Transformation: Problem to Precision

FISCAL sustainability of local communities is a key goal for South West NRM when establishing exclusion fences, and another positive side-effect has emerged: improved mental wellbeing.

Within the recently completed Clifton Exclusion Fence, between Quilpie and Windorah, Wendy Groves says she is no longer feeling the mental strain knowing that she and her husband, Ross Groves, have an exclusion fence.

Before the exclusion fence was built, the anxiety from bearing witness to the aftermath of wild dog attacks on sheep fully dawned on Mrs Groves when a neighbour asked: ‘How do you handle that?’

On their property, Clifton, constant wild dog attacks on sheep left the Groveses distraught time and time again.

“We knew wool as a golden fleece but then we knew it as blood stained fleeces,” Mrs Groves says.

“It is heart wrenching for a man to see the slaughter of his sheep. We were emotionally taxed.”

Mrs Groves did not let those feelings go unheard.

As the chaos of wild dog attacks unfolded on their property and continued to disrupt their lives, the Groveses would speak candidly at community events about what they experienced in the paddocks.

Their lacking denial of wild dog attacks on sheep and persistent honesty helped shape the situation as realistically as possible.

“We were never going to let it die easily,” Mrs Groves says.

“We didn’t have the option to fence our 128 kilometres of boundary.”

“We were at a loss of how to find a victory.”

From the real nightmare of slain sheep at the jaws of wild dogs, the Groveses searched far and wide to find the answer to the bloody mess; a search that took the pair down a path known as transformative resilience.

Resilience – the act of picking yourself up from a setback - is a fundamental skill in the Bush; transformative resilience takes on a whole new dimension.

Transformative resilience is the process in which an individual, group or community improve through a setback.

Transformative resilience involves transition through six steps: comfort zone, disruption, chaos, discovery of a catalyst, movement to a new reality, and finally, comfort with new changes in place.

 

Transformative Resilience Steps and Clifton Exclusion Fence Actions:

1. Comfort Zone - Wild dog attacks have limited impact on livestock; agribusiness model continues unchanged

2. Disruption - Wild dog attacks suddenly increase forcing graziers to consider alternatives to fight pests

3. Chaos - Mental and financial struggle to fight battle against wild dogs; some graziers forced to destock

4. Discovery of catalyst - Exclusion fence will help reduce wild dog attacks and allow for increased livestock production; in effect an exclusion fence will promote sustainable production of beef and wool

5. Movement towards a new reality - Exclusion fence is built; remaining wild dogs hunted

6. Comfortable with new changes in place - Graziers run livestock at optimum levels; greatly reduce fear of wild dog attacks; improvement in mental wellbeing

 

Wild dog attacks take any grazier and business from a comfort zone into disruption and chaos as they look for an answer to counter the pests.

For the Groveses, moving beyond those issues proved to be a separate challenge altogether.

Their aim was easy enough to voice.

The wild dog attacks on sheep were impossible to ignore.

After all, the Groveses were forced to sell the remainder of their flock in 2016.

The challenge: building team unison with other potential exclusion fence members.

Conversations with neighbours about pest management were not necessarily gaining traction; acceptance of wild dog attacks on sheep and its ghastly side-effects were not the catalysts that got the exclusion fence project up and running.

“We couldn’t sit there just talking about this, have to try something.”

While attending a Church meeting on the Gold Coast Mrs Groves found a catalyst. A Church spokesperson revealed a message within the acronym PURE. Purpose. Unity. Resources. Execute.

Mrs Groves envisioned that this message would help bring together neighbouring graziers to form an exclusion fence cluster.

People unite around a purpose, which in the case of the Clifton Cluster evolved around increasing carrying capacity, Mrs Groves explains.

At their first meeting to incorporate a cluster, Mrs Groves asked stakeholders to come prepared with a figure on how many stock they wanted to run in a best-case scenario.

“The purpose is also for increasing financial ability, longevity of the place and keeping kids on the land, not mining.”

True to what Mrs Groves heard at the Gold Coast, neighbours rallied behind them in support of an exclusion fence, jointly funded by South West NRM and RAPAD.

The catalyst also acted as a means to build social cohesion.

“One neighbour who was not interested in wild dog management started to say, I care about their [Clifton Exclusion Fence] purpose.”

Through South West NRM’s consultation and support the Groveses realised their mission of a completed exclusion fence in December 2017.

“South West NRM have been amazing. There were dynamic. They were understanding as the process went along knowing how busy graziers are.”

“They were upfront and answered all questions.”

Their wellbeing - down in the gutter at the sight of another attack on their sheep - turned upward with the realisation that there was a way forward through sharing a common purpose with their neighbours and the continued support offered by South West NRM.

Instrumental in creating a community-supported pest control management group, the Groveses, along with neighbours, are now trapping remaining wild dogs inside the exclusion fence.

Their move towards a life without wild dogs has provided the Groveses with a deep sense of satisfaction.

The new changes in effect at the Clifton Exclusion Fence will allow for the sustainable production of beef and wool in the future, as well as help keep spirits high.

“I cry when I am happy and I cry when I am sad,” Mrs Groves says.

“I went and looked at the fence, stood there and cried: yay this is really happening. There is an overwhelming sense that we have an answer and this is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

 

End.

CONTACTS

Prepared by Martin Volz, Media Officer, martin.volz@swnrm.org.au

More information Phil McCullough, CEO, 0407 126 689