In a random roadhouse along a stretch of highway in the Northern Territory, Tiffany Davey scrounged together enough change to buy herself a chocolate milk and the ability to use the servo’s Wi-Fi.
For the past two-and-a-half years, she’d been travelling around Australia, working on stations and in pubs as a bartender.
Her companions had been her swag, trusty Hilux, and a Kelpie/Collie cross – still her number one – she’d picked up somewhere in western Queensland. Together, they’d seen more of Australia than most Australians ever have or will and spent many a night in different pubs and places around Australia.
But, now, she felt a particular pull and found her compass locked on a familiar coordinate, home.
Her family may have owned a prime lamb and broadacre property at Konongorring in the Central Wheatbelt region, but Tiffany knew there wasn’t a job waiting for her. Instead, she needed to be coming home to something else. She needed to embark on her own career.
So, with a swig of her choccy milk, she started searching.
She applied for every position advertised, determined to turn up at home with more prospects than just her dog, the Ute, and her swag. Tiffany had never worked an office job before and didn’t have a background in events in a paid capacity, though she’d studied Communications at an Arts College.
Yet, it appeared home was calling for her too, and she landed a position with not-for-profit events company, Dowerin Events Management (DEM). They organise Western Australia’s biggest agricultural event, the Dowerin Field Days.
Tiffany was 21 at the time and, she said, “ready for the next step of my life.”
“Before my trip around Australia, I was lost,” Tiffany said. “I’m an extremely ambitious person and I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to get there, or that it was even possible.”
But, sitting in that remote roadhouse, Tiffany felt like a different person.
“For the first time, I knew what I was capable of, I liked who I was becoming. I had to throw a grenade on the life I had accepted, to pursue what I really wanted,” she said. “I realised I could contribute to the change I wanted to see.
“I used to think that I didn’t know enough, wasn’t experienced enough, and didn’t have a place in a room with decision makers, but I realised I had a vision. I’ll always learn more, but I had found my voice.
“As much as I wish you could make that impact from the paddock, I believe the change I wanted to see happens in a boardroom when you’re working with the decision makers in the industry. And, I wanted to be involved in changes.”
The main change Tiffany wanted to see in the industry was the way it was telling its own stories. From western Queensland, across the Territory and back along the Western Australian coast, Tiffany was talking to everyday Australians and reading the news and felt there was a major disparity between how she’d grown up and was working now to the image of the agriculture industry at a national level.
“I felt the industry wasn’t being represented properly,” she said. “I could see the passion people have for the land and for the animals, but we weren’t being the face of our own industry.
“I was ready to sink my teeth into something more career wise. I had a vision for the future of this industry, but I found myself in a really dark place. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was admitting that to myself and asking for help. I knew I needed it, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen that year out. I needed my family and I needed professional support.”
Tiffany is one of five children. She has three sisters and a brother that came along a lot later; he’s 12 years younger than Tiffany. Growing up on a farm, she was used to experiencing a lot of freedom, helping her parents with the work of operating a family business, but also relishing the free reign she and her sisters had on the farm.
“There was a lot of broken bones,” Tiffany laughs.
With the support of her family behind her, Tiffany began not only working at DEM, but taking a vested interested in how she could help spread the real stories she’d heard about rural Australia.
She became President of AgConnect WA – Western Australia’s only state representative body for people in the industry between the ages of 18 and 35 – and launched the Next Gen in WA within the show movement to “get the ag back in agricultural shows”. She’s funded her own trips to South East Asia to gain a better understanding of the who the industry is feeding and the whole supply chain for herself.
Tiffany was particularly interested in visiting India as it doesn’t have ESCAS in place, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which “requires exporters’ to have commercial arrangements with supply chain partners (i.e. importers, feedlots, abattoirs) in importing countries to provide humane treatment and handling of livestock from arrival in the importing country up to the point of slaughter”, according to the Department of Agriculture’s website.
She said while she loves her red meat, in India she went vegan after visiting the abattoirs.
“It was quite confronting. I want to be part of feeding the world, but for me, welfare always comes first. It was good to see the link between good animal welfare and the countries Australia is supplying with livestock, but we can always do better and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”
Being part of the change is something Tiffany has taken quite literally, finding time between her other commitments to work as an Australian stockwoman within the live export industry, “delivering precious cargo to feed hungry bellies all over the world.”
She’s also written a collection of stories about rural and regional people that have been published in WA’s regional newspaper, The Countrymen. She’s extended her storytelling to the next generation, working with regional students so they can understand early about the importance of story.
“They’re now interviewing people they feel need to have their story heard and starting to realise everyone has a story. We are a nation built on story, so that’s important,” Tiffany explains of her work.
