Those in agriculture, living in rural and remote areas are routinely faced with a range of stressors unique to living outside major cities, with the impact on mental health sometimes unavoidable.

Sallie Jones has been committed to drawing attention to the growing issue since 2016 when she founded Gippsland Jersey following the death of her father, Michael Bowen after his own battle with mental health.

“Building Gippsland Jersey was about funnelling my grief into a brand that had three strong pillars we live by – paying farmers a fair price, a commitment to creating social change in rural mental health, and a focus on kindness in all aspects of the business,” Ms Jones said.

“My dad was a typical Aussie farmer that thought showing his struggle was a sign of weakness. When we launched Gippsland Jersey, no one was having this conversation. At the time, I saw this as the best thing I could do to honour my dad who was a pioneer in the dairy industry. 

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“We create a calendar every year telling the stories of 12 Gippsland farmers which has become incidental counselling as I spend time with each of the participants just talking about life. We learn and relate everything through personal stories, and these are the stories my dad would have loved to have read and potentially been influenced by.”

Ms Jones recognised the important role the local community has played in supporting Gippsland Jersey and its mission.

“There’s nothing like country people when they get behind you. We give these farmers a platform to share their stories but that has a ripple effect in their own communities, because when one farmer is brave and speaks out about their experiences, it encourages five more to do the same and seek help.”

After several challenging years including the dairy crisis, bushfires, drought and the current pandemic, the rise in demand for mental health and wellbeing services in regional areas has grown significantly.

“CBA has continuously been involved in supporting our work and vision from the very beginning. Our bankers see us as people, they are genuine, and have backed us every step of the way.  

Commonwealth Bank’s Executive General Manager, Regional and Agribusiness, Paul Fowler emphasised the Bank’s strong commitment to supporting the financial and mental health of regional communities.

“Regional communities have always been incredibly resilient no matter the challenges they face. The past few years remain undeniably difficult. Yet Australia’s ag communities have consistently been adaptable and innovative in the face of a challenge. It is, however, important to recognise the mental impact this can have.

“Sallie’s work highlights the community effort involved in supporting the ag community with business, industry, friends and family all essential to supporting positive mental health outcomes.

“We were fortunate to have both Gippsland Jersey and the West Gippsland Progress Association join CBA at Farm World last week to be a part of the conversation with customers. We understand the demanding nature of agriculture, the impact that can have on our customers’ wellbeing and are committed to supporting a brighter future together.”

As part of this ongoing support to the community, CBA has recently donated more than $4.5 million to support customers and businesses impacted by the floods in New South Wales and Queensland. Additionally, earlier this year CBA donated $500,000 to Rural Aid to enable the appointment of 10 additional Rural Aid counsellors, reaching new regional locations for the service.