from our home office. And we wouldn’t be able to do that without technology. And think that it was a a really good time for us to start our business. COVID has made it more normal for remote meetings to be just a part of everyday life. And I think that that has actually been a real, a really positive thing for our business because now, we can just continue to make those connections with remote businesses using technology.

[00:21:49] Kathryn: And whilst you’re building your own thriving business, supporting other businesses and other organisations and communities to thrive as well. Adam and Carmel, what’s the best way for people to contact you?

[00:22:02] Carmel: I think probably by our website. Our online presence is www.empowerdigital.com.au but we’re also on Facebook and LinkedIn, Instagram, all of the socials.

[00:22:13] Kathryn: Thanks for listening to the Speak Out Loud Stories of Strength podcast with me, Kathryn Walton. I hope this episode inspires you to get involved and to get connected with your community. You can find the transcript and any links mentioned in this episode, in the show notes and please share the podcast with your friends.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Series Two of this podcast has been jointly funded under the Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.

Decision-making Tools with Helen Lewis

Transcript from the podcast “Speak Out Loud: Stories of Strength from the Southern Downs”

SEASON 2: EPISODE 8

GUEST: Helen Lewis, Picot’s Farm

PUBLISHED: 21st March 2022

Helen Lewis, Picot's Farm
[00:00:00] Helen: If we focus on what we can change ourselves, what we can control and then what we can influence, that’s a far better use of my energy than worrying about the area of concern, which might be out of my control like rainfall. I can’t make it rain. I can’t make it not flood. I can’t do all those things, but I can make a contribution on my place so I’m ready for that. I can either get my business ready for that. I can get my land ready for that as best as I can. It’s never going to be perfect, but at least I feel I’ve, we’ve done as much as we possibly can with what we’ve got and we’ve made some early decisions.

[00:00:47] Kathryn: Today’s guest is Helen Lewis who shares some valuable insights and some tools to help you manage tough times. Helen is a primary producer from Picot’s Farm near Warwick on the Southern Downs, and she has a keen interest in educating communities about chosen change and unchosen change as well as decision-making for your farm, your business, your family, or your personal life that’s based on your values and your longer term vision. Helen also shares some information about the Outback Way Project which highlights the benefits of connections within and between communities and the power of collaboration.

Welcome to the podcast, Helen. Can you share with our listeners what your connection is with the Southern Downs?

[00:01:40] Helen: Well, thank you. It’s pleasure to be here, Kathryn really uh, It’s it’s wonderful the series you’re putting together. So thank you for including me in that. My connection with the Southern Downs probably starts when I was about nine months old. We moved from Brisbane to Warwick. And interestingly, my parents had purchased Hillside, which was Archdeacon Glennie’s old home sandstone home on top of the hill, in Glennie Heights. And so I grew up in this lovely old rambling sandstone home, and, uh, which had a deep connection with the area. The rectory of St. Mark’s church, is actually the kitchen from Hillside. And so I had 30 wonderful years living and you know, enjoying being at Hillside, in amongst being at boarding school and university and everything, but it was always home, which was lovely. So my connection has probably been in and out I guess of the Southern Downs with education and work. But eventually came home in 2003 and have been here since.

[00:02:40] Kathryn: The Southern Downs Region has been on a recovery journey following drought and then bush fires in 2019 and 2020. And more recently, the region has actually experienced some pretty significant rain and flooding. So we’ve had it all as well as the pandemic. What are some of the challenges that people who are working on the land have needed to navigate throughout these times?

[00:03:04] Helen: It has been a period of a roller coaster of events, hasn’t it? And there’s a lot of emotional impact that that has on people, uh, as well as physical, and obviously in landscape as well. The challenges are clear I mean, we know that drought is, is low rainfall and it’s just you know landscape dries out. We know the damage fires do. And we also know the impact of floods. But I guess, you know, it’s interesting that bush fires and floods are deemed to be a natural disaster because they are, you know, there there’s a start and finish. They come and they go, quite quickly, probably within days. A drought though lasts for however long it lasts and we don’t know how long that’s going to be. And so it’s the unending. It’s the continuous dry time. That’s the unnerving bit in drought. These events are actually unchosen and they create unchosen change for us. So there’s the process of unchosen change and where there’s steps and stages that we go through, regardless of how big the unchosen change is or how small and those steps include denial as the first one. So we put our head in the sand, it’s not happening, we don’t want a bar of it. We’ll just put our head in the sand. It’ll go away. Soon enough we understand that that’s not gonna satisfy with it’s still here. It’s still in our face. So then we start blaming. We start actually blaming others for it. And government’s not doing enough, or, you know, what happened, or whose fault is it? So we want to blame someone. Then we actually probably come to the acceptance. Okay. It’s here. Righto. Acceptance is just acknowledging that Right, we have a problem we’ve got dry times or, we’ve, you know, it’s happened. Um, and then from acceptance, if we can move through acceptance we get to resolution, which is actually, Okay what am I going to do about that. I better do something. I better make a decision about what I’m going to do differently, or how am I going to manage this? And then there’s exploration. Once we’ve hit that resolution of, Okay, I’ve got to do something, it’s up to me, we then start exploring, which is where we see all our options and ideas. And we actually then have chosen change. We move into the chosen change process. We’ve chosen change. There’s a relief because we’ve made a decision to do something and then there’s that excitement of, Okay, well, how can I make that work? And where can I put it? And let’s make this happen, but then we actually hit self-doubt. Sometimes we get caught on self doubt. And that’s where we can get stuck. And that’s where it’s really important to have supportive community around you because you need that support of the like-minded, your own tribe to actually help you and encourage you to keep on the path of of the change you’ve chosen. And then, from that you then go into resolution again. The resolution is I’m okay and I can keep going. And then you probably make another chosen change, you know, you kind of move through them. So it’s a really important that people understand those, but with all these events that have happened, natural, like, you know, with drought and bush fires and floods, it is the unchosen change and being aware of blaming. We can keep blaming for a very long time. And that’s not helpful for people to get stuck in because it’s negative and it’s very tiring. And also there’s no answers because it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. So with that, I guess it’s comes then to the need for being part of local groups like the Landcare Group or farmer groups. We have a lovely farmer group of five other families. We meet every three months to work on our businesses. We discuss things. We, we challenge each other. We ask questions of each other. The kids have a lovely time together. Like it’s just a really great support. And during the dry times we certainly lent on each other heavily to discuss what was going well and what was good and how things happen. We just really tried to shift our focus into what was working but then also acknowledge what wasn’t, then you’ve got this group of people who can help you with ideas on, or what do you do to fix that or make it move, you know, how can we help each other? So Yeah, look, the challenges are endless. It’s about the commercial viability in a changing climate, really. I mean, if we don’t actually improve our landscape function, we’re going to have more droughts and more floods, and they’re going to be more severe. So we do have a responsibility to improve our landscape function. I mean, I was so excited that the recent flood we had a few months ago. There was silt on our flat so we have water coming through from Greymare Creek and it dropped a load of silt um on the first paddock. By the time it was crossing the road, it was only like maybe five to 10 centimeters deep. It was crystal clear. I could see the bitumen through it. But that’s exciting. That’s exciting. I know that our landscape is filtering that water. We’re getting the bonus of someone else’s silt I guess, but at the same time, we are sending that water off our place crystal clear. And it was completely saturated, but it wasn’t running fast. It was running slow, and it was clear.

[00:08:21] Kathryn: So some land management in action there.

[00:08:23] Helen: Absolutely. That’s testament to the work that we’ve been putting in with our planned grazing and really improving our ability for soil and our grass to filter water. It is our responsibility as farmers to actually get our landscape ready for rain and ready for drought. I want my landscape respond, whether it’s five mills or 50 mills. I want us to have enough ground cover so that five mils is useful and so is 50. We need to have landscapes that can function with very little rain plus also be able to absorb and hold lots of rain at once. That’s a great landscape. That’s a big compost bin and, you know, in the soil, which is what we’re aiming for. And if we’ve got that, then we’re holding the water in our soil and that’s the best place to hold moisture. It brings everything alive. It enables the microbes, the fungus, the bacterias everything to function. It’s about understanding that.

[00:09:17] Kathryn: I’m really interested in the unchosen / chosen framework that you spoke about Helen. It sounds like when you can accept that there are certain things you can’t control around the weather and those events like bush fires and floods, there’s only so much we can control around that, but you’re making that resolution and you’re exploring your options, even when things are going fine, when things aren’t tough, when those natural disasters aren’t occurring. And that’s a really good preparation for those times when drought might, you know, the dry times might come or, or the flood might come. And so holding that soil together and the water management, the land management, all the things there.

[00:10:06] Helen: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s also about really being very clear about your circle of influence and circle of concern. In the drought, Ian and I really talk about what can we do now? What are we a hundred percent in control of? Well, we’re in a hundred percent in control of our landscape. What’s going on here, whether we have animals or not. We can choose, we’ve got lots of choices to make lots of decisions to make, and we are a hundred percent in control of what we’re choosing to do. And when we actually really focus on ourselves and what we can control, we then help to break down what we can control and then that helps what we can influence. So our circle of influence grows and then also diminishes our circle of concern. So we could have lots of concerns about lots of things, but if we, uh, if we focus on what we can change ourselves, what we can control and then what we can influence, that’s a far better use of my energy than worrying about the area of concern, which might be out of my control like rainfall. I can’t make it rain. I can’t make it not flood. I can’t do all those things, but I can make a contribution on my place so I’m ready for that. I can either get my business ready for that. I can get my land ready for that as best as I can. It’s never going to be perfect, but at least I feel I’ve, we’ve done as much as we possibly can with what we’ve got and we’ve made some early decisions. But also we’ve sat down and said, Righto, what’s our drought trigger point? So in this good season, if we hadn’t have had the rain in, by the end of February that we’ve had this year, we would have started to de-stock. Now we’ve had three good seasons in a row. We have so much feed. We know we’ve got this year, we’re sorted, we know we’ve got standing hay for the winter. We know we’ve got enough feed to carry our animals all the way through and we could probably take on more animals. But then again, if we don’t have rain by January, February next year, because March is too late for us to grow anything, so we need to have the summer rain by the end of January, early, mid February, for us to know that we’ve then got enough growth time for us to have winter feed, we then start to reduce numbers. It’s just early decisions. And so we completely destocked in the drought and we had no stock here for 12 months. And that was, I mean, that was an excellent decision because we actually then were able to do other things in the drought. We weren’t doing the day to day feeding or anything. And how do you, how long does that go on for? You don’t know the end point. And so that whole notion of hanging onto something and continually putting money into it without knowing the end point, we don’t have that risk profile. We don’t, some people do and that’s that’s okay. But we don’t. So it’s about us knowing our risk level. We make that early decision and we destock, but saying that, so we had brown ground cover everywhere on this place. It wasn’t very thick at all, but when it rained, four weeks, we had knee-high grass. We were back in business four weeks.

