Succession planning in the bush is a huge part of life on the land. Many farms and pastoral companies have been in a family for generations, so not only is succession planning important for the future of the business and a form of risk management, it carries with it deep emotional ties to the land. When families have multiple children interested in taking over, parents have to try and work out if the place can sustain more than one family. Often off-farm income is needed to support them all. Sadly, it is also becoming more common for children not to be interested in pursuing farming, which inevitably forces a sale of the land.

Owners of properties know all too well the pressure and unpredictability of running farming operations and often worry if their children will be able to handle the intensity of droughts, floods and other events. A series of poor seasons can quickly plunge someone into depression, with graziers often retreating and not seeking help when overwhelmed with responsibility, debt and keeping livestock alive.

Life on the land can be a beautiful and unique lifestyle, it’s the tough stuff that is the worry for our future generation of farmers. With the lack of mental health clinical services and support in remote Australia, who will ensure our rural leaders are taken care of?

Peter and Rosie Bryant run a 72,000 cattle grazing property in South West Queensland. With two sons and a daughter, they are currently going through the process of succession planning. They’re working to ensure that the two boys have enough land to look after their future families and that their daughter is compensated for her own future.

“Handing the family property over to the boys is the easy part. The worry of how they will deal with the tough times with any business that relies on the elements is the concerned parent part and as a mother and a wife I do agonise over this. Droughts are leeches of energy and dealing with hungry animals is distressing. In the more torrid dry times I have really felt at my wits end and my resilience has been sorely tested,” said Rosie.

“I spent a few years working as a Youth Support/Teacher Aide in our local High School. For one of those years, 2013, we had a pretty nasty drought. I can recall being in the Staff Room on one occasion and one of the other staff members asked me whether we had been lucky enough to be under some storms that had floated around. We had not and I can very well remember bursting into tears.”

“There are times when you really struggle to keep afloat physically and mentally. I do worry for my sons but trust in the fact that they have had a truly remarkable grounding and education thanks to their father and somewhat their mother.”

Their son, Lachy, has been working with Peter and Rosie on the family place for over 10 years and will be an integral part of the transition between brothers to keep the property functioning and profitable.

“If seasons maintain it will be all good, but if seasons and commodity prices do not hold my debt level could cause me a lot of sleepless nights. In a bid to keep the family farm and the family name, significant sacrifices have to be made,” said Lachy.

“While completing the succession plan we have to be mindful of drought in the future and the ability to get through it.”

We would like to acknowledge the Bryant family for sharing their personal experience with us.

Your contribution to RRMH can help us to support the mental health of those living in rural areas. Our Rural Minds program is designed by and for people living and working in remote Australia. To donate, click here.

If you know someone who is needing support and wanting someone to talk to, please reach out to the below.

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Lifeline 13 11 14

13YARN 13 92 76