It looked like giving up. But, for Rosie Cox, it was actually a “big, wonderful adventure.”
And, what ‘it’ amounted to be was what it always comes down to, love.
She was an accountant at the Australian Tax Office who found herself cataloguing the features – bushy eyebrows, piercing blue eyes, and a wide smile – of a fellow number-cruncher. He was just another country boy that fell in love with a city girl.
Soon, scribbled figures, extracts of tax legislation, and the landscape of customer service became a familiar terrain Rosie and John realised they enjoyed navigating together.
When they decided to expand that territory to exploring life together generally, and on a cattle station in particular, they realised not everyone shared in their elation at finding one another.
Soon after John and Rosie were married, John’s family purchased “Glensfield”, west of Mackay. For John, the plan had always been to return to a life on the land, having grown up on a property in Central Queensland, so no one was surprised.
But, for Rosie, station life wasn’t what or where she ever expected she would be.
“Until I met John,” she said. “Then I would’ve gone to Antarctica if that’s where he wanted to settle but, luckily, it was Glensfield.”
Any reservations Rosie had about moving onto a cattle station were only amplified by those around her, who were perplexed by her decision to leave the ‘civilisation’ of the ATO and Townsville.
“I think being an accountant and on a career trajectory, people can’t see the point in doing all that study and getting to a prominent position and suddenly it looks like you are giving it up,” Rosie explained.
“But in all honesty, when John and I got married, I was always going to give up work when we had children – that was always a given for me personally.
“We were newly married and, for me, but also for us, it was a big adventure.
“We were pregnant with Jess [their first daughter, now Jessie Bethel], we had a new baby coming, a new property, a whole new life. It wasn’t daunting really, because we didn’t know what was to come, but my family thought I was completely crazy.”
What was to come were two more children – Sarah and Clancy – three decades of “highlights and lowlights” and countless hours wondering whether the rain would come, and more recently, whether the rain would stop.
In the past year alone, John and Rosie, like most North Queenslanders went from feeling the relief of rain to its terror when the Townsville floods ripped through their son Clancy’s house. Just a couple of months before, the couple had been ploughing fire breaks on Glensfield to protect what they could from flames.
Yet Rosie almost brushes these challenges off as simply part of life. She admits part of her strength and resilience comes from her relationship with John, and the fact they face all the challenges together as a couple.
“John and I often talk about it, things can get pretty stressed on the land – droughts, flood, cattle crises – but if you’re in it together, you can talk about it, you can be a sounding board for one another. If you’re in it together, it’s doable, I think.”
It’s not just a matter of being together though, Rosie said. It’s a matter of “living for love.”
“I know it sounds pretty corny, but that’s how we are. Our kids see that, and it gives them a sense of security in their own lives. Whatever’s happening, they’ve got that, and I think that’s a gift from us to them.”
“It was also making the decision to be happy. And for me, living a happy life is absolutely a measure of success.”
Today, so much space has been made for the success of ‘career women’. Yet, it’s a very specific archetype that doesn’t leave room for businesswomen like Rosie, who still work hard and also see their marriage as being one of their greatest assets, their husband a great pillar of support.
Perhaps that’s what Rosie’s contemporaries also meant when they told her she was ‘giving up’ – she was conceding to being seen as a lesser woman or a hidden one, masked by the label of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’.
But the idea of a career woman was designed to give women choice and equality among men in the workplace. For that reason alone, it’s a dangerous notion to judge a woman for choices she made of her own accord.
Rosie is testament to that, a modern woman capable of doing it alone but choosing to share life instead; qualified to climb the corporate ladder to its highest rung, but rather choosing to build a family business and legacy. And, as much as she would follow John to the glacial ends of the world, so too would he for her.
“I’m definitely an equal partner,” Rosie said. “I’m just a different partner. I do different things, but I’m always involved in what’s going on.
“I absolutely love being a woman in ag and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. It’s such a wonderful, hardworking life and I feel truly blessed to have two daughters – Jessie [who lives and works on a cattle station outside Nebo with her husband Craig] and Sarah, and a son Clancy, who all absolutely want to come home and be part of this life as well.
“All three of our kids are professional people, but you can put that professionalism into agricultural life. I still use my accounting background. You never lose it; you just use your intelligence and work ethic in a different sphere.
“We’ve always said to our children, it’s good to go out and learn something else, work for someone else, get a sense of yourself away from a rural background and then if you are compelled, come back and make it better.
“Because as we all know, the oldies can get mouldy with their thinking. Sometimes you have to look at it from a different angle and young people have that. It’s such an energetic approach to the rural scene, which I think is great.”
So, when Jessie came to Rosie and said she wanted to leave her career as a lawyer, Rosie was nothing but supportive.
“I had been through that myself and absolutely knew that was the best thing for her to do because if you have a yearning for the bush and a partner, it’s the only course of action,” she said.
Now, after spending 29 years on Glensfield – more than half of Rosie’s life, and almost half of John’s (Rosie feigns dismay that John is ‘a little older’) – the couple are embarking on a new chapter, being grandparents.
“This year hasn’t been our pinnacle, but it will be when Baby Bethel arrives,” Rosie said.
“2019 is always going to be a special year for us: fire, floods, the whole big wheel of life has gone ‘round and we are so glad to be going around with it and so thrilled there’s going to be another little person to love.”
What does Rosie hope her legacy will be for her grandchild and grandchildren to come?
An absolute sense of belonging.
“Belonging to a family with much love, belonging to a community, and also belonging to an industry that is such a wonderful industry to be a part of and hopefully will always be there if they want to return to it.”
The weather, the cattle prices, the industry and life itself may not be guaranteed, but there is one thing that is for certain.
It’s going to be another wonderful, big adventure.
Rosie’s daughters nominated for an Antola shirt to be named after her. She said it really struck a chord with her that her daughters thought enough of her to send in a nomination. Of the Rosie shirt itself, she said: “I couldn’t have asked for better colours: a green background, which reminds me of Glensfield, and it has all the other vibrant colours that remind me of my family.”
Story by : Megan Stafford