[00:13:19] Kathryn: It was really amazing wasn’t it to see it just come up like that.

[00:13:23] Helen: Absolutely. So it’s about understanding what decisions am I going to make that will help me go into drought later. It looks like a depressing landscape, but then at the same time, it’s got its own function. And I was just thinking what what’s nature doing now, when I look out the window, when it’s dry and you go, what’s going on under there, something’s going on under there, like, and we had soil carbon for the microbes to eat. They were eating the pantry stores, which is our soil carbon. Then they can be brought back to life with rain, you know, and that’s, that’s extraordinary, you know, nature is so forgiving and just always happening. So I feel that it’s early decisions. It’s about understanding your own trigger points. So you need to make a plan and you need to stick to it. And understand how long are you prepared to feed Whereabouts are you going to do that on your property? Are you going to do it the same place every time? Why not move it around and actually put some animal impact around the place and then when it does recover, you’ll actually get some recovery. It won’t be another scalded place a spot for another 10 years, you know? So people move their feeder around into different paddocks, even onto bare patches and give that a bit of joojup with all the hoof action and every day just move the feeder. Then you’re actually preparing your soil for rain. And what are you going to feed them? Where are you going to get it from? How much is it going to cost you? So what are you doing? Why are you doing it? It’s all connected back to our values and how we want to live our life.

[00:14:45] Kathryn: And I wanted to circle back to something you mentioned a little while ago, Helen, about creating a network of farmers around you. And that it’s, it’s a really great way to support each other, to share information, to share ideas and inspiration as well about how to manage whatever happens to be going on at that time. And I just wanted to check in with you about that risk there is when we get together with groups of people. And I know particularly when the landscape was very dry and it was very brown, often the conversation would be around the negative. So how do you, within a network like that or in a, circle, a social circle, keep things positive and constructive?

[00:15:40] Helen: And I think that’s where we focus on what we can do and so if people are whingeing about feeding and it’s taking its toll, sell your animals. Get rid of them while you still can and while they’re worth something like, it’s actually about why do we make a rod for our own back? No one’s making you keep your animals. They are a saleable asset. Choose. Otherwise don’t complain. It’s actually about, it’s about the choices we make. We’ve got to actually be comfortable with those choices. If you know, if you’re comfortable feeding, great, well, that’s going to be a good story for you, isn’t it? But if it’s not, well, maybe there’s something wrong with that decision. Maybe you actually selling is a better decision for you because you are pushing against your own risk. You are pushing against your own values. And it’s in the face of your values and how you want to live your life and so sell. Or find agistment somewhere. So I feel that really being very, honest with yourself when you start hearing yourself talking in those groups, when you are in the middle of a drought, what are you whingeing about? What can you do about it again, circle of control, influence, concern? What can you do about that? Is it in your power to do something about that?

[00:16:58] Kathryn: That’s probably a really good segue into exploring this values piece a little bit more Helen, which you also mentioned a couple of minutes ago. And one of the roles that you have apart from farming is educating people around values-based decision-making and holistic management. Could you share with our listeners a little bit more about those approaches and how they might be able to help people in tough times and with some of these tough decisions like destocking, keeping stock, feeding stock?

[00:17:31] Helen: That’s right. So I guess with our values-based decision-making, if we’re clear about how we want to live our life and what really matters to us, and then also talk about the attributes. When our land is at its best, when we’re at our best, when our community is at its best, what are the attributes? If people write those down, that becomes their life context, Uh, which allows them to use that as a reference point. And if we keep updating that as we grow and evolve as people, and you know, we try and do ours once a year and just to check in to make sure it’s still current, that means if we’re using that reference piece for our decision-making and in our decision-making, we’re just checking that every decision we make is good for us as people, it’s good for our environment and it’s good for our finances and wider economy. So we’re trying to actually ensure that we’ve thought about the impact that we’re having, the ripple effect that every decision makes, because you know, we don’t make decisions in isolation. It’s like a pebble in the pond. It causes a ripple. And it goes off farm too. You know, we need to be really conscious that it ripples into the community with the choices we make. Our decision making is, is based on our context of our values and what we want for the future. It’s very grounding. So it’s not Joe Bloggs down the road and what their opinion is. It’s not all the noise from the media. It’s not all the pamphlets from the trade show or the ag show that you go to and you don’t know what to choose and you, so you just choose everything. It allows us a sifting process of all that noise and all those pamphlets and those opinions and we can actually check it check to see if it actually fits our values. And if it does great, if it doesn’t it’s out. And so we make that decision, which is very good for early decision-making. It means that we’re making decisions that are true to ourselves. We’re backing ourselves and it allows us to then, create those sorts of trigger points and policies, I guess, for our farm and our management so that we can be as proactive as possible.

[00:19:36] Kathryn: Would you be able to give us an example of values decision-making in action?

[00:19:41] Helen: I guess one of them was in relation to the feeding. Our values include things like self-sufficient, we want to make a difference. We want to have a really nurturing environment. We also want to be having a highly functional landscape, you know, we want to be proactive. We want to be positive, all these things. And if we run the ideas of feeding or destocking, towards our values, then destocking came up trumps because it actually enabled us to maintain togetherness. We’re looking after our land because we’ve actually destocked, for a short period of time, really in the scheme of things and also just the financial one was a big one because we went Well, we don’t know how long for, and we’re just not prepared to spend that money feeding animals. If we can grow more grass, and if we can maintain that grass because of management, then we can go into drought later and we can come out sooner, even if it means destocking in the meantime. And our next plan for our drought will be probably some agistment somewhere because we now are part of a process where we’re putting our animals through to to other producers who are value adding and selling boxed beef into Brisbane. We’re supplying them with clean meat, into their clean supply chain, which absolutely ticks our boxes, compared to selling it onto the open market. Just knowing that we are being responsible, you know, when we are regenerative ag, and we are trying to produce a clean product and our nutrient integrity is intact, then it’s our responsibility to make sure that that nutrient integrity ends up, being maintained through the whole supply chain um, and that really sits well with us because that gives our product complete integrity. It also is completely in line with our values and that those are the decisions that we’ve moved, that we’ve checked towards our decision-making as well. So yeah, it gives us focus.

[00:21:30] Kathryn: And it sounds like that’s a way of enabling your values to catch one of those ripples that goes out to the wider community so that at the other end, the consumer is enjoying the benefits of those values that you started the process with.

[00:21:49] Helen: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. That’s really important that we maintain that transparency and the value of the product all the way through for the consumer.

[00:21:57] Kathryn: So many wonderful ideas that you’ve shared with us already, Helen, but I’m wondering if you could choose one top tip to give somebody for managing tough times, whether it’s weather conditions or something else who’s living off the land, what would that be?

[00:22:15] Helen: It is decision-making. I mean, when we need to also understand the tools and the toolbox. So sorry. The one tip might be very big one tip. But yeah, look, the understanding how nature functions. So, planning grazing, moving animals. If we’re set stocking, we’re allowing animals, just to graze everywhere, anytime, for as long as they like. We’re just eating species by species, plant by plant. Like it’s not going to be helpful in a dry time. It’s just going to cause more drought. If you’re planning your grazing and allowing adequate recovery of your grasses, you will have feed for longer. There’s just so many people who’ve had success with that. And mobbing animals up putting them together and then moving them around your paddocks. And then not coming back to that first paddock till it’s fully recovered in a summer will mean that you are growing grass for winter. And that means that you can keep in business. So understanding how to manage your animals and even in cropping, explore the cover cropping. Explore direct drilling into to land. Why plough when you’re all you’re doing is you’re breaking the, microbes, you’re breaking up the soil profile and, all the things that you’re relying on to grow a crop, you’re actually destroying with the plough and then all your top soil blows away. It’s not about jumping off the cliff and going all of the farm all at once to do the transition into some cover cropping or some direct drilling into pasture. Just try it and try it for three years, but just keep persevering because yeah, this stuff, is you transitioning out from something that’s very input heavy, which costs a lot of money to grow, to try to transition to something that’s going to cost you far less. It’s all very well to be best in show and the best yield, but how much does it cost? And that’s a big point. And so I just feel that people need to be really aware of the costs and input costs are only propping up what should already be in the soil and the soil should be functioning for us. And the more diversity we have, the greater the resilience of the plant we’re trying to grow because of all the predator, prey relationship in play. In the toolbox we have technology, time and living organisms. Technology. We love technology because it’s quick, it’s a gadget, it’s a how to and humans are linear. We love it. But we have to keep in mind with technology, if it’s destroying soil structure, if it’s breaking down soil biology, if it’s baring ground and if it’s not solving the root cause of the problem, then why are we using it? Because that’s taking us backwards. Living organisms are all the natural biology. It’s the compost teas. it’s the microbes that people put on. It’s all this living inputs. That’s where we’re better off because in the technology bucket, in our toolbox, that’s the chemical fertilizer. It’s the chemical fungicide. It’s the chemical pesticides that’s, that’s all technology cause it’s manmade. If they really feel the need to put something on, they can transition to natural inputs which are living organisms. And in the middle is time, which is actually about understanding the time on the land for grazing, the time for plants to recover, obviously we have times for crops to grow. We have time for harvest. Time is something that we manage. It’s a tool. We can use the tool of time for healing, and growing and harvesting and eating and, and enjoying. So it’s uh, actually a really important one cause time in nature is huge. And droughts are really a time for nature to reset like frost. So it’s an event in nature. And so we need to acknowledge that as well.

