Matildas Of Rural Australia


Women have been involved in Australian agriculture from the beginning, but it wasn’t until 1994 that they could legally call themselves farmers in the Australian census. Even today agriculture is often perceived as being a man’s world. Kirsty White is typical of the many rural ladies quietly changing that perception.

Kirsty grew up on a beef property at Kingstown west of Armidale in NSW, and her first female agricultural role model was her mother.

“When Dad went away contracting it was Mum who ran the farm and raised myself and my two siblings.”

“Women are an integral part of the farming landscape and I see a similarity with the Matildas (women’s soccer team). Women have always played sport but are only now receiving the recognition. Women have always worked on farms but historically we’ve never really seen their pictures or heard their stories.”

Kirsty White in the cattle yards. Photo & main image: Al Mabin.

Post school Kirsty moved away from agriculture, completing a Bachelor of Arts in Office Management and working as an electoral officer for politician John Anderson. But love intervened and in 2005 she married grazier Sam White and found herself at Bald Blair Angus Stud, 10km east of Guyra and a mere 100km from where she grew up. Bald Blair runs 750 head of stud and commercial cattle and 1200 sheep across 2300ha. It has also been in the White Family for over one hundred years.

“I found it’s one thing to grow up on a farm but another entirely to work on one.”

For guidance she found another female role model in ProAgtive succession planner Isobel Knight. “Isobel has been a phenomenal influence on me finding my role on a generational farm and she encouraged me to step up, get involved and take responsibility.”

A jill of all trades

Stepping up meant re-training in agriculture and Kirsty threw herself into the task attending courses as varied as pregnancy testing, low stress stock handling, dog and horse schools, grazing management and marketing. She is now, proudly, a jill of all trades.

Kirsty with her family, Abbott, Sam and Arthur. Photo: Straun Pearce Stock Sales.

Along the way she was inspired by yet more women in agriculture. “Rebel Black, of THE Rural Woman, has been important for my personal and professional development and Rebel is also our business mentor, which is absolutely exceptional,” Kirsty says.

“As is Al Mabin from AgriShots. She has been our photographer since she started her business 10 years ago and it has been amazing to watch her develop and share agriculture’s stories.”

Raising the next generation

Today Kirsty is the mother of two boys, Abbott (18) and Arthur (14), and runs Bald Blair in partnership with Sam. The highlight of the stud’s program is an annual bull sale in August but as with any farm, the workload is year-round and life-long learning is critical.

“Sam and I are responsible for our own professional and personal development,” Kirsty says. “We’ve got two young men who are growing up and we need to be the best versions of ourselves so they can be they can be the best versions of themselves.”

A picturesque moment for Kirsty at the Bald Blair Lagoon. Photo: Al Mabin.

And so, the education continues, but Kirsty is drawn to education that is female-focussed. She is involved with the Northern Tablelands Local Land Services initiative Ladies in Livestock, which recently collaborated with THE Rural Woman to host a digital technologies workshop, is supporting a female-only MLA BredWell FedWell workshop in the district and, if not for family commitments, would be attending a female-only dog training school in April.

“Sometimes it can be intimidating being in a training session that is full of men and I feel more comfortable learning in an all-female environment.”

Sam and Kirsty are a team to be reckoned with. Photo: Al Mabin.

Though Kirsty admits finding her place and confidence in agriculture has, at times, been challenging, she now finds enjoyment in sharing her own stories through Bald Blair’s blog: The Boundary Rider’s Report.

“I share all the different things that are happening on the farm and what events, research and resources are available for others,” she says. “I love the sense of space in agriculture, the variety of work on a day-to-day basis, and the flexibility that allows me time to chase after two boys and build a profitable business with a happy and healthy family.”

Just as the Matildas have brought female sport to the masses, rural women are telling their stories wide and far.

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