FARM­ERS TAKE IT ALL OFF FOR A GOOD CAUSE

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Cally Dupe and Zoe Keenan

A groundswell of good­will and hu­mour caused 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 West­ern Aus­tralia 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.

Pic­tures will be used as fod­der for a new char­ity book and cal­en­dar be­ing pro­duced by Brooksby to raise funds for the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tors’ Ser­vice’s men­tal health arm.

Dum­b­leyung farmer Josh Ball hosted the pair for one night, tak­ing his gear off at some of his favourite lo­ca­tions on 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 more fun than awk­ward.

“I don’t mind get­ting nude any­way . . . I am not a nud­ist but I don’t have a lot of shame,” he laughed. “They made you feel very com­fort­able, they were very good peo­ple.”

North of Dum­b­leyung, at Mullewa, a group of 17 ladies hope their stripped-back photo will en­cour­age farm­ers and the com­mu­nity to talk about men­tal health.

With their hands to the sky and butts to the cam­era, the ladies were pho­tographed last week wad­ing into a dam in freez­ing cold con­di­tions.

Seven local blokes also got naked for a cheeky photo while out rock pick­ing, with just a small boul­der hid­ing their bits.

Mullewa farm res­i­dent Jenna McGre­gor stum­bled across The Naked Farmer In­sta­gram page and wanted to get in­volved.

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 photo and say this is why we did it and tell peo­ple to keep the con­ver­sa­tions go­ing to sup­port each other,” she said.

Kim­ber­ley jil­la­roo Camille Camp also hosted the pair at her fam­ily’s cat­tle sta­tion Ka­ly­eeda.

“They came out Sun­day af­ter­noon and as that was our day off we all took our horses for a bare­back ride down to the bil­l­abong and went for a swim,” she said. “Ben and Emma just fol­lowed along and were tak­ing pho­tos of us muck­ing around, then the boys all left and us girls stripped off in the wa­ter and we got pics with our horses.”

Ms Camp said Mr Brooksby in­ter­viewed her about her ex­pe­ri­ences liv­ing on the sta­tion and her own bat­tles with men­tal ill­ness.

“They’re do­ing amaz­ing things and we were all re­ally happy to do what we could to help them out,” she said.

Sui­cide rates in ru­ral ar­eas are con­sis­tently 40 per cent higher than in met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas, ac­cord­ing to na­tional men­tal health char­ity Sane Aus­tralia.

For Mr Brooksby, the chance to help even one farmer had been worth it.

“Through the cal­en­dars, it is rais­ing money so the RFDS can do their thing and tackle the is­sue,” he said.

Pic­tures: Emma Jane In­dus­try

The Mullewa ladies walk into the dam in freez­ing con­di­tons to pro­mote the cause.

The Mullewa ladies hope pho­tos will en­cour­age farm­ers to talk.

Dum­b­leyung farmer Josh Ball.

Emma Cross and Ben Brooksby.

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