[00:26:08] Kathryn: That toolbox sounds like it would be useful for every individual human being as well.

[00:26:15] Helen: So absolutely. It’s a universal toolbox that we need to just check in with and say, well, okay, what tool am I choosing to use here? And technology’s everywhere, but, um, we just need to be mindful about the application of that technology. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

[00:26:31] Kathryn: The other part of technology, which I’m thinking about as you’re speaking, Helen, is how we access information. And there are some wonderful opportunities these days to educate ourselves, to access information and education using technology.

[00:26:48] Helen: And that’s where technology comes into its own. And we’re doing farming in a completely different era now with technology. And if we can use it well, there’s Ted talks, there’s Google, there’s Zoom calls you know, you can go to a course every day on Zoom, you know, like there’s just so much out there. But even local land care field days are enormously beneficial and they’re tactile, they’re physical, they’re people, you know, face to face.

[00:27:11] Kathryn: I’d like to change focus for a few minutes, Helen, and have a bit of a chat about one of your other roles that you have in our wider community, even beyond the Southern Downs, which is with the Outback Way. Could you tell us a little bit about your work with the Outback Way and how that might be impacting communities that it’s serving directly, but also indirectly and more broadly across Australia.

[00:27:37] Helen: Sure thanks. So I’m the General Manager for the Outback Highway Development Council and we for the last 20 years have been, well, I think it’s 25 years now have been uh, advocating and lobbying for sealing the road between Laverton in Western Australia through to Winton in Queensland. So it’s a transnational link connecting the east to the west, um, right through past Uluru. And we have secured over $400 million and road is being sealed now. With the final use of that 400 million, we’ll only have 900 kilometers to seal and we’re hoping to have this done by 27, 28. That’s the plan and what it does for the community. So we have 13 indigenous communities along this route that rely on the Outback Way roads. And it’s connected by four or five different roads. So we’ve got the Kennedy Development Road. We’ve got the Donohue Highway. We’ve got the Plenty Highway. And then the Stuart Highway around Alice Springs right down to Yulara. Then it hits onto the Docker River or Tjukaruru Road. And then we hit the Great Central Road in Western Australia. So they’re the roads that make up the Outback Way. And um, along those roads, we’ve got very cultural communities right the way across. And the impact for the communities is it sounds Irish, but if you can leave a place, you will stay. And that really is magnified when we’re talking about health and educational service delivery. When teachers and nurses and doctors can leave a place, um, 24 7, regardless of weather, regardless of any time day or night. they will stay. longer. And so as a result of that, then the trust, continuity of service delivery and health delivery improves and is consistent which means that there is far better health outcomes and far better education outcomes. Um, and that trust is really, really important particularly indigenous communities. And so the sealing of the road is more than just, let’s just put some tar down and like make it a tourism route. That’s lovely. And that’s obviously going to be fantastic for Australia and you will actually be able to zigzag the nation, which is great. And so gray nomads won’t have to go around in circles anymore. Um, they’ll actually be able to come across. And so looking forward to that, that’s, that’s awesome. But really importantly, even just the basket of goods. So all the national basket of goods, we worked it out that in Warburton, which is in the Western deserts, WA their basket of goods is 136% more expensive and it’s tinned food. It’s not fresh food. It’s tinned and frozen food. If we can seal the road where it means fresh fruit and veggies and fresh meat can reach this central Australia and these isolated communities, again, their health and their wellbeing will be enhanced significantly with just simply better quality food. And so that in itself, you know, really does change things for these communities. In addition to that, there’s obviously employment opportunities and with tourists, there’s a huge amount of opportunity for indigenous tourism activities, but also just local remote communities. Boulia is just buzzing at the moment. They’ve just redone their Min Min Centre Encounter. And so they’re just loving the connection the Outback Way gives them to a whole new set of tourists from central Australia. And clearly on a bigger notion the Outback Way will really enable enormous amounts of growth in mining sector in Western Australia. And it’s the mines that are mining the minerals and resources we want for our gadgets. So these are the mines that have got the rural resources, the copper, all these things that are critical for taking us forward into the battery technology, uh, and then also, then we’ve got the national freight story. You know, just recently the uh, Stuart Highway was closed. The railway was closed. The Adelaide Darwin railway was closed. The Nullarbor railway was closed. And so if we had a third route across Australia, we’ve got then a freight option as well. Another freight option which is really critical. Last year the Nullarbor fires closed the Nullarbor for a while. And again, if we’d had the sealed route across Australia through the Outback Way, again we’d be able to transport product east-west. There’s a lot of horticulture in Central Australia. There’s a lot of cattle, and improved animal welfare, improved savings for freight companies and trucking and pastoralists and actually making viability more realistic out there and adding value to their marketing options as well. And then of course, the tourism as well. The Outback Highway Development Council is put together with, um, the five shires across the route. So Winton, Boulia, Alice Springs, Ngaanyatjarraku and Laverton. Uh, and this project is then multilayered. So we work with Indigenous Land Councils. We work with the state and territory governments, the federal governments, we’ve got three tiers of government involved. We’ve got Indigenous community, we’ve got tourism, we’ve got freight, we’ve got logistics and we’ve got mining companies all involved in our organisation. We’ve you know, 40 companies and organisations that we’re collaborating with. And the value of this project but it came from the ground up. And I was out there 2017 with a media famille. And when they knew that we were on the Outback Way, we got hugs all around. They just can’t wait. The Indigenous communities are crying out for this infrastructure because it means people will stop. They’ll spend some money. They can have enterprises, they can actually make some money. They can make some economic development choices and it does comes back to this decision-making, you know, when you’ve only got one choice of toothpaste on the shelf to choose from, you’re not even making a decision. And so we’ve got this situation where we’ve got these people in these communities who aren’t even empowered to choose what food they eat, what toothpaste they use. I mean, for someone in urban Australia, well, that’s we just take it for granted. So how do you empower yourself if you’re not even making that basic day-to-day decision there’s no choice. And I believe the sealed road will enable that choice because there will then be the option for other products to come in and they’ll suddenly be able to choose between two toothpastes, two different brands, maybe five different brands. That’s exciting because it suddenly means empowerment. That starts the whole notion of actually being able to be in control of their own life.

[00:34:11] Kathryn: There are some really terrific themes that are coming out of the Outback Way that you’ve described Helen. Choices on all different levels right from being able to choose something different at the supermarket. Perhaps even a choice of supermarkets but also a choice of roads for tourists who might want to do some travel around Australia. So those logistical choices as well for transport. So if there is a problem with one access road there may be this other option as well.

[00:34:46] Helen: Yep. And I guess, the big thing too is the project is really about, collaboration and it’s come from the grassroots. It’s come from the shires and the ground up, and there’s no one out there that doesn’t want this to happen. And that’s really unique for such a big scale national project. It’s the only one of its kind that doesn’t have contention attached to it.

[00:35:09] Kathryn: So you’re seeing this aspect of collaboration, lots of opportunity for connection as well in the example of the Outback Way and bringing that back to our local Southern Downs Region, it brings to mind the Food Map. Could you tell us a little bit about the Food Map because that’s very much about connection and collaboration and choice and empowerment as well.

[00:35:34] Helen: So in 2019, Sarah Duden and I completed the Food Map. And that’s basically a, um, a list of all the producers in the region that are direct marketing to consumers, so the consumer can actually buy direct from the farmer and also any cafes that are actually selling and putting local food on their menus and or value adding local foods. So, you know, Jamworks and their berries and then there’s variety of producers that are growing produce in the Southern Downs, processing it in the Southern Downs, and then it’s available for sale. So locals can buy local very easily when they get hold of the Food Map and then start buying direct from farmers.

[00:36:18] Kathryn: That’s terrific. We’ve covered lots and lots of topics on our episode today, Helen. Is there anything else that you’d like to share about holistic management or values-based decision-making or anything else that maybe we have covered, but we’ve missed or something that we’ve missed altogether?

[00:36:37] Helen: Just a closing thought and that is I think if we adopt the headspace that we’re either winning or learning, I think that’s really powerful. It’s either working for us, or what am I learning from this? If we’re not comfortable, if it’s not going so well, okay, what am I learning? What can I learn from this? And what can I do differently? It’s a really positive space to be in. And also it’s a really important because with that learning notion, it means that we have to be monitoring. We need to be checking in and we need to know what we want, to know that we’re not going so well. What, what do we need to find or seek out to help us take that next step. It really puts us in a much more proactive state of mind.

[00:37:24] Kathryn: Winning or learning. Sounds like a really fabulous motto for us to take on board and if people are wanting to learn a little bit more about this values-based decision-making Helen, how can they find out about that?

[00:37:39] Helen: Sure so my values-based decision-making contact is Decision Design Hub, so they can go to our, my website and then there’s a personal button and people can actually do the online course. And for agriculture, there’s an agricultural button, and then boards and organisations can also click through and I’m looking to help organisations and councils and community groups, actually uh, put together values-based decision-making for their own organisations, because it’s very good at collaborating. The Outback Way uses holistic decision-making within our decision-making process as well and it’s clearly helping us with our collaboration. And then for what we’re doing on farm, Picot’s Farm, and they can source our beef and also the workshops we host, through picotsfarm dot com dot au and Picot’s is P I C O T S farm. We get pickets, but it’s Picot’s from Harry Picot, the fellow who, uh, who built the buildings and did some work down here. We very happy to talk to anyone who’s interested in any of those things. And if they’re interested in the Outback Way and want to go on a trip it’s outbackway dot org dot AU.

