More than half of rural mothers don’t have the support of a mothers’ group. The winner of the 2022 AgriFutures Rural Woman of the Year is tackling that.

Story Kirsty McKenzie   Photos Ken Brass

Stephanie Trethewey candidly admits she knew next to nothing about farm life when she gave up her corporate career in 2019 and moved to rural Tasmania with her husband Sam and 6-month-old son Elliot. 

“I’d watched TV shows like Farmer Wants a Wife and Gourmet Farmer, which romanticise life on the land, but I had no idea about how hard I’d find it,” she says. “We’d left our families and friends on the mainland and I lost my village overnight. You may as well have dropped me in the middle of the Sahara, that’s how alone I felt. Sam was working 7 days a week and was really busy establishing our farm business. It was the middle of winter and he was feeding out in the cold and wet so I didn’t want to whinge and I didn’t tell him how isolated I was feeling. He’d leave for work and Elliot would be crawling around on the floor and I had no-one to talk to. Sometimes I’d just burst into tears.”

Stephanie, however, is made of stern stuff and determined to ‘do something’ to alleviate her situation. Having decided she couldn’t be the only rural woman navigating the challenges of raising kids on the land while feeling like the “farm always comes first”, the former broadcast journalist started a podcast, called Motherland, sharing the real and raw stories of rural motherhood. With Elliot on her hip and a great deal of grit, Stephanie posted the first Motherland interview with photographer and wool classer Chantel McAlister, who was living and working in a caravan and dealing with postnatal anxiety, in December 2019. Three years down the track, Stephanie has just clocked up 150 episodes with 430,000 downloads in total, and approximately 22,000 downloads a month. She’s also launched Motherland Village, an online rural mothers’ group program that connects isolated women to their own support group via a facilitated 6-week program that includes weekly activities, video calls and a private Facebook chat room. So far, she’s connected 135 rural mums through 14 online villages and has big plans for the platform’s future.

In October, Stephanie’s initiatives received national recognition when she was named the 2022 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award winner. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023