Rainbows: Gabbi Bresnehan

In my few travels around the country and around where I live, I am always amazed at the women who do incredible things. Most of these women don’t think they’re extraordinary, but I can assure you they are.

I wanted to introduce you to some of the ones I’ve met – their stories are sometimes heart warming, sometime heart breaking, but everyone of them is a rainbow of hope, of inspiration and achievement.

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Meet Gabbi Bresnehan:  I first met Gabbi when she joined my Facebook page to let me know how much she enjoyed Red Dust. I was lucky enough to meet her face to face in Tasmania when I travelled down there for Agfest.

We have a few things in common: farming, kids… but as I learnt more about her, I found out that she had won Tasmania’s Rural Woman of the Year and was about to head to Canberra for the national awards. Sue Middleton, from WA, won the overall award, but Gabbi’s not disappointed. She told me the whole experience was one that she had enjoyed and the women that she met through the award will be friends for life.

This is her story:

A fifth generation farmer who moved to her uncle’s 400ha property Tiger Point at Levendale (Tasmania) five years ago as manager, Gabbi has maintained the breeding nucleus of the Tiger Point Texel Stud and runs a small number of beef cattle.

Although her initial background was in cooking and retail foods, she changed her focus to crisis care, and three years ago was approached by Aussie Helpers to manager their operation in Tasmania’s drought-affected regions.  The role involved coordinating farm visits, fodder drives and distributing food hampers.

But Gabbi found her main calling was acting as a referral service to the various drought network aid organizations, as well as offering social and emotional support to a multitude of suicidal, depressed and emotionally fragile rural men, women and children.

While Aussie Helpers ceased its Tasmanian presence in July 2009, Gabbi says there remains a clear need for a similar support service as “the phone calls haven’t stopped”.

“Farmers are still initiating contact and a lot of the women – after carrying the can for so many years – are having their episodes of not coping.  They’ve made it through the drought and realized all their focus was on their farm and not their relationship.”

“Once women start to crumble the whole foundation of the family starts to break away.”

“They were strong through the drought but the last few months too many families have been going their own way.  In some cases it’s resulted in the sale of the farm, with hubby borrowing even more to keep it going whilst a lot of other couples are still in the fighting process.”

Gabbi said she still acted as a referral service, putting rural people in contact with the service they required.  But with no financial support, her own foundation has started to crumble from the stress.  There’s no doubt, when you’re down even more hardship gets thrown in your path and finding a way out becomes even harder.

Gabbi knows from experience the hardship that follows knock-back after knock-back.  But she is determined to gain financial support for rural people in need.

With a northern operative in David Fisher ready to take on the service role, Gabbi is well poised to see to the Southern service and business side of things once funding does finally filter through.

“I’ve drawn up a five-year business plan and am in the process of setting up an incorporated body and getting a board together.  I’ve been sourcing funds as Rural Ark when with St Vincent de Paul but am unsure whether we will continue with that name.”   Gabbi is now backed by Westpac Banking.

“Everything takes so much time, energy and money.”

“Of course I have low days when physically I can’t do what I need to support others in the way I have been.

In the meantime I’ll support people in the best way I can until something more concrete comes up.  Then I’ll be knocking on all doors I can to pull in help.”

Gabbi said the drought brought the current wave of depression in the rural community to a head – it was the nail in the coffin or last straw for most.   She said the problems had always been there but the longevity of the drought had broken so many rural families.

“I’ve been isolated for only a few years on the farm – I couldn’t begin to imagine what women felt who had been isolated for years longer.  But having experienced some of what they were going through, I thought I could help and, obviously, so did Aussie Helpers when they approached me.”

“It doesn’t matter how many courses you do, until you’ve experienced it first-hand, nothing prepares you.  Luckily all the skills I’d learnt in all my jobs contributed to getting the show on the road and getting help to follow”

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