“It didn’t matter who read the magazine. There was always someone they could connect with it and the unity across the entire state”.
Marg Agnew has a natural affinity for the land, and an unshakable desire to learn has been the driving force behind The RRR Network. Marg has earned her status as a pioneer both on and off the land through decades of resilience and hard work. She has recently been inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame.
Marg arrived in Esperance with her husband Rob after being raised on the family orchard in Victoria. Marg met her husband Rob as they were from the same district in Victoria, eager to leave to pursue farming in the West, Marg only saw Rob (prior to marrying) once a year when he would return for friend’s weddings. Stating, “Our engagement party was the first party we had attended, and our wedding was the first time we had danced together”.
In 1974, the pair “romantically” packed up the caravan and headed across the Nullarbor to the West, establishing their roots in Esperance, where they took up a new-land block. When Marg first arrived, she said, “The contrast was huge. I had come from irrigation“. The first harvest, Marg stated she knew little about broadacre farming. Admitting initially, she said to her husband that they would give it a couple of years and review. 10 years later, she was still there and content with what they had been able to achieve.
Although thriving with the farm with her husband, Marg became lonely, longing for more women to connect with. “I think women need sisterhood, and I think women need to be able to talk to someone else and share a conversation”. Marg believed that there must be other Western Australia women across the state who had left family behind to be in the bush and share our opportunities and stories of our achievements throughout the bush.
After reading similar style magazines from the east coast and reading a story about a ‘Cocky Gate’ that resonated with her, “We like to relate and know what other women are doing” Curating the initial newsletter, Marg sent it to Rural Politicians, Women across the state and other people of influence. Overwhelmed with the response, “Women were missing it, wanting the publication and providing advice to curate more of them, and that is when I knew I was on the right track”.
This led her to initiate and become the inaugural chair of the Rural Remote and Regional Women’s Network for WA. In the beginning, a variety of women wondered why she was putting so much time and effort into the publication, not believing in the integrity and value it had. “I could have given up. I am just ferocious, I acted, and I believed in it.” After tirelessly lobbying the state government and industry bodies, the magazine was launched and available to households across the state.
The biggest thing Marg has learnt is patience. Marg admitted that she didn’t give up “I had no barriers, and I just kept going”. Once we had the launch, it was exciting, but as soon as we had the meeting of 12 women across a table who had never met each other, “We didn’t have anything, we didn’t even have a mailing list”. Once they began to plan for the magazines, “We didn’t have any trouble with women sharing their story from their patch, and that was just so comforting”. Marg said there was a group of women from Esperance as well as across the state who supported the RRR along with the Government at the time, which gave her the strength to keep going. “I am indebted to all those women who shared their stories to the RRR Network and all those people who believed in it”.
Over the last 25 years, there have been many changes to the landscape that Marg touched on, including Social Media and Technology. Most notably, though, is “The visibility of women, I went to the Inaugural Rural Women’s conference 1994, and when I see women being highlighted in Agriculture, we have moved to have significant recognition for women.” There are also so many more women who, to their credit, have taken the agricultural industry. “There is still a long way to go, but I am proud of how far we have come”.
Marg highlights one story that has left a lasting impact on her from Dianne Forsyth, ABC Rural Women of the Year Winner (1997). “We have two lives, a public life and a private life and Di shared her private story about having had Breast Cancer”. Marg stated that Di wrote to the network to say how thankful she had been for the story. Having had such positive feedback within her region. Surprisingly, Men who had read the story made an effort to cross the street, talk to her, and tell her how much they enjoyed the magazine. Di also told Marg some of her female friends when to get checked (for Breast Cancer) after reading her story, and maybe that one story could have saved their lives.
The RRR Network officially launched in August 1996 and it was decided at the first Reference Group meeting the first magazine would be published by December 1996. With no mailing list, not one story or photo the team collectively managed to with just one employee Kate Daniels to publish the first edition with 16 glossy pages of women’s stories and their photos. “It’s a team effort, and the readers” The only way the RRR could continue to get funding was to increase the mailing list. “I never left home without a magazine. I used to put it in Doctors, Dentist and everywhere else” Marg went on to say, “We got up to 10,000 mail subscriptions”.
Marg leaves us with some wise advice “I have a saying or motto, the three P’s Passion, Patience and Perseverance,” Stating that Agriculture has bought that out in Marg. “I think sometimes I have been a bit ahead with my creativity and ideas, sowing the seed and waiting for others to join in”. In everyday life, Marg said, “Just don’t give up, and on the journey, you will learn things about yourself, other people and the environment.”