Stress in the Dairy Industry

Published 5 August 2003

Young dairy farmers have suffered a significant rise in stress over the last three years, according to Southern Cross University (SCU) Psychology lecturer Dr Charmaine Daly, who has just been asked to deliver a session on communication at this year's Young Dairy Farmers' Forum, due to be held in Coffs Harbour in October.

Dr Daly gave a talk on stress management for the Young Dairy Farmers' Forum last year, and was asked to come back for another session this year.

"After the talk, so many people came up to me and said, please help," Dr Daly said. "They said they were starved of understanding among the broader community of what their lives were like."

Young Dairy Farmers' Forum Co-ordinator, Ross Coomber, is NSW Agriculture Livestock Officer (Dairy Industry), based in Coffs Harbour. He started the forums as a way of connecting dairy workers, farmers and families under the age of 35.

"The dairy industry has copped an absolute hammering," he said. "Deregulation and prolonged drought have placed enormous pressure, financially and personally, on farm employers and employees. These are people who don't get holidays and whose social life is usually restricted, so the Forum is geared to bring young people together in a neutral space away from the farm to meet others of their own age from their region."

Last year 30 attendees came, from Grafton, Macksville and Dorrigo for the first forum, but this year Mr Coomber is expecting more, from as far afield as Atherton Tablelands.

"I want young people in the industry, who lead such isolated lives at
times, to have more opportunities to get together, to share their experiences and frustrations. The Forums feature professional speakers who can provide them with some resources to 'take home' and use on a daily basis, to enhance their personal life and relationships with others," he said.

This year, Dr Daly will focus on issues that Mr Coomber and last year's forum participants nominated for further discussion.

"I will be looking at strategies to enhance inter-personal relationships, more focus on conflict resolution techniques, and how to identify and deal with some of the more common problems associated with ongoing stress, such as 'burn-out', chronic anxiety and the associated health risks, as well as depression," Dr Daly said.

The forum also covers a biodynamic farm visit, tips on selecting farm employees, and research updates. Dr Daly will be delivering her session, 'Better Communication in Relationships' at the Forum from October 9th and 10th.

The SCU School of Psychology will have information on its work and its courses at the Coffs Harbour campus open Day on 12 August.

Media contact: Sara Crowe or Kath Duncan on 02 6620 3144,or Chris Stewart on 0418 431484