Sandra Ireson uses social media and other modern technologies to foster growth and communicate positive messages about life in the bush.

Story By Kerryn Suttor

Sandra Ireson is a woman on a mission. In a day’s work, she’s on the phone, the internet and out on the bike mustering cattle. Despite the hardships that have plagued the western Riverina region of New South Wales, the community is fighting back. And Sandra is one community leader who is making her mark.
To Sandra, every cloud has a silver lining and when there were no clouds and drought loomed, she just found another way to do things, taking others with her. She and her husband Matthew, together with their three children, Lochie, 14, Ellie, 12, and nine-year-old Pip, own and manage “Belmont”, a predominantly beef cattle operation near Booligal, 80 kilometres north of Hay. They also run sheep for the prime-lamb and wool market and are supported by irrigation from the lower Lachlan River. Matthew’s family has been farming in the district for five generations.
While Sandra dismisses her achievements as nothing special, her list of past and present community involvement is long. She has been treasurer of the Hay Nursing Mothers’ Group, president of the Hay Mobile Children’s Service and has helped out with Booligal’s P&C, community hall, tennis club and Catholic church. Sandra has also pitched in to help the Hay Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (where she is currently vice-president) and the town’s pony club, preschool and Junior Rugby League Club.
Sandra was involved in the re-opening of Booligal Public School when it closed in 2000. Two years before that, she’d joined forces with her husband to host the region’s signature event, the Booligal Sheep Races, which has now raised more than $100,000 for the local community. She’s also involved with The Long Paddock touring route, supports the Shear Outback museum in Hay and is working with Hay Shire in Tourism and Economic Development.
“My wife made the move from the Snowy Mountains to the plains at Booligal 17 years ago when we got married,” Matthew says. “She first joined the Hay Cutters Rugby Club as treasurer when I was playing rugby and coaching. Sandra was the first and only woman on the committee. Later, many other women followed her lead and joined the committee because of Sandra’s encouragement.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #86

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2013