Ian and Marilyn Hitchings say they are pleased the successor of their farm is more proactive about safety than they were when they were running the farm.
Two years ago, Ian and Marilyn handed over the running of the Wonthaggi dairy farm to the youngest of their three children Ben after deciding it was time to let go of the reins after running the farm since 1975.
The couple moved to a smaller block of land and now run a small beef operation, and while they have more time for hobbies outside of farming, they still maintain a keen interest in the now fourth generation-run dairy farm.
Ian said while farm safety was always a top priority when they ran the farm, it became even more important when their three children, and later their eight grandchildren, came on the scene.
“Farm safety is a very important part of working life,” he said.
“With the children all on the farm as they were growing up, we had to keep a close eye on things and have rules in place.”
He said while they had been fortunate to never have an accident occur on their farm, it was “the last thing anyone would want to occur”.
“An accident affects not only the victim, but all down the chain,” he said.
Ian said it was great to see Ben be so proactive about farm safety.
“He says [he is so proactive] because he knows what can happen,” he said.
“He is very hands on with the rules, which is good to see.
“He keeps all farm implements up to safety standards with covers and PTO shafts for example.”
But he said the main rule that had been passed down the generations was to “stop and think”.
“Reading the media helps keep everyone aware of how easy a slack moment can result in a disaster,” he said.
Ian and Marilyn are still heavily involved in their local farming community and believe communicating with others in the same industry helps to improve farming practices, including how to make a farm safer.
“In years gone by, I’ve done ‘farm walks’ with other farmers to get new ideas and to have a social side to work,” he said.
To make this process more of a formal group, he and two other local farmers established the Kernot Farmers Group.
“We decided to get together once a fortnight, to support a local business, for example the Kernot Store, and have a chat with other farmers in the area,” he said.
He said it was through this group that he heard about the Victorian Farmers Federation’s child safety campaign.
“Having discussed some tragic and near misses on farms that we have heard of in our lifetime, and with our grandchildren being involved on farm nowadays, we decided it was a good cause to get involved in,” he said.
And there’s one memory that makes this particularly important for Ian.
“About five years ago, I was travelling through the Pilbara region of WA and I came across a young bloke who was mustering cattle,” he said.
“He was full of adrenalin and his ute was loaded with a quad bike just sitting on the tray with no rollover or any other safety equipment.
“I said to him ‘if you’re not careful you will kill yourself on that bike’.”
“I have wondered ever since if it all went well for that young lad.”