Battling farmers help Zoe achieve education

RESEARCH is more often associated with science than emotion, but for one La Trobe University graduate, emotion is exactly what her research entailed.

Zoe O’Callaghan is the first PhD student to graduate from the John Richards Initiative, a research program which focuses on rural aged care.

“I’ve got a rural background and family who are farming,” the Albury woman said.

“I can see the contemporary problems and issues around farming and getting older without having another generation coming on to the farm.”

Dr O’Callaghan spent 12 months in the company of struggling farmers aged over 60.

“It is very much a narrative type of research because I spoke to farmers and spent a lot of time observing them,” she said.

“It was hard at times, especially when I was leaving them, knowing they probably had a limited amount of choices about what their future was going to be.”

Dr O’Callaghan said her research was challenging but worth it.

“The farmers are an amazing group of people and they are facing hurdles,” she said.

“My study can help them and it’s already been implemented through a couple of workshops with the Department of Primary Industries.

“Hopefully there’s more research coming on later that may look at mental health in older men.”

Dr O’Callaghan said it would be interesting to see if the older farmers remained on their properties where there was no next generation to hand over to.

“That presents issues of ageing for them,” she said.

She said she was proud to be graduating with a PhD as her research would be used to help others.

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