Melissa Barnett has undergone many career transformations in her lifetime – from nurse, to librarian, to journalist – however she says the most rewarding was becoming a woman of the land.
City born and bred, Melissa first headed to the South Burnett in country Queensland in 1982 when she moved to Kingaroy to nurse. This is where she met her husband, Michael, whose family owned Taabinga Station, one of the oldest properties in the region. Melissa and Michael eventually moved to Brisbane, where they remained for 25 years. During this time, they managed Taabinga Station remotely with the support of a farm manager.
In 2011, Melissa and Michael made a permanent move back to Taabinga Station. Both maintained off-farm income, and as a self-employed writer, Melissa was the one with the flexibility to take on the lion’s share of the farm work. “My nursing and journalism careers hadn’t exactly prepared me for running a herd of cattle, so I had a huge job in front of me to learn everything I could about the cattle business,” Melissa said. “We started with a small herd of Murray Greys – about 50 head of cattle in total – which we ultimately wanted to build to about 250. Michael’s parents started the herd and had a love of Murray Greys. They are a lovely breed – quiet, intelligent and easy to work with. I call them the Labradors of the cattle world!”
“I started working with our farm manager who had been looking after the property for a number of years and absorbed everything I could. I enrolled in courses and workshops, and tapped into the fantastic grazing network that exists in the South Burnett,” she said.
Melissa took inspiration from her mother-in-law, who was one of five daughters and had a very hands-on role in the running of Taabinga Station. Melissa said that in the nine years she has been actively involved in the property, she has seen a huge increase in the presence of women in agriculture – from driving tractors on the farm to heading up AgForce and the National Farmers Federation of Australia.
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