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Parents stay vigilant around on farm safety

The Billing family: Thomas (16), Bridget (14), Isabella (12) and Henry (10), flanked by their parents Mark and Sam at the family dairy at Colac, Victoria.

This is branded content for the Victorian Farmers Federation.

Safety has always been a priority for Mark Billing and Sam Simpson, Dairy Farmers from Colac. Mark and Sam, along with their four children Thomas 16, Bridget, 14, Isabella, 12, and Henry, 10, all enjoy living and working on their farm.

"About 12 months ago, Thomas started helping out with milking, and now he's the back-up milker, helping out on weekends and in between his school studies," Mark said.

"Bridget helps with calf rearing on the weekends and looks after the working dogs, feeding them, that's her job.

"And the younger two help with getting up the cows and calves and other odd jobs here and there," he said.

Mark and Sam have instilled in their children from a young age strict rules and boundaries for when they were out and about on the farm.

Mark Billing with son Henry, advising of dangers when using a feed wagon.

"We want the kids to be involved in the farm but they've learned from an early age the importance of their safety, not only around machinery, but stock too," Mark said.

"Calves are generally okay but they can still do dumb things, whereas cows are a little bigger, so my kids know where to be and where not to be when cattle are moving around.

"We have a rotary dairy, and the kids aren't allowed in the dairy space while milking's going on, we have exclusion areas for them."

He said the kids knew they had to wear helmets when riding their push bikes or motorbikes around the farm.

They were also aware of the danger of vehicles or machinery travelling around the farm.

"From a young age they've learned that if someone's in a tractor, they need to have eye contact with them, and to not be around any equipment that's moving around," he said.

He said working for the local CFA reminded him constantly of the importance of farm safety, particularly when it came to his kids.

"Last year a friend of mine was killed working on his farm with a baler," he said.

"That really brought it home for me, losing someone we knew, who had kids the same age as ours.

"It really refocused us around machinery. We sat down with the kids and said 'this can happen, and happen very quickly, and if we don't want to deal with the trauma of this, the best way to avoid it is stay in your spaces, and if you're not sure about something, don't do it'."

Mark said at the end of the day, he knew it was his and Sam's responsibility to watch their children.

"We know we have to be forever vigilant, and never switch off, particularly when there's kids around."

Download a guide to child safety on farms

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Making our Farms Safer Project (MOFS) is aiming to boost public awareness and highlight the on-farm risks for children through a new safety campaign.

VFF President Emma Germano said the launch of the 'Making Our Farm Families Safer' campaign coincides with National Farm Safety Week 2022 and will see a dedicated safety guidebook launched for farming families.

Peter Thompson of Manangatang, pictured with son Luke (12) together in the farm workshop.

"The Australian agriculture industry sadly represents the highest proportion of accidents causing death in any workplace, with children tragically making up one quarter of these numbers."

"We need to do all we can as an industry to ensure no one has to endure the heartbreak, pain, loss and emptiness that losing a child to a preventable on-farm accident results in," Ms Germano said.

The campaign and guidebook is driven by findings of a 2021 Coronial Inquiry which revealed in the six-year period from 1 January 2016 to 21 December 2021, seven Victorian children died using farm machinery.

"Safe farms mean safe families and children and I encourage you to download the guidebook", Ms Germano said.

To learn more about the Making Our Farm Families Safer campaign and Guidebook visit www.makingourfarmssafer.org.au