Farm fitness coach Louise O’Neill has won the 2022 AgriFutures rural women’s award for Western Australia.
- Ms O’Neill supports isolated farmers’ mental and physical health with daily classes
- She says farmers are refocusing on health after going “full throttle” and burning out
- The mother-of-two will represent WA as a finalist in the national awards to be held in September
Ms O’Neill runs online fitness classes for isolated rural women and personal training sessions for farmers around Australia.
“Farmers spend so much time maintaining the health of our livestock and machinery because we need it to keep working, but I think we are neglecting the health of our own bodies and minds,” she said.
She received the award and a $15,000 bursary last night and will represent WA as a finalist for the national rural women’s award.
Push-ups on the ute
On top of her personal training work, Ms O’Neill has a sheep farm on WA’s south coast, near Denmark, where she lives with her husband and two young sons.
Ms O’Neill streams training sessions for regional women from the farm.
“I have quite a few clients in the Wheatbelt, a couple from Brisbane and even one in the Solomon Islands,” she said.
For in-person training on WA farms, she often has to improvise her workout plans.
“Once you start talking [with farmers] and they see things around the farm, that’s where they start to get creative, and you can have a lot of fun.”
She said a shift was taking place in agriculture as rural communities and isolated farmers worked more on their mental and physical health.
“There are times we need to go full throttle when it’s harvest. I understand that,” she said.
“But there is also a time to take stock and breathe. Because if you give to yourself, you can give back to others.
Award highlights ‘extraordinary skill’
Agricultures’ annual award, to be held in September, is sponsored by the WA state government.
“These awards highlight the extraordinary skill, innovation and commitment of rural women across WA who make vital contributions to their communities and regions,” WA Agriculture Minister Alannah Mactiernan said.
“Ms O’Neill follows in the footsteps of 2020-21 state and national winner Cara Peek, a Yawuru/Bunuba woman driving opportunities to empower her community.”
The two other finalists for the award were Debbie Dowden, a pastoralist nominated for her landscape regeneration work in WA’s southern rangelands, and Bronwyn Blake, a hemp farmer in the south-west who helped find Australia’s first hemp co-op in an effort to boost awareness of hemp seed nutrition.
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