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Vicki's Story- Women Of The LMRIA

The Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area (LMRIA), spans along the river from Mannum to Wellington in South Australia. You'll find a whole mix of farming, including cropping, dairy, hay production, livestock and more.

In 2022, the Murray River floods hit. Numerous farmers were confronted with difficult decisions: either selling off their livestock, relocating them to higher ground, or arranging for agistment elsewhere. They also had to watch their crops be destroyed by the rising water. They tried their absolute best to stop the flooding by sandbagging the river bank. The challenges these farmers endured and the ongoing process of recovery are often underestimated by many people.

The women of the LMRIA came together and created a group to give each other support, all connected by their ties to farming along the Murray River. Within this community they share experiences, offer advice, and just be there for each other.

I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to connect with this group and capture their stories of resilience and challenges faced by these women and their families.

Here is Vicki's story.

She now helps her son and daughter-in-law, who have taken over the family's former cattle dairy and transformed it into the SA Buffalo Co farm in Mypolonga, South Australia.

I captured Vicki in the dairy shed milking the buffalo.

I was born in Murray Bridge but moved frequently around Victoria due to my dad's job as a horse trainer. I met my husband in Murray Bridge and later moved to his family’s cattle dairy farm. We took over the dairy from my in-laws, and I managed both the dairy and raising our three children. Before we had kids, my husband worked as a truck driver, leaving me to milk the cows on my own.

After years of struggling, we had to shut down our dairy and sell our cows because the price of milk dropped to an unsustainable 20 cents per litre. I found work at the meatworks, where, on my first day, I had to pack meat from our own cattle sent to the abattoir. I worked there for 14 years, starting my days at 2 AM and finishing at 5 PM.

Many years later, my son and daughter-in-law decided to return to the farm and restart the dairy, this time with buffalo instead of cattle. The land had been idle for years and required extensive work to clear paddocks and rebuild fences. We now milk the buffalo twice a day, starting at 4 AM and again at 3:30 PM, taking three hours to milk 140 buffalo.

When the floods hit, the council constructed a levee to protect our homes and the town. Although the river levee broke and flooded the land around the dairy, the dairy itself remained safe on higher ground. However, we couldn’t access it due to the surrounding water.

Knowing from past experiences that the dairy sat on a rise, we anticipated it would remain safe. We had to relocate our 400 buffalo, which was challenging as they were unfamiliar with the new dairy and reluctant to enter it. Once the floods had cleared there was damage to our land and a lot of cleaning up to do. The fences were destroyed and it took a long time before we could put the buffalo's back into the paddocks due to the mud and no feed.

These stories are captured to showcase the resilience and determination of these women,their families and their farm.

This project is being delivered in partnership with the Department of Primary Industries and Regions, with funding support from both the South Australian and Australian governments under the National Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.


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