Every now and again in this world of digital overload, I come across a piece of writing that makes me quiver. Such was the case this week.
This week a young woman named Helen Bender confronted Australian politicians on their stance on the contentious issue of coal seam gas exploration that led to her farmer father taking his own life merely days before.
It struck a chord with many of us on the land, and it is with kind permission from Heather Pascoe that I reprint her quivering prose.
Thank you Helen for your bravery. Thank you Heather for your words; and thank you Dr. David Pascoe for sharing, in the first instance, this heartfelt missive.
The emergence of Helen Bender on our national television screens last night reminded us about so many things we loved and cherished about the Australian farming community.
It was only two days since Helen Bender had farewelled her beloved father George Bender at a family funeral in Chinchilla, but she never blinked once as she stood up and took aim at the political fakes on the panel – not to mention the disgraceful, oily-rich Oligarchs of the CSG Industry.
In a splendid display of steely eyed determination and breathtaking courage, Bender demanded that they finally take responsibility for the dreadful acts of evil and wonton destruction they have committed against our land and our people.
And in that instant we saw a glimmer of hope begin to emerge in the fierce battle to save our farmland.
You see, there is an old saying in the bush: never take on a farmer’s daughter.
They look sweet enough – but be warned, they can punch like a heavyweight fighter.
The land has shaped these women, toughened them, bonded them, built them heart and soul. The land has been their constant companion since they sat on their fathers knee, and it has been the land that has shaped their very world as they knew it: the paddocks they know like the back of their hand where they helped their fathers muster and plough, the gum-lined waterholes where they took their ponies for a swim, the little pink bush flowers they picked and took home to their mothers, the droughts and fires and floods they were often forced to fight as equals from the time they could barely walk: too small to see over the steering wheel, too small to reach the pedals, too small to ride that horse, too small to walk home when the truck was bogged, too small to carry a bag of corn. It didn’t matter. They usually adapted and found a way. Necessity is the mother of invention, especially in the bush.
And so these women, these prickly, bright-blooming wildflowers, they have the land in their bones and the light in their eyes, they have the soil ploughed deep into the marrow of their DNA, they have the creeks and rivers flowing deep in their blood. They know all the grasses, all the crops, all the birds and weeds and winds and they know this is their country, this is who they are, this is everything they have to live for.
And no matter where life might have taken them, these farmer’s daughters have a shimmering, true-north-compass way of remembering exactly who they are and exactly where they came from: the song of home is always the deepest faith of all.
They are all mostly well educated, these women: while the sons stayed home and took on the farm, the daughters were sent away to study, to find a career, to make a life. They are resilient and adaptable, tough and determined –and they are worthy survivors indeed.
Most significantly, they have never lost their love of the land – and they have never lost their mothering instinct to nurture and protect it.
And so, with a minimum of fuss, the daughters of the land have now stepped up onto the national stage and signaled their intention to fight – and Australia finds itself smitten, dizzy in love and admiration for these funny, fierce and magnificently resilient women.
They have entire Regiments waiting in Reserve as well: not only the hundreds of thousands of other farmers daughters right across the nation but they can also count on the women who have become farmers in their own right, the women who are the farmers daughters mothers, the farmers daughters beloved aunts, the farmers daughters favourite cousins, the farmers daughters cherished grandmothers.
It makes for a vast, intricate shimmering bush cobweb of a network stretching right across the nation – and if that isn’t enough, then they also have entire Allied Armies of friends and communities to count on – as well as a swelling band of urban supporters coming in by the millions.
They are certainly qualified to consider themselves an Army as well: they mix wide-brimmed stockmen’s hats with girly lipstick and they mix thick callouses with charm. Oh, and they can bake a mean chocolate sponge as well.
So stand up salute these women, Australia, as they step up to save their land. Then you’d better get the hell out of the way.
God only knows they have work to do.
(Copyright Heather Brown Pascoe. Another farmer’s daughter)