Australia Gay farmers go naked to help raise awareness of mental health

13:23  11 july  2018
13:23  11 july  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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The cause, which raises awareness about the mental health of Australian farmers , hit a personal chord with the couple. Couple hopes to help other gay farmers . Kerry Wilson said he and Paul were “not the only gays in the village”. Photo: ABC News.

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Paul and Kerry Wilson hope to raise the visibility of gay farmers.© Provided by ABC News Paul and Kerry Wilson hope to raise the visibility of gay farmers.

When The Naked Farmer came to town looking for people to get their kit off for a good cause, dairy farmer Kerry Wilson was approached to take part.

He and his partner Paul Wilson agreed, though Kerry had reservations about not having the right body type.

"Gee whiz, I'm 56. Does it matter?" Kerry asked. It didn't.

The cause, which raises awareness about the mental health of Australian farmers, hit a personal chord with the couple.

Kerry and Paul are fifth-generation farmers who live and work together near Nimbin in the northern rivers of New South Wales.

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"It's been quite a journey, to the point where I left a wife and three sons to become openly gay in the dairy industry," Kerry said.

"You carry a lot of guilt thereafter and even before, the 35 years before that when you know that something's not quite right in your head, but you can't quite work it out. Or you're not quite game to go and work through it with anybody.

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"So we've have our fair share of ups and downs and the agricultural industry is a tough gig."

Couple hopes to help other gay farmers

Kerry said coming out in the dairy industry was particularly tough.

"Oh, it was horrible," he said.

"At one stage we thought, OK, we'll just go to Brisbane and start a new life in the city, an anonymous life. But it was a fleeting thought. It wasn't an option because I had three sons."

At the time the kids were aged nine, six and four.

"And they by default had to come on the journey with us," Kerry said.

With the support of Kerry's former wife, life kept rolling on.

"I don't remember ever sitting around with my head in my hands going, 'Oh God, what are we going to do?'" Paul said.

And, Kerry said, "we weren't the only gays in the village".

"We used to have a joke, because we moved to Nimbin with three boys and a hundred goats, living on the side of a mountain, that we were the most normal thing in town," he said.

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'To get that real help you need to travel. Farmers from all around Australia pose in the buff The Naked Farmer - a social media page dedicated to farmers . The 24-year-old farmer said he has since used the platform to raise awareness of mental illness in the farming community.

Greying hair and ageing bodies aside, the couple hope that by baring it all they might become the role models they didn't have.

"If there's normal, average, mainstream people out there that happen to be gay, and some kid in the bush sees that person or that couple and thinks, 'Oh yeah, that's me,' then we've done our job," Paul said.

Talking about mental health in regional Australia

The Naked Farmer was started by Victorian grain and sheep producer Ben Brooksby.

It was his personal struggle with chronic anxiety that made him want to raise awareness about the mental health of Australian farmers.

It began on Instagram in 2017 and has expanded to include a calendar and underwear line.

"If you scroll through [social media] and see a photo of a tractor, you're probably going to keep scrolling," Mr Brooksby said.

"But if you see a photo of a tractor and somebody naked in front of it, you're going to stop and take note and take note of the caption and read about it.

"Mental health is a massive thing with me. I've gone through it myself, lost an uncle to suicide.

"I thought, I can really help out here, so that's when I teamed up with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and did a calendar."

He said The Naked Farmer was simply about starting a conversation.

"I was actually talking to a guy who's 19, and he said he was having some beers around the fire with a couple of older guys who were about 50," Mr Brooksby said.

"They were talking about The Naked Farmer, and one of the old guys arced up and said, 'I don't know how this is getting people talking about mental health, it doesn't make sense.'

"Then 15 minutes later they were still talking about it, and they were talking about mental health.

"Then this 19-year-old guy said, 'Well, we're talking about it now aren't we?'

"And they were all like, 'Yeah, I spose'."

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