[00:38:48] Kathryn: Thanks for listening to the Speak Out Loud Stories of Strength podcast with me, Kathryn Walton. I hope this episode inspires you to get involved and to get connected with your community. You can find the transcript and any links mentioned in this episode, in the show notes and please share the podcast with your friends.

We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Series Two of this podcast has been jointly funded under the Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.

Returning Home with Peter Gill

Transcript from the podcast “Speak Out Loud: Stories of Strength from the Southern Downs”

SEASON 2: EPISODE 6

GUEST: Peter Gill

PUBLISHED: 10th March 2022

bushfire regrowth
[00:00:00] Peter: The morning after the bushfire,

I’d snuck home by six o’clock

Without much time to prepare myself

For the return home was a shock.

I dodged around the roadblocks

To get back up to my place.

My house alone there in the bush

Where fire swept through a pace.

My carport and my shed as well

Were such a welcome sight.

Though I had prepared myself I might have lost them through the night.

I swung around the corner

And pulled up in the drive

I saw right there, the roof intact

So my house, it did survive.

[00:00:33] Kathryn: My guest on the podcast today is Peter Gill. Peter lives on the Granite Belt in the Southern Downs Region where he’s surrounded by bush land that’s a habitat to a diverse range of vegetation and wildlife, including many birds which you might hear as you listen to this episode. For Peter, writing poetry is a catalyst for self-expression and creativity. He shares one of his poems with us today that conveys the relief and the despair of returning home after the bush fire in September 2019. Peter also shares with us the vital importance of preparation and being proactive, including asking for help of any kind, if you need it.

Peter, can you tell us what’s your connection with the Southern Downs?

[00:01:27] Peter: Well, I’ve been here about 11 years, um, just over and to be honest, I picked Stanthorpe off the map because I wanted to be near family in Brisbane and Ballina but I wanted to be in a nice, natural environment that had its own couple of industries, be it tourism and agriculture. So I figured that there was going to be a healthy economy and a healthy community, and also wanted to be able to buy property with a significant amount of land, my idea of big land, so that I could care for that and be part of it, but still be near a community that had the basics to get by shopping the usual things. If you need to go to the big smoke you do so, but otherwise you can avoid it. So, um, I just thought that Stanthorpe looks like an attractive town, be it Quart Pot Creek and the National Parks around it. Um, and yeah, the agricultural industry and the tourism industry being a significant part of how Stanthorpe can exist. And I was looking forward to becoming part of that and have done so.

[00:02:27] Kathryn: And a few years ago, 2019 and 2020, we had a number of fires come through the region and late last year, so late 2021 we had a community photography exhibition called Hope and Growth. And that was an opportunity for people in the community to submit artwork, particularly photos. And you submitted some poetry to that. And that was a great time to reflect on those bush fires and the recovery journey that the community had been on. Peter, would you like to share one of your poems with us?

[00:03:07] Peter: Sure I’d be more than happy to do that. I did write seven or eight poems, most of them focused on the bushfire. Um, some of it was focused on thanking particular, um, aspects of the, either the firefighting process or the recovery process being the community recovery hub. And I wrote a couple about more personal note of living in the forest, coming home to a house in the forest after the fire had been through and things like that. So, yeah, there was a bit of variety, that I expressed in that, and they were usually tapped out onto my phone at some ridiculous hour in the morning when I couldn’t sleep properly, because it was a bit on the stressful side, as you can imagine. So yeah, I wrote a few, but I think we’re going down the avenue of a personal aspect one that’s written partly as a, an emotional returning home but also includes a bit of an educational aspect about how to manage your own bush setting if you live amongst the bush, or you have some native bush land nearby, um, it’s got a little bit of educational stuff about how to interact with your environment so that you can live in harmony with it rather than being scared of it and how to prepare yourself for bushfire basically. It touches on a couple of different levels, but we’re going for the returning home one just simply called Returning Home and here it is.

The morning after the bushfire,

I’d snuck home by six o’clock

Without much time to prepare myself

For the return home was a shock.

I dodged around the roadblocks

To get back up to my place.

My house alone there in the bush

Where fire swept through a pace.

My carport and my shed as well

Were such a welcome sight.

Though I had prepared myself I might have lost them through the night.

I swung around the corner

And pulled up in the drive

I saw right there, the roof intact

So my house, it did survive.

Though as I looked around me

With smoke still in the air,

The brief sense of relief had passed

And turned into despair.

Most of my sheds and caravans

And several water tanks,

The fire on its ruthless charge

Had plowed on through their ranks.

My fire break had done its job

Almost right across the hill,

And yet it crept around the sides

And burnt most things down still.

Where I had done cool fuel burns

The forest fared really well.

Where the high fuel loads were the fire

Turned it all to blackened hell.

So the lesson here is not to rest

Until your fire prep is done.

And your bushfire plan is personalised,

Not just some generic one.

You’ve got to make really sure

That you’ve thought of everything.

For now we know a bushfire plan

Is not something you can wing.

You’ve got to keep on top of the grass

And trim it nice and short.

If you let some parts get out of hand,

You’ll be on that insurance report.

So call the local firies in for a fuel reduction burn.

Slip the brigade 200 bucks,

Could save your place you’ll learn.

For fire generally knows no bounds

Charging like an angry steer.

So it really came as no surprise

That it had done some damage here.

The drought we’re in has set the stage

For a scary fire season,

For a week ago it was winter here.

Me thinks climate change the reason.

It’s all part of preventing loss

And reducing risk of pain,

For once you’ve been through one bush fire,

Its memory will remain.

That’s Returning Home.

[00:06:10] Kathryn: There are a lot of pointers in there about preparing, really practical pointers about preparing for bush fire season. And that emotional element as well. Certainly a very stressful event, being part of a bushfire.

[00:06:25] Peter: It certainly was.

[00:06:26] Kathryn: And that recovery journey I think it really starts even before the bush fire doesn’t it, with your preparation and then there’s that stressful event. And then there’s the immediate clean up the immediate things that need to be done that are often very practical things. And then as time goes on, there continues to be recovery. I’m thinking that that Hope and Growth Exhibition in the community, that came about around about two years after the fire. So reflecting on those two years, there’s been you know, a lot of other actions that have taken place that have been part of your recovery journey and for the community as a whole there’s been a lot going on too.

[00:07:14] Peter: Absolutely. The agricultural community, not every year, but you know, frequently goes through stressful times, whether it be hail damage, flood damage, fire damage, various economic issues. So yeah that I mean now community deals with stress every year. It’s not just an economic cycle or a global phenomenon of a flu or anything. It’s it’s every year it’s tough going. And I think part of the strength of the community is that there’s support out there. And it’s part of the acknowledgement that if you need support and, you know it exists, then you feel confident enough or brave enough, or it’s not stigmatised. It’s like, oh, you know, I’m being a bit of a wimp here. I need some help. It’s like, no, it’s not about that. It’s about, it’s about understanding that other people are going through similar things. They might’ve been there before. They might be going through it at the same time as you. And if you can interact with people in your community, then you’ve got support and you might have, you might get some good ideas from someone about how to deal with something, or you might simply have someone who’s willing to listen to you tell them how hard it is. Opening up to someone can be the first step for you to have an emotional recovery or to deal with a problem or to fix something or, you know, whether it’s sharing to people talking about, yes, we’re both having the same problem, isn’t it terrible. Or, Hey, I’ve come up with this solution. Or, you know, so-and-so told me that we could do this or whatever, and next thing you know, you’ve got resources available to you. You’ve got something to help. The concept of mental health, we’re starting to try and get it out there in the public domain rather than it’s like, you know, you know, did you hear about this? And I don’t even want to talk about it. Well, now you can actually talk about something with confidence and say, Look I’m going to go out and I’m going to talk to someone and I’m going to get, whether it’s counselling or I’m going to find a resource to help whether it be something as simple as practical skills or recovery or mental health improvements, whether it be socialising more, whether it be getting help with fixing the farm, coping with the loss of a crop, that sort of thing. It’s about sharing. It’s about support. It’s about, acknowledging that it’s okay to say, you’re not okay. I mean, that’s the whole thing. You mentioned about the Blue Tree Project. And that was a project to raise awareness of a lack of mental health, perhaps like, you know, you’re stressed and you’re worried that you’re going to lose the plot or, you know, you’re not going to be able to cope with situations as you used to. And to be able to talk about it, um, whether it be in confidence or whether it be with friends, To actually just acknowledge that there’s an issue and start dealing with it and working towards solutions rather than dwelling on the fact that you’ve got a problem. Work towards solutions, get support and, um, yeah, let’s face it. You can save a few lives by everyone being able to find the resource base that they need and find a connection with someone that’s going to help them, even if it’s just someone at council steering them in the right direction, saying, you know, you can get help by contacting this number or something. It’s like the first step is the most important one. You don’t solve something if you haven’t taken your first step. So the first step is the biggest one. That’s the hardest one. It might be the most confronting one to acknowledge that, Hey I’m not coping with this. I’m not dealing with it. Need some help. And that is the moment in time where you actually start fixing something because you’ve acknowledged that it exists and that you want to fix it. So, yeah, the Blue Tree Project was a bit of a, um, a visual for creating awareness and to get the community talking about it. It gets people talking and starts helping people find solutions to problems that they’re facing so, yeah, there’s always a solution. You can have been through something really stressful. Whole family can go through it. A whole community can go through it. A whole country can go through it. It’s about finding help.

