Growing our future farmers comes with its risks

Tourello farmers Steve and Ruth Kinnersly believe the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how lucky their children are to live on a property with so much space and freedom, but they are aware this luxury comes with associated risks.

Their two children Olivia, 14, and Ryan, 12, were brought up from a young age following their parents around the farm, where they run a mixed sheep and cropping operation.

While Mr and Mrs Kinnersly loved having their kids by their side, they were – and still are – overly conscious about their safety.

“We’ve never really set them off working on their own, but we often have them walking by our side and doing what we’re doing,” Mrs Kinnersly said.

“In the last few years, we have had them in the shearing shed, roustabouting for the shearers and penning up.

“They are also a great help preparing our prime lambs for the weekly sheep market.”

Mr Kinnersly said they had made a conscious decision to not allow their children to ride motorbikes on the farm.

“We’ve never encouraged motorbike riding, as it’s probably one of the major sources of child farm injuries,” he said.

“Others around us, as well as some of our friends, have let their kids ride motorbikes, but we decided to steer away from that.”

He said they made sure their children knew the risks of working with livestock.

“When they’re working with sheep, we try and put them in positions where they’re on the outside of the lead up race pushing sheep forward but not moving with the sheep,” he said.

“Particularly with Olivia as she has had some surgeries on her right leg over the last five to seven years.

He said at the end of the day, they understood that children didn’t have the same developed thinking abilities as adults.

“We’re mindful that our kids don’t have the same ability to make a split-second decision, so we try to minimise the occasions that our kids would be in a situation where they would have to do this,” he said.

“It does mean that in some instances where it would be easier and more efficient to send a kid down the paddock to finish that little job, we just don’t feel comfortable doing that, because we wouldn’t be there to supervise them.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100, nothing goes wrong, but we don’t ever want to regret not being there that one time something does go wrong.”

Mr Kinnersly said one big lesson he learnt from an on-farm audit they had with Victorian Farmers Federation Farm Safety Advisor John Darcy was the ramifications of not having safe procedures and environments on your farm.

“Of course you don’t want your family – or anyone else on your farm – to get hurt, full stop, but the legal ramifications of having an accident on your farm are significant, too,” he said.

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