Practical strategies for dairy service providers

Midfield

On-farm service providers and advisors aren’t employed as counsellors, but during challenging periods they are often called-upon to provide emotional support.

Ongoing interest from dairy industry service providers in south-west Victoria has prompted the region to deliver an additional Occasional Counsellor workshop in March.

More than 100 sales representatives, agronomists, health professionals, milk processor field representatives and those working in banking and finance have attended recent Occasional Counsellor workshops to build and refine their skills in providing emotional support to farmers.

At the workshops participants are taught simple and practical strategies for assisting farmers.

The need for Occasional Counsellor workshops was identified by the South West Dairy Industry Leadership Group following the farmgate milk price downturn almost three years ago and the south-west bushfires in March last year.

Agriculture Victoria Dairy Industry Development Officer Helen Chenoweth said service providers are generally seeking to support farmers as much as possible. They don’t always feel confident or equipped to discuss issues and concerns such as mental health.

“On-farm service providers and advisors aren’t employed as counsellors, but during challenging periods they are often called-upon to provide emotional support,” she said.

“Participants who attended previous Occasional Counselling workshops have told us they feel more confident to start discussions about sensitive topics with farmers. They are also able to better identify when to refer someone to a health provider for more professional support.

“There was a lot of positive feedback on how the workshops included practical scenarios as well as theory sessions and tips on professional boundaries and self-care.”

Respected clinical psychologists David Cherry and Associates have been engaged to lead the upcoming workshop. Topics include strategies to assist clients who may be under stress and communication tools to encourage discussion and appropriate referrals. The workshop also links in with local support services including Rural Financial Counsellors and Farming Community Support Workers.

Ms Chenoweth said the first workshop in December 2018 filled within a week.

“There is so much demand. We know this is a service that will benefit the dairy industry and the broader south-west Victorian regional community,” she said.

The next workshop will be held on Thursday March 14 at Proudfoots Boathouse, 2 Simpson Street, Warrnambool at 9am for a 9.30am start to 3.30pm. The workshop is free and includes lunch.

The workshops are a collaboration between Agriculture Victoria, WestVic Dairy, South West Primary Healthcare Partnership and United Dairyfarmers of Victoria.

For more information on the upcoming workshop please contact Helen Chenoweth at Agriculture Victoria by phone on 0436 648 935 or email helen.chenoweth@ecodev.vic.gov.au.

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