Naked truths of rural life
A groundswell of goodwill and humour, prompted by farmers getting their kit off, has drawn attention to a more serious issue: mental health.
The founder of popular Instagram page The Naked Farmer, wrapped up his month-long tour of WA this week, visiting farmers across the State.
From Dumbleyung to Kununurra, Victorian farmer Ben Brooksby and his best mate Emma Cross photographed WA grain, sheep and cattle farmers on their broadacre and pastoral properties.
The pictures will be used in a charity book and calendar being produced by Brooksby to raise funds for charity.
Dumbleyung farmer Josh Ball hosted the pair for a night, taking his gear off at some favourite locations on his farm.
He said he hoped the pair’s tour, calendar and book would encourage more people to talk about how they were feeling.
“I know a few people who have committed suicide and it’s a topic that needs to be addressed,” he said.
“If it can open up some conversations about mental health then it can only be a good thing.”
Mr Ball, who farms with his parents and brother, said the photo shoot was far more fun than awkward.
“I don’t mind getting nude anyway . . . ,” he laughed. “They made you feel very comfortable, they were very good.”
At Mullewa, a group of 17 ladies hope their stripped-back image will encourage farmers and the community to talk about mental health issues.
With their hands to the sky and butts to the camera, the ladies were photographed last week wading into a dam in freezing conditions.
Seven local blokes also got naked for a cheeky photo while out rock picking.
Mullewa resident Jenna McGregor stumbled across The Naked Farmer Instagram page and wanted to get involved with the tour.
After being diagnosed with anxiety at the age of 20, Ms McGregor said she understood the struggle some people went through.
“You are constantly worried about the weather, wondering when the next lot of rain will be,” she said.
“Last year wasn’t a fantastic year for farming in Mullewa so going into a new season everyone is on edge needing good rainfall and a good season.”
Ms McGregor said while there were great doctors and telehealth services in Mullewa, it wasn’t the same as sitting down talking one-on-one with somebody.
“We want to share this amazing photograph and say this is why we did it and tell people to keep the conversations going to support each other,” she said.
Financial stress, remoteness, loneliness and isolation are just some factors that see farmers facing different demons in regional WA.
Suicide rates in rural areas are consistently 40 per cent higher than the rates in metropolitan areas, according to national mental health charity Sane Australia.
For Mr Brooksby, the chance to help out has been worth it.
Emma Cross and Ben Brooksby at the Ball family farm in Dumbleyung.
Dumbleyung farmer Josh Ball poses naked at his family farm.