“Exploring the Occupational Experiences of Livestock Farmers during Drought: A Narrative Inquiry”

Miss Kirsty Healing1, Mr Daniel Lowrie

1Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital, Albion, Australia


Introduction: For much of the 21st century, Australia has endured the most prolonged and severe drought since records began. This drought has been found to have negative and long-lasting consequences upon both the physical and mental wellbeing of farmers and their families. To date, however, no research has explored the experience of drought through an occupational lens. This project, thus aims to explore the way in which drought shapes the occupational experiences of farmers and associated sense of meaning within the farming role.

Methods: Narrative inquiry and thematic analysis were used to explore the experiences of drought among six farming men and four farming women from Northern Queensland.

Findings: Analysis of the participants’ interviews led to the development of four key, inter-related themes. These being: ‘Entry into the Farming Role – Rites of Passage’; ‘Farmers as Guardians’; ‘Drought as Siege’ and; ‘Connectedness to the Outside World’.  Each of these themes offer insights into the way in which drought comes to be understood by farmers and, in turn, experienced and responded to.

Conclusion: By better understanding the occupational experiences of farmers during drought, resources can be more effectively targeted towards promoting occupational balance and wellbeing. Interventions aimed at reframing the way in which the farming role is conceptualised from a young age and supporting occupations beyond farming as bridges to the outside world may be effective in achieving positive outcomes during drought.


Kirsty Healing is a new graduate occupational therapist with a strong passion for working with the elderly population, neurological disorders and rural and remote health, having grown up on a cattle property herself. She is currently working as an OT at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital, but eventually hopes to return, with her skills to work in a rural area. Kirsty undertook a 2year research project during her undergraduate degree in OT at James Cook University, focusing on farming men and women and the impact their surroundings had on their identity and livelihood. Kirsty is very passionate about shaping healthcare to better address the needs of rural and remote population, including increasing access and changing attitudes.

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