[00:11:17] Kathryn: And certainly the research has been showing how important it is to be connected with your community and to be prepared for stressful events, whether it is a bush fire, preparing your property and preparing your safety plan for a bush fire, or it can be making sure that you’re connected and that you know where to seek help if there is something else stressful going on in your life.

[00:11:46] Peter: Troubles are predictable. Some are predictable. Some are not, you can see some of them coming. I started preparing for the bushfire that came on Friday night. I started preparing on Monday and I decided on Sunday that I was going to prepare for Friday on Monday. So I took the day off work and I took stuff off my bush property and stored it in town cos I thought, excuse me if the [WHISTLE] hits the fan on Friday cos the weather forecast is appalling- strong winds, hot winds, high temperatures, dry, dry ground. I was like, this place is a tinderbox. If Friday turns out badly I’m going to be really up the creek unless I do something today. So on the Monday, I actually was probably the only person that was thinking about a bushfire on Friday because I took my ride-on-mower and my trailers and started packing things up. I packed up all my backpacks full of clothes and bedding and stuff. And I thought, because if I don’t prepare now, I’m not going to have time. If I’ve got five hours notice that there’s a fire coming, I’m going to be losing a hell of a lot of stuff if my place goes up. And I sat on the bonnet of my four wheel drive in town, watching the fire go over the hill. And I counted the fireballs go up where the gas bottles exploding. And I actually thought they were the gas bottles next to the hot water for the house and the granny flat. And it turned out to be barbecue gas bottles. But if I hadn’t have prepared myself for the possibility that I was going to lose, possibly going to lose everything, then I wouldn’t have had the mental focus to start acting and preparing myself for the possibility of loss, for the mental anguish. No, if I’m taking action, then I’m not suffering mental anguish. If you’re starting to prepare yourself for, be it a drought or, you know, you’re going to go look I’m not going to suffer from hail damage next year because I’m going to invest in hail netting or my crops, they’re not all going to be just tomatoes. I’m going to have a diversity of crops. The neighbour up the road now grows vegetables as well as fruits and things like that. So that’s about diversifying. It’s about preparing. It’s about building up a buffer zone or cushioning yourself or whatever. You can’t always see trouble disasters coming, but, um, there are certainly times when if you stop and think about the possibility of a particular type of disaster, then it’s the fore warned fore armed sort of thing. If you’re already on the front foot and you’re thinking about it, you’re conscious about it. You’re mentally more mentally prepared for it. You’re also more physically prepared and more economically prepared perhaps. So there’s things like that. So it’s about preparation and coping and you’re more likely to bounce back. Gotta be honest, I’ve bounced reasonably well after the fire, because I just went Well okay so I’ve reduced my human footprint on my block of land. It’s a big block of bush. It’s now more natural. So rather than going, I lost all my push bikes in the shed and you know all that went up and all my building materials got burnt. It’s like, well, now I don’t have as many projects to deal with so life’s going to be easier and you decide how you manage your recovery. And not to mince words, but you get an insurance pay out if you get burnt out. You get an insurance pay out if you’re insured properly. I know I was under-insured, but, I decided what I spent money on. To replace what I wanted to replace and didn’t replace what I thought well actually can get by without that. So that’s part of putting things in perspective and the usual thing of seeing a silver lining in a situation. How you deal with it, I guess, is really important. Yeah. Rather than me sitting and moping like sure, I was in shock for days and weeks for sifting through stuff and looking at everything that got charred going Oh there’s you know one of my best resource books. Yeah. Here’s the front cover, the little, little bit of ash that you can just read if you look at it in the right angle. How do you deal with that? It’s hard.

[00:15:37] Kathryn: Sounds like it was, almost in a surprising way, an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities, how you spend your time and your energy and finances.

[00:15:50] Peter: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s the full range of aspects in your life, whether it be health, financial, recreational, employment, and it’s not necessarily a fresh start as such, but it’s certainly part of it was a clean slate and going, Okay, so I’m going to rethink how I do things to reduce the possible exposure to risk in the future or to feel okay about loss to, be able to deal with loss. You’ve got to feel okay about it. You’ve got to accept it. You’ve got to understand it. You gotta talk about it. So then you can cope with it and move on. Not moving on forgetting, but moving on knowing, knowing that you’ve managed to survive something or recover from something, and perhaps, you know, reduce the chance of loss in the future, or be a bit smarter than you were last time around, like. We’ve got to come up with a way of minimising our exposure to damage or loss. And that can be done as a long-term preparation basis. Whether it be every year you prepare yourself for fire season, or you prepare yourself for storm season or that sort of thing, or economic downturn, you know, whether you’re multi-skilled or whether you’re, you can only do one thing. I’m always busy it’s because I do three different things in my employment for self-employed. Yeah, I do trees. I do grass and I do shrubs and I can do handyman stuff or whatever. That’s that’s just a simplistic thing, but, but diversifying your interests means that you’re going to roll with the punches and be able to get through things more like the next door neighbour doesn’t just grow fruit anymore. He does the veggies and that sort of stuff. So you’ve got different markets that you can sell your products on different times of year when you can sell it. So you’ve got a more consistent income or something like that. So it’s basically about understanding your own situation, preparing yourself for change, being able to accept a change and deal with it. And when things get out of hand, knowing how to step up and change tack or readdress things, reassess it, and maybe go off on a different tangent. As long as you’re prepared mentally, then you’ve got a lot more chance of being able to cope with it and if something takes you by surprise that you weren’t prepared for and you’ve never thought about, then you’re more likely to be knocked off your feet and take months to get back on your feet. And that’s a hard slog. I’ve seen that happen to people, you know, I might have been part of it myself at times, but strengthening yourself for possible things the foreseeable things and the unforeseeable things. It’s I guess it’s comes down to the strength of spirit and, and your preparedness and your foresight to have a bit of an idea about what things in life can affect you and what things you can bounce back from and what things are you going to need help with and who you can contact to get help.

[00:18:58] Kathryn: So circling back to community projects and community events like the Hope and Growth Exhibition, and we know that when people are connected with events, with projects, with people, with the land in their community, that they have a greater opportunity to bounce back. Sounds like you’re saying it really helps to have people in your life that you can talk to that you can be open with about how things are going. You’ve got practical help there as well, you can help other people, but they can also step in and give you a hand, if you might need that from time to time?

[00:19:35] Peter: Absolutely.

[00:19:36] Kathryn: And raising awareness and sharing information, that’s something else that you brought up as being really important in those connections that we have in the community.

[00:19:45] Peter: Yeah. Being comfortable with acknowledging that something’s not right in your life and thinking about which friend or family member or community member, or which official person, you know, whether they be behind a desk or on the other end of a phone, trying to think about who’s most likely or most relevant or who could understand who can assimilate and understand with what you’re going through and who can help you. Even if it means asking someone else, Who do you reckon I should call or where should I go? Should I try the council? Or should I ring up the state ombudsman or go and talk to a neighbour that, you know, went through such and such 10 years ago. Talk to them about it, how they coped with something. Yeah, it’s about taking the first steps to recovery. Not expecting recovery to come to you necessarily, but to actually go, Hey, I want to fix this. How can I do it?

[00:20:32] Kathryn: Some really great pointers in there. thank you, Peter. And thanks for sharing your poetry with us as well.

[00:20:39] Peter: You’re very welcome. There’s a few on the wall in the Hope and Growth Exhibition. You can pop into Jamworks, or you can go into the High Street or out to Wild Grounds Cafe out east of Warwick. And then there’s Vincenzo’s. There’s a few places around where you can see some bushfire photos and some of my poetry’s on the wall there. I don’t consider myself to be a poet per se but you need a catalyst or a stimulus, something to provoke. The need to express something and I just chose poetry to do it. Some people would draw a painting, some people would you know, write a story. Some people would go and plant a forest. I just use poetry, but now, and then I might know who got months, couple of years, whatever, without writing anything, but then something dramatic happens like that. And next thing you know, you pop out eight poems in the space of three or four days. Let it be said that the growth season that we’re in with all of this beautiful lush growth, will eventually lead to dry grass, dry leaves and possibly a water shortage. It’s just the usual cycle. So don’t think that we’ve had one bush fire it’s reduced the fuel load. It’s building up again. So.

[00:21:48] Kathryn: Be prepared.

[00:21:49] Peter: Be prepared. Think about it, work out what you need to do to minimise the damage. Be prepared.

[00:21:57] Kathryn: Thanks for listening to the Speak Out Loud Stories of Strength podcast with me, Kathryn Walton. I hope this episode inspires you to get involved and to get connected with your community. You can find the transcript and any links mentioned in this episode, in the show notes and please share the podcast with your friends.

We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Series Two of this podcast has been jointly funded under the Commonwealth and State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements 2018.

How to get motivated to get outdoors

Today we’re diving back into the topic of motivation which is always a very popular theme when it comes to anything that feels like hard work including exercise. I’ve previously written about how to get motivated for exercise so this time we’re going to explore motivation from a different but related perspective – how to get motivated to get outdoors more often.

The outdoors can help you get more movement into your day

The thought of exercise can be overwhelming. Some people really don’t like it and some people struggle to get into a regular routine because of health, mobility or medical issues. Perhaps you’re one of them. Or maybe there’s another reason that you struggle with exercise. But ….. did you know that the most important thing – even more than exercise – is movement?!

Exercise is fabulous for so many reasons, and yes, I’m passionate about this topic, but it’s absolutely critical that exercise is built on a strong foundation of general movement right throughout the day. Here’s where nature can help you if you struggle with either exercise, or generally being active and moving around more. When you include contact with nature in your daily routine, you’ll get outdoors more often, move more, sit less, and you’ll find joy in life and joy in connecting with nature. Your body will also benefit from the boost of Vitamin D it gets when you get outside into the sunshine.

