Em Hacon’s father Tom Keats left the family property Gleeson, northwest of Cloncurry, many times for treatment as a cancer patient. But then one day in 2013, he never came home.
A while later, Em took over as manager on the station. It was an early promotion; one that came with extremely mixed feelings given the circumstances. Ever since, her life has been shaped by that moment, but never has it been defined by it.
Em is more than just the girl who lost her Dad; she’s an unfaltering voice on why people choose to live in rural and remote areas. Resolute on what she loves and who she is and determined to keep building each day at who she will be.
“I never considered anything other than working out here. Nothing else would have worked for me,” Em said in her matter-of-fact manner.
“I think this lifestyle, maybe it’s the bulldust, gets in your blood. I simply can’t imagine living any other way.
“And while I never expected to be running Gleeson, I feel really privileged to be here. I didn’t realise how much Dad must have believed in me for him to let me do what he’s let me do.”
In a place that demands resilience, her father’s unwavering belief in her helped Em crack the code on what being resilient really means. She found it has less to do with strength of character and absolutely nothing to do with swallowing your emotions. Resilience, Em discovered, is about being vulnerable, opening up and asking for help.
“[Losing Dad] was the biggest, most roughest possible way of teaching me that when you need help, you’ve got to find the person who can help you.
“There were actual, real, physical things I didn’t know how to do and I had to learn because the livestock depended on it. So I learned how to ring people to ask them how to fix a pump or a windmill.”
Talking about where she is at also helped Em early on in her relationship with husband Will.
“Now Gleeson is totally ours and we are working together, but when Wills got here, it was him working for me. That was tricky to work out. I got comfortable knowing what I had to do and then I had to relearn the job again and feel my way with who does what.
“The best thing about Will and I is the whole opposites attracting thing was definitely in place. When I get really stressed about something, he’s the even keel, which sometimes doesn’t feel like a good thing but really is. [Our relationship] has made Gleeson a much more balanced place.”
But while Em was feeling more balanced on the work front, she started to feel less balanced personally.
“It wasn’t that I felt like I had to be a man, but I started to feel out of balance. I think we aren’t all totally masculine or feminine – we’re a mix of the two.
“I’m a woman but a lot of the job I was doing on the station was that clear, logical, decision-making, no-frills stuff and being in that masculine energy. I didn’t feel like myself, so it was a conscious thing to do little girly stuff, to have that little bit of prettiness, like my super special Antola shirts, each day.
“It makes me feel better. And I find the better I am in myself, the better I am in everything else. If I’m more certain and clear myself, everything is more certain and clear. That’s what we are aiming for.”
Story by : Megan Stafford