Often, a powerful idea comes from lived experience.
That’s the case for 23-year-old Emma Jackel who received this year’s Emerald Young Citizen of the Year award on 22 October.
Emma is a fifth-generation farmer from Avonsleigh who’s story has inspired the creation of a platform, called Ladies from the Land, that supports women from rural and regional Australia.
Emma and her family have faced adversity on numerous occasions.
The first period of hardship began two years ago when Emma’s 18-year-old cousin – who was also a close friend – passed away.
It seemed that just as the family would begin to recover from the tragic loss, another setback would hit.
About one year later, Emma’s dad sustained an acquired brain injury after falling onto his excavator.
This saw him suffer six bleeds to his brain.
He was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital, in a coma for 10 days and couldn’t come home for about three months.
Emma, doing distance education at the time, was the only person in her family that spent time at home, so it was up to her to take on the farm.
She had to learn how to drive the excavator, feed the cows and even had to make tough decisions such as sell stock.
“I had to run back and forth to the farm, the cows were calving at the time,” she said.
“It was just being thrown into the deep end you don’t know really what to do.
“I had friends and family give me guidance but dad’s always been the one to tell me things about the farm.
“Through that time it was really hard not just on me but the whole family.”
Deep down, Emma knew she wasn’t alone when it came to battling tough times on a farm.
One night, on her way home from the daily trip into the Alfred Hospital with her mum, Emma mentioned the idea of creating a platform where women could support each other and share their stories.
After searching on Instagram for a potential group to join, she realised there was nothing of the sort.
That’s when she decided to create Ladies from the Land, a group where she shares stories of females living in remote areas and farms across the country.
“I think it’s important to be a positive light in other peoples lives,” she said.
“Sometimes when I was in those situations I was like this is so hard, no one else is like this, why does it have to be us.
“When you actually think about it, there are a heap more people out there that are struggling as well.”
With the support of some friends sharing the page on social media, its Instagram following started to grow rapidly.
Emma said that within the first couple of months, the page had about 4000 followers.
It is now just shy of 14,000 followers.
“I get heaps of messages saying we love reading about other people…Just seeing how hard girls work,” Emma said.
“The biggest thing is girls are often, especially on farms and rural areas, sort of seen by other people as a stay at home mum.
“But there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that are not recognised.”
Through Ladies from the Land Emma also initiated a quilt drive earlier this year to help those impacted by the Bunyip State Park bushfire.
After doing a call out on Instagram, Emma received over 1500 quilt blocks which she sewed together with her mum.
Emma recalled giving them out to those impacted at Mill Valley Ranch and Tonimbuk Hall.
“It was actually quite heartbreaking because we went down there and just had all the quilts laid out on the table and there were families coming in and they would just start crying, complete strangers,” she said.
“You never realise what bushfires can do, you lose everything.
“It was very hard to actually do that and be in that situation, but nice to have something to pass on to them for when they build a new house.”
Emma is also currently working on sending care packages to farmers impacted by the drought across NSW and QLD.
She gets people to nominate someone deserving of a care package, then organises others to help her send them out to “brighten the days of some of the ladies.”
Despite engaging in such rewarding actions, Emma said supporting so many women has come with its challenges, particularly when it comes to financing.
She said juggling the group with studying a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Training, as well as working on the farm, makes it hard to get out and do things as part of Ladies from the Land.
But now that she’s finished her degree, Emma said she hopes to turn the work she does as part of the group into a job.
“I feel like I need to do a bit more,” she said.
“I’m planning to do a tour and go and visit some of the ladies that have been struggling just to have a coffee with them and take them things that might lift their spirits.
“Because I’ve got the education degree behind me I want to include educational resources to take with me to help kids.”
In the meantime, Emma will likely continue supporting women across the country through Ladies from the Land and work with her dad on the farm, who she said is making strides with his recovery.
For more information on Ladies from the Land visit ladiesfromthelandaustralia.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.