Find your own reason to get outdoors

If you do find it difficult to get outdoors and into nature, even though you know it’s good for you, try to find another reason or a purpose for going outside. It’s much better to feel positive and drawn towards it than feeling like you ‘should’ or ‘have to’.

Grow potted plants or a garden

potted plantsYou could try growing some plants in pots or in a garden if you have enough space. Or you could have a go at growing salad greens and herbs in your kitchen. Plants can give you a reason to get up and get active when you look forward to nurturing and harvesting them. Checking on your plants every day gets you into a habit of connecting with nature. It helps you to get a daily routine going. Over time you can watch your plant habitat expand and before you know it there’ll be insects, butterflies, birds, bees, frogs and even spiders all sharing the space with your plants (especially if they’re outside) which is a sign of a healthy micro-habitat.

Look Out and Up

If growing plants is not your thing, you can still look for another reason or purpose to get outdoors and connect with nature that’s meaningful for you. Even if going outside is not an option, you can create a routine of looking out a window, for example, at birds as they fly by. Perhaps they’re searching for food, nesting or calling out to each other. Or you can look up at the clouds and notice their movement. Clouds never seem to stay still. They constantly morph from one shape, colour and texture to another.

Nature Walks and Journals

Are you up for a little more activity than simply observing what’s around? You could aim for a daily walk to a nature strip or park and notice the changes in your surroundings each day. Some of them will be obvious, and others much more subtle. It can get you wondering what changes you’ll see tomorrow when you next come back. You can make a mental note of the changes, or you might enjoy keeping a journal of what you see and hear on your outings. In your journal you can use words, but you can also use images. You might like to take a series of photos of something growing or changing, or keep some audio recordings of the sounds you hear in nature.

Learn and Grow

Take your noticing and journalling one step further by tapping into the resources in your community or on the Internet so that you learn more about nature and the outdoors. You can use bird and plant identification apps and books, online interest groups such as the Outdoors is my Therapy Facebook Group, clubs and you can simply ask other people what they know about the things you’ve seen or heard.

Set Yourself a Challenge

Staying motivated with your habit of regularly getting outdoors can be helped along by setting a challenge for yourself. This could include committing to a daily garden check or recording the birds you see for a week. Set a specific time of the day to do this that will work for you. For example, if you’re usually up and about early or spend time winding down after a day at work in the late afternoon, these would be ideal times to do a bird check because that’s when many birds are most active.

Notice the Little Treasures That Tell a Story

glistening spider webDon’t forget that the little things in nature can also help you get motivated to establish a daily routine of getting outdoors. Have you ever been the first person to walk through a cobweb as you explore the park or bushland? I certainly have! I don’t like the feeling of sticky cobweb across my face and the panic of wondering if there’s a spider clinging to my back, but I am constantly amazed at how the spider can rebuild the web overnight and there it is the next day, stretched across the same bit of walking trail.

If you find something like this in your local area whether it’s a cobweb, a little cluster of flowers, an ant hole, a tree with buds, a creek weir, or whatever it is, check on it every day to see what you can see. You will discover the secret life of the natural world all around you when you take a few moments to pause and notice.

Over time, these little discoveries will tell you a story. A story that will compel you to keep coming back day after day so you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch the next chapter.

What motivates you to get outdoors?

Some of us are motivated to get outdoors simply for health reasons. Some of us are not. But perhaps you will be motivated to see what’s calling for your attention outdoors once you get to know it better and discover nature’s secrets in your local neighbourhood. Too often we focus on the big, obvious things in life. I encourage you to focus on developing small habits – small changes to your routine. Look for the little treasures and let the motivation flow in its own time.

spend time in nature

If you would like more motivation and inspiration to connect with the outdoors, subscribe to my newsletter Grounded Inspiration.

Listen to the audio version of this post in the Outdoors is my Therapy Podcast Episode 25!

Daisy Spoke logoDiscovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

What is a Word of the Year and why do I need one?

“Word of the Year” ….. A word that represents a way of being, an attitude or a mindset that serves as a road sign guiding you towards a goal you want to achieve before the end of the year.

I LOVE having a word of the year! And not just any old word. I put a lot of thought into choosing my word (or phrase) so that it aligns perfectly with my goals for the coming year.

Why I began using a word of the year

I began choosing a word of the year a few years ago to help me stay on track with my goals. I’d been really busy at that time, juggling lots of different contracts and spending all my time trying to please every organisation using their own systems. I always felt behind, disorganised, and I put increasing pressure on myself to do all the things for everyone.

I yearned for something simpler. I wanted to feel calm, organised and satisfied with my work again. I wanted everything to be simpler but I felt stuck because I didn’t know how to get to that point. When I took the time to reflect, it was a pretty obvious decision to choose “simple” as my word of the year!

my word of the year - simple

Now, simple isn’t something you do. It’s a state of being or a mindset that guides the actions you take, a bit like a train track that keeps the train heading in the right direction. So, when I was faced with choices in the following year, I allowed my word of the year to guide me. I chose simple over complicated. I let go of all sorts of things that were in the way of me living a simple, calm and organised life.

My word of the year was a true shining light for me that year. Choosing a word of the year has become a very important routine for me, and one that I love to share with others.

Why you should have a word of the year too

You can use a word of the year to guide you towards a goal, to stay in alignment with your values, to help you pivot your business, or to create any other sort of change you would like to see in your life. When you allow your word of the year to be a core component of your decision-making, it will be a powerful tool for change.

How do you choose a word of the year?

Read through the following points and make a some notes as you word of the yearreflect. There is a free downloadable worksheet to help you do this on my website, or simply make notes in your own journal. Be careful not to get stuck thinking about all the reasons why ‘this’ can’t happen, and why ‘that’ wouldn’t work. This exercise is to help you focus on possibilities. Our brains spend enough time and energy on the problems, so let’s give it a break for a few moments!

1. Picture yourself 12 months from now.

  • What is one thing you would like to be different?
  • What is one SMART goal you’d like to achieve in the next year?
  • What is something you dream of, something you would like in your life?
  • Even if you don’t have a specific goal or a dream, do you have a vague idea or a feeling that you’d like something to be different in your life?
  • How would you like to be living your life?
  • What attitudes or ‘ways of being’ would you like to be living by?
  • What do you value most in your life? Are you living your life with these as your priority?
  • Do any of your answers stand-out to you? Are there any common threads running through your reflections?

2. What states of being or states of mind will be helpful for you to achieve your goal, dream or desired change?

This is all about HOW you need to BE, not what you need to do, for example being patient, staying grounded or having a bold attitude.

3. What word or phrase best reflects the state of being or state of mind that YOU would most like to focus on over the next year?

This can be your word of the year!

4. Write your Word of the Year down, think about it often, and visualise how it will guide you through the year.

When you feel sure that’s the word you most need or want, plaster it everywhere to keep it fresh in your mind. Make it the centre piece of your vision board. Create a wallpaper for your computer or phone. Write in the front of next year’s diary. Blu tac it to your bathroom mirror. The idea is to get it front and foremost in your mind so that it does the job you intend it to.

my word of the year - adventure

Words of the month, week and day

A year is a long time, and sometimes it helps to have some stepping stones along the way. You can run through a similar process to choose a word of the month, week or the day.

In the bizarre way that the subconscious works, my word of the day often floats into my conscious mind during quiet morning meditation time. It can be a bit like a feather in the breeze, wafting around mid air until it gently settles on the ground. But sometimes my word of the day blasts at me in a song from the radio. Other times it’s gifted to me in the wise words from a loved one or even when I’m listening to a podcast interview. However it happens, I’m always happy to grab it and run with it, knowing it’s all part of the process to help me get from here to there, and in alignment with my overall goals and values.

I’d love to hear from you – have you ever chosen a Word of the Year? How did it help you create an attitude, mindset or a way of being to guide you towards your goal?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Calm on the outside, agitated on the inside

Calm on the outside, agitated on the inside. Does this sound like you? How is that for you? Is it working in your favour? Or is there something you’d like to change?

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Picture This

Goomburra landscape
The stunning landscape at The Grain Shed Retreat, Goomburra Valley (PHOTO CREDIT: Darling Downs Wellness Therapies)

I’d like to invite you to picture yourself relaxed and at ease sipping a cool drink as you gaze out at the rugged mountains and the ancient valleys that surround you. A gentle breeze reminds you of the changing seasons. Thinking towards your future, your confidence rises. Your calm demeanour is a reflection of genuinely feeling calm on the inside. You’ve gained clarity about your dreams and goals, and you’ve tapped into your inner strengths. In the company of like-minded women, you’ve acknowledged the challenges that have held you back. The time for change has come. You’re ready to do things differently, to make self-care a priority, to celebrate who you are, and to take actions that align with your values and purpose.

With a clear plan for working towards your personal goals, you know just what you need to do. You no longer waste your energy stressing over things you can’t change. As you focus more and more on those things you have control over, your circle of influence expands. As you become increasingly inspired by your dream, so too you inspire others around you. Despite the inevitable challenges, you stand grounded in confidence knowing that you’re never alone, that you have the inner and outer resources to maintain your momentum.

Does this sound like you? Or perhaps something you’d like to experience in life?

Inner self, outer appearances

No matter how you appear to others, you are the only one that truly knows your inner turmoil, struggles, challenges, and disappointments. You might go through the motions of being a high functioning worker, mother and partner, but inside you could be experiencing agitation or distress. Lost dreams, worries, a lack of fulfilment – these are just some of the experiences women often keep to themselves. Stewing away inside they create a hot bubbly mess that has us feeling bitter and helpless. But still, we push on. Not happy or content. But we keep on going.

What if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way?

It’s true ….. it doesn’t have to be this way. I know. I’ve been there. Several times. I’ve also walked alongside many women who’ve experienced something similar themselves. We all have a different story, different experiences, but there are also many common threads. By sharing these threads, we get to weave a new story. A more powerful story that builds us up, that empowers us, instead of depleting us.

