A deep, personal understanding about challenges farmers face every day drives Aussie Helpers CEO Tash Kocks to continue the leadership her father started in providing primary producers immediate, critical help.
Brian and Nerida Egan, from Dalby, started Aussie Helpers in 2002 and since the charity has helped more than 15,000 Australian farmers in times of need.
Tash says it was Brian’s wish she succeed him as Aussie Helpers’ CEO when he retired.
“Today, I’m honoured to lead, grow and continue my parents’ legacy as CEO of Aussie Helpers,” she says.
“I grew up a daughter of Aussie farmers and my family went through it all. My parents had some incredibly tough years, especially during the drought in the early 2000s.
“Their experiences—the challenges and devastation of life on the land during drought—drove them to establish Aussie Helpers and to help other Aussie farmers experiencing tough times.
“From mental health challenges, financial hardship, devastating natural disasters, and the difficulties that isolation brings, I know farmers and I know what they’re going through, which helps me to provide both practical and more personal support.”
Aussie Helpers is different to other charities in that it provides immediate help—wherever, whenever and however—farmers and farming communities need it.
The charity helps 1,000s of farmers every year, whether it be providing animal feed, financial assistance, food hampers, fuel cards, disaster relief, laptops, school fee support, student tutoring, access to mental health services, and little luxuries like Christmas hampers and gifts for kids.
Tash says they’re open and flexible to responding to the unique needs individual farmers, their families and rural communities face.
“Our regular farm visits are a vital lifeline to many farmers and their families. Our team—all Mental Health First Aid certified—provide open ears, minds and arms for farmers who simply need to know they are not alone,” she says.
“Aussie farmers don’t get the credit that they deserve and, when you know how tough it can be to be a farmer, it’s natural to be passionate about supporting farmers.
“Aussie farmers fight hard to survive the tough times. They’re incredibly modest about how progressive and innovative they are individually and collectively.
“And—sometimes—they’re just too proud to ask for help. Many farmers continue to struggle alone. And for me, that’s not ok.
“I’m driven every day to ensure farmers know that help is just a phone call away.”
Tash says the role has presented her with plenty of personal moments which demonstrated just how impactful Aussies Helpers can be.
“Over the past few years leading Aussie Helpers since stepping into the CEO role, I’ve certainly become more determined and confident,” she says.
“My first Make a Farmers Christmas Special was incredibly memorable. We had pallets and pallets of donated Christmas staples and volunteers at our depot in Dubbo. Together, we packed 500 Christmas hampers with essential household items and Christmas treats for farmers who were still coming through one of the worst droughts in Australia’s living memory.
“To pull it all together—and then distribute to farmers across central New South Wales and western Queensland in time for Christmas, was extraordinary.
“We wouldn’t have been able to save Christmas for so many farmers in need without the support of generous donors and volunteers. I realised after that Christmas just how impactful Aussie Helpers was in the rural community.”
Tash says there is always more to do.
“I would love an infinite supply of support for Aussie farmers, whether the support be an understanding and awareness of what farmers do and go through to feed the nation, to more tangible support for farmers through donations so we can help farmers who need it.”
To know more about Aussie Helpers, and donate, see https://aussiehelpers.org.au/donate/
Get to know Tash | Three quick questions
What don’t people know about rural, regional and remote Queensland women?
Unless you are one—or know one well—many people don’t know about all the hats rural, regional and remote Queensland women wear. They are businesswomen, land managers, livestock and crop workers—and wives, mothers, daughters, carers, sisters—and friends. They aren’t just the glue of their own families—they also support other women and families in their communities.
What do you do on a day/ afternoon/ evening/ weekend off?
I love family adventures and exploring central Queensland. There is so much to see and do from Gladstone, like day trips to the Capricorn Caves, Kroombit Tops, Heron Island and Keppel Island. I travel a lot for work and so weekends with my family, making memories, and getting outdoors are really special.
What don’t we know about you?
People tend to underestimate me when they first meet me. I’m more interested in learning about other people and hearing their stories than talking about myself. I think they get a surprise when the learn what I do and why I do it. It’s also a reflection of less women in C-suite positions across Australia, and in particular across regional Australia.
By Emma Clarke