Over­com­ing tragedy to be­come a cat­tle in­dus­try pi­o­neer

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News -

THIS is an ex­tract of Joyce McCon­nell’s story, writ­ten by au­thor Paula Hee­lan.

In 1981, at 39 years of age, Joyce McCon­nell’s world was turned up­side down.

Her hus­band, John, on his way home from in­spect­ing a merino stud in the New South Wales Rive­rina dis­trict, was trag­i­cally killed in a car ac­ci­dent.

In­volved with the Bell Group and set­ting up joint ven­tures with sheep pro­duc­ers across Aus­tralia, John had in­tended to buy the prop­erty he had vis­ited.

Fol­low­ing his death, the Bell Group needed a re­place­ment to run the com­pany. Aware of Joyce’s ex­ten­sive in­dus­try knowl­edge and ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the com­pany in­vited her to come on board.

Left with three young chil­dren, Sarah, 11, Ni­cholas, 10, and Sam, 7, it was a heart­break­ing and dif­fi­cult time for Joyce.

In the process of com­ing to terms with her loss, she faced some weighty, life-chang­ing de­ci­sions.

“When the Bell Group asked me to run the com­pany, I agreed,” Joyce re­calls.

“My job was to in­spect and stock prop­er­ties. The com­pany fi­nanced the stock, farm­ers man­aged the prop­er­ties and prof­its were split 50-50 after costs. But I made it clear the chil­dren would come first – they al­ways have and al­ways do.”

At the time, Sarah and Ni­cholas were at board­ing school in Mel­bourne and Sam was still at home.

“I pre­sumed there would be re­sis­tance to a fe­male in the in­dus­try – and there was,” Joyce says.

“At that time, you hardly heard of women do­ing what I was do­ing – fly­ing around the Out­back to in­spect and stock prop­er­ties and at­tend­ing sales.

“I de­cided not to take any no­tice of the dis­ap­proval and just got to work set­ting up sheep and cat­tle sta­tions all over the east­ern half of Aus­tralia.”

Joyce worked hard to keep her chil­dren’s spir­its up as well as her own.

“I had this thing that we all had to get up every day with a smile on our face and go forth.

“I wouldn’t let any­one have a downer. It was a big thing for me at the time, but I think the dis­trac­tion and ef­fort needed to run the com­pany and to keep us mov­ing along helped me get through.

“Sam was too young to at­tend board­ing school so he stayed with me and came on every road trip and every out­back flight.

“I didn’t want him to stay with friends or fam­ily while I was away be­cause I didn’t want him to be spoiled by peo­ple feel­ing sorry for him. So I took him with me.”

PHOTO: AN­GUS MCGEOCH

Joyce McCon­nell at Be­la­ley Sta­tion, Gun­nar, NSW.

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