John Richards Initiative Symposium

The John Richards Initiative (JRI) was established at La Trobe University in Albury-Wodonga in 2007 to explore issues associated with ageing in rural communities. Some of the most pressing issues that the JRI are investigating are the challenges facing farmers as they head into their retirement years after facing years of economic, environmental, and social change. 

Old FarmerThese issues are impacting on ageing farmers and are culminating in poor mental health, suicide and affecting the long term succession of the family farm. As a result, many ageing farmers are now reaching crisis point.

The intention of this Symposium to be held on Thursday December 1 —Responding to Change: Issues faced by Older Farmers—is to explore some of these emerging issues and responses which are perhaps unique to the farming sector.

Professor Jeni Warburton, John Richards Chair of Rural Aged Care Research at La Trobe, will lead the Symposium.

‘The key objectives of the John Richards Initiative are really to make a difference, to provide the research evidence that will make a difference for older people living in rural communities,’ says Professor Warburton.

‘Particularly based in this region in the northeast of Victoria, we work with a range of stakeholders, people who work in the aged care and health sector, policy makers and so on about making a difference.’

Rural areas are ageing as a result of a number of trends, and farming areas are more likely to comprise a large number of older people, says Professor Warburton.

‘Farmers are much more likely to be ageing, as young people are choosing not to return to the farm. Many farmers are faced with little choice but to keep working, selling is not an option.’

The Symposium will explore both some of the issues facing this ageing workforce, as well as how governments and agencies are responding to these issues.

The morning session comprises of key speakers who have considerable expertise in the challenges faced by ageing farmers. Speaker Neil Barr, Senior Social Research, Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Bendigo, will address the future of the ageing population in these communities.

Susan Brumby, Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health, Hamilton, Victoria, will discuss the health, wellbeing and safety issues of ageing on the farm and La Trobe PhD student with John Richard Initiative Zoe O’Callaghan will present—We’re not bullet-proof: Challenges to ageing male identities for Murray borderland farmers.

The afternoon panel discussion will then focus on policy and practice responses to the series of challenges faced by ageing farmers. The panel discussion will revolve around Policy and Practice and will include: Helen Dineen, Rural and Regional Policy (DPI); Paul Blackshaw, Rural Financial Counsellor Coordinator; Max Wellstead, Psychiatrist, Aged Persons Mental Health Service, North East Health, Wangaratta and Heather Downer, Social Worker, Centrelink.

Media Opportunity

What: John Richards Initiative Responding to Change: Issues faced by Older Farmers

Venue: La Trobe University, Lecture Theatre Health Sciences—Building 6, University Drive Wodonga             

When: Thursday 1 December, 2011

Contact: Dr Maureen Rogers, Research Officer John Richards Initiative, M: 0407441523 E:


For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Meghan Lodwick

La Trobe University Communications Officer
T: 03 9479 5353 M: 0418 495 941 E: