Lisa Parker grew up in Geelong in a suburban household. When she met her husband, life changed as she relocated 150km inland and started to live farm life.
Having 3 children and living on a working farm, Lisa shares with us what that farm life was like with twin toddlers and now, with two 17 year olds and an 11 year old.
“I live in Mortlake on a sheep farm with my husband and 3 children, Hayden and Mitchell – 17 year old twins – and Kate, our boisterous and hilarious 11 year old daughter. We’ve been here for 25 years and absolutely love life on the farm.”
“I work full time as a teacher but my weekend is filled with feeding our 3000+ sheep, shearing, cutting wood and mustering on our motorbikes and ute.”
From a very early age, Lisa and her husband had a focus on safety for the kids.
“It was easier when they were little but as they got older, we knew they would want to be involved with areas of the working farm so we had to drill into them our non negotiables on safety.”
Mitchell, Lisa’s 17 year old son, shared: “Our gates to the farm and into different areas are always closed and locked. We know we aren’t allowed anywhere near equipment or an animal, whether that be horse or sheep without an adult. That is still the rule at 17 years of age! Haha”
“It’s true!” said Lisa. “We never spray chemicals when the kids are around and these are always locked away out of sight and out of reach. Whenever one of us is going to use some machinery or heading out in a tractor, we always discuss, check and double check, who has the kids and we have laneways across the whole farm so our path is always clear.”
Lisa’s ideas on child safety, especially around farm machinery, were magnified when someone she knew devastatingly lost their 4-year-old daughter.
With so many water hazards on their farm including water troughs and a large dam, water safety education has also been a key component of safety conversations with Lisa’s children.
“We have had the children in swimming lessons from a very young age but we also have strict rules about spending any time near water. Even if your child can swim, they can still fall head first into a trough and not be able to get out. The kids all know that even now, at 17 yrs old, they aren’t to swim in the dam without an adult present. It’s just not worth it. I know so many people think we are over cautious but we don’t want to be one of the ones who say ‘if only’…”
“One thing we love is how much freedom the kids can have and how much time they spend outdoors. They are able to be so creative and just like most kids, they love time on their bikes. It’s also an area we have to monitor though as they have access , now they are older, to more powerful bikes on the farm. I taught a boy who died on a 4 wheeler quad bike – he swerved to miss his dog and it rolled. I’ve never let my children on any 4 wheelers as the weight of them means it can end in catastrophe if they were to roll them or come off.”
Mitchell shared “That’s definitely something we’ve loved growing up on the farm. Being able to have so much fun outdoors… but Mum has always stressed to us that we need to learn life skills to be given independence. We can’t just go off on our own without knowing how to call for help or what to do in the case of an emergency.”
“It’s made all of us, even my little sister, be really critical thinkers and be able to judge if something is safe or not. I think that’s so important because Mum and Dad can’t always do the thinking for us.”
All 3 of Lisa’s children are avid horse riders, with one in particular now representing Australia in the Vic championships.
“Our children are often in the hands of bus drivers. Once harvest traffic starts we know there will be a lot of heavy machinery on the road and their safety does cross your mind as they drive off. Our daughter Kate knows not to get off the bus until one of us is there but on one occasion the bus driver insisted she exit. She was only in prep at the time! Thankfully she knew to wait on the side of the road for us to get there as if she had tried to cross, it could have gone so wrong.”.
“Again, it’s about making sure your children know the dangers and understand what to do if something doesn’t go as planned.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that children in outer regional areas are more at risk. There are just so many risks – we walk out our back door and we face hazards – fires, livestock, machinery, coming and going of vehicles, chemicals, water. It’s critical to ensure you understand the risks and put plans in place, but also educate the children so they know why these rules are in place.”
Lisa also has an educational role with the local CFA, teaching families and schools about bushfire safety and home safety.
“I’ve worked with the CFA for 6 years now and always tell parents the story of a set of twins who found some matches in their house and lit them. As it caught fire they were so worried about getting into trouble that they hid in a cupboard and succumbed to the smoke. We need to make sure our kids know safety, understand it and aren’t afraid to talk to us about it. I always say to my kids, you’ll never be in trouble for asking why or doing something in the moment that you didn’t think about and later realised wasn’t safe. I’m always here to talk to… it could make all the difference.”
“Never take your eyes off your children – work with them on how to use equipment, teach them about fire safety and plan to show them what to do in the case of an emergency. Make sure they know your home phone number and understand the fire map reference of the house. Don’t be afraid to keep reiterating it. As adults, and as our children have got older, we also see CPR as a non-negotiable. We are so far away from the nearest hospital that knowing this skill can be the difference in an emergency.”
To find more about how to keep your kids safe on the farm, head to Kidsafe Victoria’s website to download free resources: https://www.kidsafevic.com.au/home-safety/farm-safety-creative-competition/
There’s still time to enter our Farm Safety Competition with your children! This year’s theme is ‘Farm Safety Heroes’, which centres around how we can all play a part in making the farm a safe experience for everyone, whether we live, work on, or are visiting a farm.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.