FLAT OUT: The Glen cattle farmer Dorothy
FLAT OUT: The Glen cattle farmer Dorothy "Dot" Jephcott has been flat out trying to keep all her animals fed and watered during the drought. Marian Faa

Could women become the forgotten victims of drought?

CALLS to prioritise women's health and wellbeing have emerged from the agricultural sector as the industry grapples with how to allocate funding to drought-affected families.

While things like getting a haircut or massage may be considered a "luxury" in desperate times, Cunningham farmer and AgForce drought committee member Helen Lewis said there was a push to consider these factors when distributing assistance.

She said allocating store credits for women to get a massage or new clothes could help improve morale and self-esteem during drought.

"Male farmers probably don't think along those lines quite as much but it is important for women to have the opportunity to have a little bit of self-care," Mrs Lewis said.

Working around the clock to manage three droughted properties, The Glen farmer Dorothy Jephcott wouldn't even think of spending money on something that wasn't a necessity for keeping herself and her animals alive.


Helen Lewis is passionate about empowering farmers through holistic management, recently speaking about the concept at the Australian Women in Agriculture Conference in Alice Springs. Photo Jayden Brown / Warwick Daily News
Helen Lewis said the importance of things like mental health and self care should not be forgotten when drought strikes. Jayden Brown

But she said the isolation and stress of working so hard was beginning to take a toll.

Things like meeting up with friends, volunteering and campdrafting were put on the backburner with all her energy going into checking food and water on farms.

Mrs Lewis said having regular interactions with the community was important for looking after mental health during difficult times.

"When we look after ourselves we can look after others - when we deny ourselves self-care it becomes harder to help and it becomes a downward spiral. Mental health and wellness is actually paramount in this time."

She said the drought was just as hard on women in the farming industry as it was men.

"I think a lot of women do the paperwork and they actually see the reality of the situation quite starkly," she said.

"Often they are the ones making sure there is food on the table and needs are met and I think they have to make the hard choices as well."