Farm families in spotlight

Jenne Brammer
The Fulwood family of Cunderdin, including Countryman journalist Jo Fulwood with husband Dave and children Hamish, Annie and Seb.

Countryman journalist Jo Fulwood and her family are featured in a newly-released and inspiring book about life on the land.

_Australian Farming Families _, by Deb Hunt, is a moving and enjoyable portrait of bush battlers.

Ms Hunt explores the spirit of the Australian outback by delving into the lives of nine families or "bush battlers" throughout Australia, and the Fulwood family of Yarrandale in Cunderdin are the WA family showcased.

In profiling the Fulwoods, Hunt talks about how university educated and career-oriented Jo, although from a WA farming background, met husband David when both were working in Melbourne.

It was on neither Jo nor Dave's intentions to end up farming in Cunderdin, but a family tragedy triggered a series of events which eventually led them back to Dave's family farm.

The book said Dave was in his element from the first day of returning the 4000ha farm, but Jo did not feel the same.

Instead, she spent all her spare time plotting how to escape.

But 10 years on and three children later, Jo wouldn't dream of living anywhere else. The book highlights how Jo, along with a group of other women, found her place in the community through campaigning to get a childcare facility in Cunderdin.

Prior to these efforts, Cunderdin had no childcare facilities, effectively trapping her at home with three children under the age of two.

As part of this campaign, Jo and the group were forced to appear on radio, television and the front page of local newspapers, in an attempt to salvage the centre from being shut by the government before it had even opened.

The Fulwoods' chapter covers the other challenges of family life in a farming community, including droughts, frosts and the variability of income, which at times has put them under financial duress.

For the non-rural reader it gives a good insight into farming techniques, such as the Fulwoods' drive to improve soil quality through the use of mouldboard ploughing.

Other families profiled by Hunt are based from Gilberton in Central Queensland to Glasslough in Tasmania.

These include a fighting French family, whose connection to the bush goes back seven generations; to Philip the philosopher, who at fifteen started work as a jackeroo and by 29 was managing a property of more than one million hectares carrying 20,000 head of cattle.

Another chapter covers rowdy Roma Britnell, who was awarded Australian Rural Woman of the Year in 2009 and was told she would never be able to afford her own farm by the banks, but now has three dairies and a herd of over 1,000 cows.

Australian Farming Families, published by MacMillan Australia, sells for $29.99 and is the second book by English-born Hunt.