Companionship, community and connection are key factors

Companionship and community are two of the keys to writing a new story. When we’re very isolated from others we have difficulty thriving. Looking back I can clearly see the turning points in my own life when I connected with the people who became my tribe. I’ve had a couple of very special relationships with other women who truly ‘got me’. They accepted me just as I was. They lifted me up and showed me there’s more to life than the narrow window I’d been looking through. They demonstrated assertiveness and values-based action. They were friends and mentors who have had a profound impact on how I saw myself.

In recent years I’ve also had the privilege of being part of a community of women who openly encourage, inspire, embrace, love and connect with each other in incredibly meaningful ways. This tribe of women reflects many of the values so important to me – independence, connection, innovation, peace, creativity, courage, companionship, community. They’ve taught me that I am enough. Just me. The way I am. No labels. No definitions. No limitations. And that’s given me the space to be even more than I ever thought I was or could be.

I’m still an introvert, I still love my time alone. But now it’s not lonely alone-time. I am deeply connected with others and I’m part of a tribe. We don’t desperately need to be with each other all the time. But the fact that we know we’re a stand for each other, that we’re part of a supportive community, makes each of us stronger and enables us to make a difference in our worlds – both inner and outer.

Women Empowered Retreats

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This is my philosophy behind the Women Empowered Retreats. I know the benefits of connecting women together in deep, rich, meaningful conversation. I know the power of sharing stories in safe spaces. The power of connection and community. The power of knowledge and information sharing. The difference that inspiration makes to our sense of happiness, contentment, and fulfilment. The feeling of being calm on the inside, not just looking calm on the outside.

Every woman is drawn to our retreats for different reasons and will have a different experience from anyone else. Each retreat explores a different theme that weaves together elements of personal growth. But at each retreat we come with an open mind. We seek to be informed, inspired and empowered to be ourselves. We offer a gentle balance of information sessions, reflective activities, mindfulness practices, creative arts, movement, nature, and soul-nourishing food.

Whether you are simply looking for time and space to recharge, or if you are looking for a deeper meaning in your life, you will be inspired and empowered to live the life you love.

An invitation to discover calm on the inside

If this sounds like a slice of heaven to you, then we’d love you to join us for any of our upcoming retreats. This could be the beginning of your journey to discover what it feels like to be calm on the inside, or perhaps it’s an opportunity to connect with a community who will inspire you as you take action towards your dreams. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the region, whether you come alone or with a friend, you’ll be joining a strong, growing community of women who know the value of self-care, personal growth, and connection with others.

Our upcoming “Women Empowered’ events include:

“Yarn & Yoga in the Country”
Friday 26th July 2019 during the Jumpers and Jazz in July Festival

(PHOTO CREDIT: Darling Downs Wellness Therapies)
  • Hike Your Mountain (June 2019)
  • Yarn and Yoga in the Country (July 2019)
  • Women’s Health Retreat (September 2019)
  • Spring Retreat (October 2019)

To keep up to date with details as they are released, subscribe to my emails via my website and follow me on Facebook.

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Breaking and creating habits

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Have you ever tried to break a habit or create a new one? That’s probably all of us! There are some habits that are clearly unhelpful, and these are the ones we most often focus on – the ‘doing’ habits like smoking, sedentary behaviour, eating junk food, and going to bed late. But what about those less obvious ‘thinking’ habits. The ones that have us locked into a bad mood, overreacting, overthinking, leaving things to the last minute, being defensive, using avoidance tactics, personalising, blaming and so on. The way we habitually think forms part of everything we do and we’re often not conscious of it. But when we want to create long-lasting change, it’s vital to look at changing the way we think, and not only focus on the way we are ‘doing’ things.

Here are four tips to help you break an old habit and create a new one by focusing on new actions, and new ways of thinking.

1. You are never too old to change

No matter your age, you an always make a change. Don’t accept excuses such as “I’m too old”. Your mind’s attitude to learning plays a large part in how capable you are of breaking and creating habits. With an open attitude and willingness to try, learning a new trick is always possible. For example, even though I’d been riding bicycles since I was a young child, it wasn’t till I was in my middle age that I decided to have a go at mountain biking. What I discovered is that you need a whole new set of skills to ride mountain bikes compared to The Brain that Changes Itselfriding on paved surfaces. Not only did my body have to work differently, but my mind as well. Mountain biking has been one of the biggest learning curves in my life. I’ve been confronted with physical and mental and emotional challenges that would have been so easy to walk away from. But I kept going and little by little my skills have progressed and I’ve learned to handle some pretty big fears along the way. I’m living proof that it’s definitely possible for an oldie to learn new tricks. For some remarkable examples of how the brain can change and adapt to new challenges, have a read of Norman Doidge’s book “The Brain That Changes Itself”.

2. Change can take its time – often a long time!

In a world that encourages immediate gratification and demands fast results, focusing on change habits takes timelonger term goals can be seen as rebellious. Quick-fix solutions are promoted all around us – get a toned body in only 10 minutes a day, lose your baby weight in 30 days, go from a $0 to 7 figure business in less than 12 months. But the reality is that sustainable, healthy change usually takes place over a longer period of time. Quit expecting immediate results when you take up a new habit or give up an old one. Real change takes time! Research shows that when we take up a new habit we need to practise it regularly for at least three weeks, and in many cases we need to allow two to three months or more to feel the benefits, or at least to feel at ease with our new way of doing things.

3. Patience, practice and persistence – not perfectionism!

If you’re anything like me, you just want to be able to do everything perfectly straight away. And if that doesn’t happen it’s so easy to give up. We can make all the excuses under the sun about why we’re not having success, but the reality is often that if we’re patient,Patiently persist to change habits practise a lot, persist with the discomfort, and let go of our need for perfectionism, we’re much more likely to have success. Personally I’ve find it very helpful to listen to what my inner voice is telling me when I get the urge to throw in the towel. That leads me to question why giving up is so important at that moment, and what would be the value of persisting. Then I look at what skills and strategies I need to use to achieve success. Read about how I used practice and persistence to rediscover my joys of mountain biking in one of my  past blogs.  Patience, practice and persistence are definite winners!

4. Focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t want

Focus on what you DO want to change habitsOne of the trickiest things about reducing or quitting a habit (like cigarettes, chocolate, or social media) is that we focus our minds on what we’re missing out on. To demonstrate the power of this focusing technique I tell my clientsFor the next 2 minutes you are NOT to think about the green dragon behind you.” I set the timer and give them occasional reminders to NOT think about the green dragon. The same thing happens when we keep telling ourselves “Don’t think about cigarettes / chocolate / Facebook …..” It’s really, really hard to achieve success unless we focus on what we DO want – the NEW habit or behaviour that we want to develop. You could try saying Time for a walk round the block … time for my fresh fruit and yoghurt … let’s give Mum a call …” Focusing on what you don’t want is counterproductive. Focusing on what you DO want is a winning style of thinking. You can read more about looking where you want to go in my very first blog from 2 years ago.

 

There are many more tips and tricks for helping you to break a habit or create a new one, but these four strategies will get you started with a powerful attitude that will guide the behaviour choices you make, and increase your chances of success!

Let's sum up habit

1. You are never too old to change
2. Change can take its time – often a long time!
3. Patience, practice and persistence – not perfectionism!
4. Focus on what you DO want, not what you don’t want

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

How to Manage Habits That Creep Into Your Life

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There are so many life lessons I’ve learned from nature – pest management (aka “managing the habits that creep into your life”) is the latest one. This year we’ve been making a concerted effort to manage some of the unwanted weeds on our property, in particular tree pears. It’s taken a considerable investment of time, hard work, money and resources to uncover the best way to deal with them. It’s also got me thinking about personal habits that creep into our lives, and what we can do to manage those sorts of weeds and pests.

Pests have always been around

We’ve lived on our small bush property for many years. We’ve always had a few pests here and there but haven’t been overly concerned about them. They’ve had little impact on everything else so we haven’t considered them a problem. In the past we had a few cows and sheep grazing the grass. We’ve had no grazing stock for nearly 10 years now due to ongoing drought conditions. Even though I miss seeing those big beautiful cow eyes looking back at me, we’ve actually gained a lot of satisfaction from watching the native plants regenerate as a result. We’ve also relished the opportunity to make use of the land in other ways such as building mountain bike trails throughout the property.

MTB Trail

The problem pest at my place

Apart from reduced stock, altered land use and drought conditions, other changes haveCactus Tree Pear also gradually taken place – changes that we were blinded to until they became quite obvious and problematic. Tree pear is one of these changes. It has rapidly multiplied in the recent conditions. Not long ago it was a fairly insignificant pest, kept in balance by naturally occurring biological controls. Now it’s dominating the landscape. It very easily and quickly multiplies, so we now have a dense covering of tree pear of all sizes. Its growth rate is amazing and it thrives in the harsh conditions.

Managing the pest

Mature Tree PearUncovering how best to manage this pest has been exhausting, taking lots of hours, energy, research and trial and error. We’ve learned how critical it is to choose the ‘right’ strategy – the difference between getting numbers of tree pear manageable again, or increasing their numbers even more! They’re incredibly tough and resilient – I’ve got to admire them for that! We’ve persisted with our management strategy because we want to live in a balanced way, minimising the impact of our own lifestyle, and supporting environmental sustainability. It’s taken nearly 12 months to reach the point where we can see a positive outcome ahead. And we’ve learned lessons about keeping a closer eye on the pests out there and intervening earlier rather than later.

Habits can be like weeds and pests

Noticing what isUnwanted habits can silently creep into our lives in the same way that the tree pear and other weeds and pests gradually take over tracts of land and impact the overall health of the environment. The habits can slowly, quietly and destructively begin to dominate your life in various ways. The damage shows up as it impacts your relationships, health and confidence. Reestablishing healthier habits requires a hard sustained effort over time, but the secret is in actually noticing that there is a problem in the first place.

