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Ordinary country women living extraordinary country lives

Robin McConchie’s interest in the business of agriculture has been a driving force throughout her career. Now, in her retirement, she is highlighting the contributions that country women have made to rural businesses.

Severe drought meant no agriculture jobs were being advertised when Robin graduated. So she changed direction, did a Diploma of Education, and became an Ag teacher.  One day she ran into a classmate from University who was working as a rural reporter.  “It’s the ideal job for you. You are interested in people, inquisitive and always want to know what’s going on in the world” is how she remembers the message of that conversation.  She immediately knew that this is what she should be doing with her life.

A long successful career with ABC radio

Robin successfully applied for a Rural Reporter traineeship.  This was the start of a long and wonderful career with the ABC.  She went on to be a Director of the National Press Club for 10 years.  She was also on the CSIRO Board of Entomology in the role of Community Liaison.

During these years in Canberra Robin met many fascinating people. She loved being at the centre of Australian politics, nailing politicians and stories.  But even the best of jobs can become tiresome. She was delighted to accept the position of Executive Producer of ABC Queensland Radio Rural programs. A treasured part of her job was guiding individual reporters to develop their skills and blossom in their careers. In recognition of her work, in 2011 she was inducted into the Queensland Rural Press Club’s Hall of Fame as a ‘Living Treasure’.

Considering retirement

Several years later Robin considered retirement. She knew that she needed to plan a retirement that incorporated purpose and mental challenge. She had loved being a rural reporter, always learning something new. Visiting farms and talking to farmers had been a highlight of her work. When the time came to retire it was a difficult decision but she felt the time was right. But having made that decision she faced the big question of what to do next.

The business of farming had always been important to her. From her extensive travel as a reporter in different parts of Australia she had consistently noticed the vital role played by country women in the success of agricultural businesses.

Supporting Queensland country women

In the early 1990s the Women’s Rural, Remote and Regional Network (WRRRN) was formed. Its purpose was to up-skill and inspire country women to recognize the importance of their role.  Until that time women working in family agricultural businesses were not classified as ‘farmers’ by the Australian government. Robin joined the QWRRRN, actively supporting their initiatives to assist country women.  She wanted to raise awareness of the very real challenges they face in their everyday life on the land.

She decided that she would tell the story of many of the women she had met. Accompanied by her trusty dog Harvey, Robin travelled throughout rural areas of Queensland, catching up with people she had met through her work.  She interviewed some of these women and these are available through her podcast, Bush Business. This interview series is ongoing.  The interviews are also published through the monthly QWRRRN newsletter, keeping country women informed of rural issues. The contribution many Seniors have made to rural Queensland business is now on Robin’s radar for further podcast episodes.

From rural land to underwater adventures

A keen photographer and diver since her younger years, Robin loves being in the water with sea creatures.  She enjoys photographing and experiencing the endlessly fascinating 3D underwater ecosystem.  Through diving she has seen the beauty and tragedy of our oceans.  At Upie in the Solomon Islands she saw the most beautiful coral reefs.  Just two years later coral bleaching had decimated the same area of reef.  She recommends Seal Rocks in New South Wales and Stradbroke Island in Queensland where she has experienced amazing dives with quiet gentle manta rays and sharks so plentiful they were lying on top of one another.

Robin’s tips for preparing for your retirement

Plan your finances well in advance

Robin emphasized the importance of saving for your retirement through superannuation and salary sacrifice. Don’t leave it too late to start accumulating the finances that will fund your future.

You need to create a new identityRobin McConchie interviews country women

As a journalist you have certain rights that your identity provides, such as being able to walk into a room with a microphone in your hand and speak to anyone. When you retire you lose your work identity completely.  It’s important to plan your life so that you are comfortable with your new identity in this next phase of your life.  This might involve reinvigorating past interests or experimenting with new hobbies. Robin’s interest in diving and photography were obvious choices for her.  Sewing, however, was something completely new.

Keep your brain stimulated

We have so many opportunities available to us, so you need to choose activities which don’t just fill your time but also keep your brain stimulated.  Follow your interests; read, learn, study, create.  Robin decided to join a photographic group to improve her photography by learning and experimenting. Taking on this personal challenge has been rewarding.

Extraordinary women

Life on the land is not for the faint-hearted. In Robin’s Bush Business interviews these diverse country women speak of their lives, far removed from the stereotypical farmer’s wife of the past. Listen to the stories of these women who have embraced their rural lives and made them extraordinary.

Go to  Silver Sages for more inspiring stories of Baby Boomers who have actively created the life that they want and are doing amazing things.

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Jenni Proctor

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