Margaret Doaks’ Story

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Grabbing Life By the Horns

I am a 59 year old wife, mum and Farm Manager and live on a property in the beautiful New England Tablelands. My husband and I run a farm consisting of Angus Cattle, Merino Sheep for wool, a few fat lambs, a small Merino and an Angus Stud. I love living on the land and love to feel free. The peace and open space of the country is really important to me. I struggle if I feel hemmed in.

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On our cattle farm

I have always craved to spread my wings, and travel has always been a huge part of my life; my husband used to say that I would just get home from one holiday and would be planning the next! Before my farm accident I travelled to England, Scotland, Europe, New Zealand, Singapore, Egypt and around most of Australia, and spent an amazing month camping in Africa.

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Before my accident, on a camping trip with my cousin in Africa

However, my greatest love is working on the land. My farm work has ranged from stock work, (mustering sheep and cattle), to calf and lamb marking, drenching and weaning. One significant event at the farm has always been shearing, whether it be wool rolling, picking up fleeces, penning up sheep ready for the shearers, stamping wool in bins, or just making a cuppa for the boys. In drought years, I would be feeding stock every day, shoveling cotton seed into feed bins and putting hay and corn out.

These were my regular day to day activities, until everything changed in August 2010, when two top square hay bales, each weighing 500 kg, fell on me from the haystack.

My world was turned upside down. I went from being a very busy and independent person involved in charity work, the local community sports club and school, and looking after my family, home and garden – to being reliant on my family and friends. I felt I was dying from the inside out.

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Before my accident, on a camping trip in Africa (spot the mob of Hippo's behind us)

I am a very proud and stubborn person and I can remember saying when I first had my accident that I would get back on the quad bike. I knew that if I could do this, I would be able to get around the property and muster the stock and do the noxious weed spraying. I just wanted to be useful again. I would lie in the hospital bed trying to work out ways I could do the things I wanted to do when I got home. The trouble was that everything on the land is so physical. Once leaving the house, there isn’t a cement jungle to push the chair on. It was hard to get my head around the fact that life would never be the same again.

It’s now been 11 years since my injury and I am  back both working on the farm and travelling. There have been many challenges. I have learnt to get on and off the quad bike independently, and to manage to stay on it across the rugged terrain. Chasing cattle with very little balance, only one good arm and no use of my legs has been challenging, but also a lot of fun! I have learned to open and close the gate from the quad bike and I do a lot of the mustering for shearing, calf marking, drenching time. We have put in laneways and ramps to make it easier for me.

I have even been lucky enough to have been able to travel to America, Canada, Alaska, and New Zealand again, as well as Fiji, some of the New Caledonia Islands, across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth and my last trip was to Antarctica and South America
On the quadbike on my farm

My accident has made me realise what is really important in life.

It was the love and support of family and friends that got me through my stay in hospital and rehabilitation centre. My daughter was 15 years old at the time and said my accident made her grow up overnight. She took on the role of mum in our family; doing the washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning and helping out on the farm, all whilst completing year nine at school. My 12 year old son had to take over my job on the farm; helping his dad with mustering, drenching and lamb and calf marking to name just a few jobs. It was my family that gave me a reason to get out of bed to face each day, and now my work is another reason.

With my family

Returning to work has meant the world to me. I think everyone needs to have an ambition and purpose in life so they can keep moving forwards and I have achieved this.

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