Audit your life

In the same way that it can be helpful to regularly have a good look around your propertyReflect to check for pests and unwanted changes, it’s also vital that we review our personal habits from time to time. It’s often only when a crisis takes place that we take the time to do this, but it’s a healthy practice for any of us even when things seem to be going smoothly. When we take the time to reflect, notice and make adjustments, we are better able to keep on top of the pesky habits that impact negatively on ourselves, our relationships and the world around us.

Questions to ask yourself

You don’t have to run away to the quiet of the desert or the tranquility of the mountains to review your life (although if you have the opportunity that could be amazing!) A more practical way for most of us is to simply take a few moments, or even a couple of hours, to ask ourselves a few questions. You might find it helpful to write your reflections down in a journal, make some art work about the topic, or have a conversation about these issues with a trusted person.

1. What have I got in my life that’s working for me?

2. What is not working so well in my life?

3. What is one action I could take that would make the biggest difference?

4. How can I make sure I follow through on that action?

5. What can I let go of?

6. What do I need to keep?

Change can be challenging

Even desired change can be very challenging and unsettling. We can experience a conflict of values, a simultaneous push and pull towards and away from the change. We might sense resistance from people and situations around us, as well as our own internal resistance. Be prepared for this, and push past the prickly bits!

Early intervention is best

Small cactusAnd so as I walk and run my home trails, I’ve been much more aware of the little cactus popping up. I’ve been investing a little bit of time and energy to carefully prise them out when I see them, right there and then. I’ve learned the hard way that this is a much easier and more effective way of dealing with the problem. Burying your head in the sand and avoiding seeing the issue for what it really is, only makes the problem bigger and more difficult over time. Sometimes those unhealthy unhelpful habits just seem to creep into our lives but with greater diligence and readiness to take action, we can keep them in their place, and maintain a more balanced life.

VLOG (Video Blog)

Did you know that I have a You Tube channel? Over the coming months I’ll be regularly posting videos and VLOGS over there. You can watch my latest VLOG on managing the pesky habits in your life  by clicking here!

 

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

Time Management: Stay sane when time is your enemy

Juggling the many roles and responsibilities we have can be a constant source of both satisfaction and despair. I talk to women every week about challenges like time management, and wanted to share some of the ideas that I’ve collected on how to stay sane when time seems to be your enemy.

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TIME! We never seem to have enough of it, we’re always fighting it, and it’s invisible! It seems to slip through our fingers without care. It’s like an elusive double agent, tempting us with tantalising pleasures, and then it’s gone, leaving us with nothing but a pile of to-do’s and deadlines in its wake. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll always find something to fill in a space that’s left when we are more efficient with our time – there’ll never be enough of it!

Time Management is a real thing!

Managing the time we have available to us is a learned skill and one that we can continually refine as our needs, activities and priorities change. There are a lot of self-help books on this topic, but honestly, who has the time to read them! Assuming you’re in the same boat as me, I’ve short-listed some key time management strategies and helpful mindsets that I’ve collected over the years.

time management clock

Time management strategies to stay sane when it feels like time is your enemy

1. Time is a commodity we exchange for something else

Time is a precious commodity that I give in exchange for something else. It’s a transaction; a business deal between myself and the universe. If I spend lots of money on luxury items, eating out, holidays and new clothes, I may not (ummm ….. actually I won’t) have enough left over for the basic household bills like groceries, fuel for the car, and electricity. Time is like money – think about how you can spend it wisely!

2. We have a choice

We have choices about how we spend our time, in the same way that we have choices about spending our money. What choices are you making?

3. Get your priorities straight

Time Management Matrix
Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix

With so many different things competing for our time and energy, we are constantly needing to prioritise. And I mean constantly! It’s an ongoing process. Everyday – prioritise. Every hour – prioritise. Every minute – prioritise. Every moment – prioritise. It’s a valuable skill – the more practise you get, the better you’ll become at getting your priorities straight.

If you have trouble identifying what’s most important and what’s most urgent, invest just a few minutes of your time reading about Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix here

4. Time is precious

Time can never be refunded once it’s spent. Thinking of time as precious gift to be treasured and used wisely can help us to make carefully considered choices about how we are using it.

5. What are your time vampires?

What is it that sucks the time out of your day? Where does your time go? Are you okay about this?

6. Record your actions for a day, or longer!

I’ve found this really helpful at times. You can make a note in your diary or notepad of how you are spending your day. Note down the time and what task or activity you are working on, and what time you finished. Or you could break your diary into 10 or 15 minute time blocks and make a note of what you are doing at every time interval. It only takes a teeny bit of time to do this, but the investment is well worthwhile! These actions can highlight where our time goes, and keeps us more accountable to our goals.

7. Ask yourself “What am I doing now?”

This precious moment is all we have. How are you spending your energy and time right now, in this precious moment?

8. Don’t make excuses

It’s easy to blame other people and situations for our poverty of time. Do a thorough audit and be honest with yourself. What can you take responsibility for? What change can you make?

9. Avoid distractions

Is distraction an issue for you?

  • Set a timer to go off at regular intervals to remind you to refocus your attention
  • Switch off your wi-fi
  • Close your door
  • Turn off your phone
  • Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your office
  • Reward yourself when you’ve completed tasks

. whatever you need, just do it. Make it as easy as possible to keep your attention laser-focused.

Let's sum up!

Make friends with the time you have!

  • Time is a commodity – spend it wisely!
  • You choose moment to moment how you spend you time
  • Get your priorities straight – is it important / urgent?
  • Time is precious
  • What are your time vampires?
  • Record how you spend your time
  • Ask yourself “What am I doing now?”
  • Don’t make excuses
  • Avoid distractions

I’d love to hear any other time management strategies you use to stay sane when it feels like time is your enemy. Leave your comment below, send me a message, or head on over to my Facebook!

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full. 

 

Frights, Flights, and Fears: Look back to see how far you’ve come

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Life can hand us plenty of frights, flights and fears but it’s good to look back occasionally to see how far you’ve come. I’ve been reflecting on this over the weekend when I noticed some old fears resurfacing, and rather than get caught up in the stories they told me, I chose to look at how far I’ve progressed.

I was eager to get back on my mountain bike after a couple of weeks away road tripping, bushwalking and trail running which I absolutely loved, but I also love riding my bike and Kathryn on MTB riding through a gullywas missing it. When I started riding on the weekend, I noticed some of those old worries pop up that only surface when I’ve been off my bike for a while. They used to hang around me a lot. Well actually, most of the time! But I’ve worked really hard at keeping them in their place in recent years. Deciding to blog about them has been one of the most empowering actions I’ve taken. They could no longer lurk away in the dark depths of my mind, stewing and multiplying and expanding by the minute. Many of them simply lost their power when I brought them out into the light of day. Have you read my blog about how I worked through a step-by-step process to manage my fear of “the scary corner”!

So here I was on Sunday morning with an incessant barrage of inner talk going on in my head:

“That’s too slippery.”

“I can’t ride down that gully.”

I’m going to hit that tree.”

I’m hopeless at riding on ‘technical’ terrain.”

My back tyre keeps slipping out. I can’t ride up here.”

There are too many rocks.”

There are too many low hanging branches.”

I have to go slowly round this corner so I don’t fall off.”

I’d better walk this bit.”

That’s where I fell before.”

That’s another place I fell off.”

That’s where I nearly fell on the snake when I stopped too quickly and went over the handlebars.”

..and so on and so on. It was very loud in my head!

NOW I want to say that the most powerful step YOU can take if you find yourself in a similar situation is simply this: NOTICE what’s going on in your head. Simply NOTICE. The situation doesn’t’ have to be about riding a bike. It might be the thoughts you have associated with speaking to an audience, introducing yourself to someone, going out in the dark, driving in the city traffic, swimming with sharks, flying on a plane, or absolutely anything at all! Simply NOTICE what your mind says. And with the power of noticing what’s going on in your head, you can then choose what to do next.

Kathryn looking calm and happy on her rideI’ve been practising and teaching this technique for a lot of years, and yet still I sometimes forget to do it when the moment arises. The thing is that on Sunday morning I DID NOTICE those fearful thoughts bouncing round my head. And guess what? I didn’t care about them. I didn’t let them bother me. Instead of giving them the power of my attention and allowing them to expand and bully me into playing it too safe, I chose to dig up another thought from my mind vault:

This is a confidence cycle. I only worry about these things when I’ve been off my bike for a couple of weeks and out of practice. Just ride. Focus on how far you’ve come over the past few years. Don’t let those worries bully you or keep you small, or limit the fun you’ll have today. You’re sensible. You won’t do any crazy dangerous stuff. You’re safe. Just ride.”

And so I focused on how strong I felt and that all the recent running has made a positive difference to my strength and aerobic fitness. I enjoyed the feeling of sprinting up a couple "Tough Girl" socksof short hills engaging my quads in an exertion that a couple of years ago would have been painful (if not impossible)! I pedalled in a higher gear than normal and found it easier than expected. I noticed what I did well and trusted wholeheartedly that my confidence will be back real soon. I glanced down at my fabulous new “tough girl” socks reminding myself of my strengths and the stories I can tell myself about what I CAN do. And as I looked back over the past few years, I could see how far I’ve progressed in managing my fears on the bike. I’ve developed resilience and practised some of life’s most valuable skills that I’ve transferred into other areas of my life.

Yes, frights, flights and fears will always be there, but you can choose how to handle them. Practise. Persist. And occasionally look back to see how far you’ve come.

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Daisy Spoke aka Kathryn Walton logoKathryn Walton shares information and reflections in Daisy Spoke that connect, inspire and self-empower women to make healthy choices for themselves. She integrates her love of physical exercise, family, nature, gardening and creative arts with her professional background in mental health social work to facilitate change with individuals, groups and communities of women who are committed to living life to the full.