Steph supports Goyder women

Steph supports Goyder women


Life & Style
Community connection: Rural psychologist and Goyder SACWA branch president Steph Schmidt says social support networks are vital for health and wellbeing.

Community connection: Rural psychologist and Goyder SACWA branch president Steph Schmidt says social support networks are vital for health and wellbeing.

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A fierce passion for rural health and a recognition of the importance of support networks has inspired Clare psychologist Steph Schmidt to launch a new Country Women's Association branch for the Goyder region.

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What's important now?

This is the motto by which rural psychologist and Goyder South Australian Country Women's Association president Steph Schmidt lives her life.

"I've got it on a bracelet that I wear basically every day. It just reminds me to check in and think right, what's important in my life right now?" she said.

What's important to Steph at the moment is the wellbeing of rural women, as well as the general prosperity of towns throughout the Goyder region she calls home.

"It's a bit of a hidden gem here, we're between the Clare and Barossa valleys, which both attract a lot of publicity and tourists," she said.

"Goyder is an agricultural area, but there are also a lot of beautiful quaint shops and small businesses that most people don't know about."

Steph and husband Simon, along with their two children Ted, 4, and Angus, 1, are Worlds End residents, where they run a substantial farming enterprise across three properties.

But country blood has not always run in Steph's veins. In quite a stark contrast to her present way of life, she grew up in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect, which she claims was "five minutes from everywhere".

Steph was first drawn to the country when she met Simon at university.

"I was initially enrolled in international studies when I met Simon, about 13 years ago," she said.

"He was a farmer and I knew that international studies wouldn't fit too well with farming, so I changed to psychology, which I absolutely love."

Psychology was something Steph had always been interested in, and a career she knew would be better suited to living in the country.

People were becoming more isolated, and not getting out and about as much. - STEPH SCHMIDT

For five years, Steph split her time between Robertstown, where her and Simon initially lived, and Adelaide, and moved to Worlds End after completing her Masters in 2012. 

Today, she works at Country and Outback Health in Clare.

Fitting her future journey, Steph's university Honours research project was in men's rural mental health, looking at the role of social support in the community.

"I think knowing the importance of social support was part of my motivation to get the SACWA branch going," she said.

Living in the country, Steph has been able to see first-hand how women are holding communities together.

"It's the women who are looking after the kids, or keeping the business side going on the farm, or looking after the husbands – we ourselves need the release somewhere," she said.

The release, Steph decided, was going to be in the form of a new SACWA branch for the Goyder region.

"Last year, conversations with friends about the CWA popped up at various times and I thought it could be a good idea," she said.

Steph believed the ongoing drought was making communities increasingly detached, and something needed to be done.

"People were becoming more isolated, and not getting out and about as much," she said.

A television segment was the final trigger that helped Steph realise a new branch could make a difference.

It's not supposed to be an obligation or a chore, it's a place for fun, friendship and support. - STEPH SCHMIDT

"We were watching the 7:30 Report one night and there was a segment on drought, where they showed an interstate CWA branch creating care packs and voucher packs to help those in need," she said.

"Initially, the branch could be a place for women to get together, socialise and make new friendships, and then later there is potential to give back in a meaningful way to the community."

The inaugural Goyder branch meeting was held on February 22, and Steph said it was a huge success.

"There was a really wide range of people there, lots of women from different backgrounds," she said.

Steph emphasised that the meetings are intended to be a healthy support, not just a place to get together and "have a whinge about things".

"Whether we're learning something new, or learning some new self-care, I think there are a lot of the things we consider old-school that the CWA used to do, like knitting and handicraft, which are actually really valuable skills," she said.

"In mental health we talk about mindfulness, all about being here in this moment now, and all those skills are really good for doing that."

Steph encouraged anyone thinking of joining the new branch to come along and try it out.

"It's not supposed to be an obligation or a chore, not another committee meeting, it's a place for fun, friendship and support," she said.

Aside from CWA involvements, Steph is an active member of a number of local community groups and initiatives to empower rural women.

"Last year I got to attend the National Rural Women's Coalition in Canberra, which was all about networking, women's leadership and resilience. That certainly gave me some good ideas for the new branch," she said.

Steph is also a local organiser for 'Women Together Learning', and is on the conference committee for the 2020 Thriving Women's Conference.

Other community involvements, including Burra daycare and drought community reference groups, all combine to make Steph a busy woman, yet she is aware of the importance of taking time for herself.

"I enjoy yoga, crochet and getting out on the farm with the boys, or watching them play, just really making an effort to have some healthy ways to spend downtime," she said.

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