She herself knows the power of hearing another person talk about the moments that have made up their life.
“It has changed me. To sit down with someone that’s 87 and hear their stories. It’s also given me a taste about what other stories need to be told.”
Tiffany said she recognises that gender inequality is a reality and admits she’s been disadvantaged throughout her career because she’s a woman. But, she said, “I don’t focus on that.”
“It’s still there within women – I still see women seeing other women as competition and we need to change the conversation to support each other.
“The world can be a lonely place. Once not only men start working with women, but also women working with women, that’s when the world can change.
“We’re not the next generation, we’re the now generation: we are coming through and it’s not man vs man, or man vs woman, or woman vs woman. I hate man hating and dwelling on the negative. We’ve got an incredible decade ahead of us and to do that, we’ve got to work together.
“At the end of the day, I am grateful to be a woman and instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I focus on the values I do.”
Asked what those values are, Tiffany said she felt women are particularly adept at communication and compassion.
“That Territory trip set me up,” she said. “I would start conversations with strangers about travelling around Australia. I’d be perched up at the bar and by the end of the night I would have won over the grumpy old man.
“These are the moments that define our lives and you’ve got to be curious. Some people I’ll never see again but I shared tears with them about their loves lost or a dog that died.
“And now I walk into a room and never second guess that I don’t know what I’m capable of. I know my faults, people and life will always remind you of those. But, I also know my strengths.
“At times it was lonely and scary, but on that trip, I learnt who I was as a person and once you become a leader of your own life, you’re unstoppable. Now when I question my capability, I have the courage to still throw my hat in the ring.”
Sometimes it’s hard for others to believe all that she’s done, but Tiffany understands. Sometimes it’s hard for her to believe it too.
“I’ve worked really hard to create this life, to pursue my passions and I work on bettering myself every day and that isn’t easy. Instead of focusing on what I wanted to be, I started asking who I wanted to be and making life decisions based around that.
“Even now I’ll tell someone I’ve travelled through some of scary places in Australia, backpacked through several developing countries all by myself, or I’ll tell them about delivering Australian livestock throughout the Persian Gulf and people will say you can’t, but I have. There were situations that were dangerous or uncomfortable, but you don’t go solo travelling without being prepared for that. You know it’s going to happen.”
That first trip around Australia was extremely personal for Tiffany. She didn’t feel the need to share every step of the journey on social media or post photos of all the incredible things she was seeing – remote communities, incredible landscapes, the many faces of Australia –because it was so personal.
“I didn’t really want to share with anyone. I was worried about the photos I was posting. Social media doesn’t tell the full story. There has been some lonely nights, it wasn’t all just pretty pictures.”
Fast forward two years and Tiffany found herself enjoying the beginning of a career, and open to another, less personal trip across Australia with her childhood friend, Sophie.
“After floating around Australia, I was trying to find my feet back here back in one place,” Tiffany said. “It was hard to have that structure after floating around for so long and I was still involved in running an event, the Yaraka B’n’S (Bachelor and Spinsters) ball, in western Queensland.
“Soph called me up saying did I want to drive home with her from University in Bendigo in her Honda CV and take in Yaraka B’n’S ball on the way. We spent a month floating around making our way home with just one swag between us. It was an awesome experience to do it again with my best friend and have the confidence to know what I was able to do.
“I didn’t even know how to change a tyre or read a map when I left for my first trip around Australia I remember YouTubing how to change my first tyre.
“But, if it’s the difference between making something happen, or being practical, I say just do it – obviously while being safe!”
“Soph and I could’ve waited until she’d saved up to afford a bulbar for the CV, but we didn’t. Both trips, I found myself in very weird circumstances, but it always works out.
“I would encourage anyone to do it – if you have to choose a month between Europe or Australia, I would go Australia because we don’t appreciate what’s in our backyard, it’s so diverse.
“I think about the years I lost floating, but I gained so much more than what I would have with a degree. I left lost and came back a whole person and some people never find out.”
Tiffany’s sister nominated for an Antola shirt to be named after her. Of Antola’s shirts, Tiffany said, “When you feel good about yourself, you feel like you can take anything on. It’s about celebrating the person wearing it and celebrating the beauty in the industry because there’s a lot of that. I hate the stereotype of what we’re supposed to look like. You are equally a part of the industry if you are out bull catching or working in an office within international trade. There’s no one position in Ag more or less important. So, you can show up for a day in the industry in a pink work shirt or a corporate jacket: we are a team. I hope wearing this shirt, you go on a lot of adventures and never question your own worth.”
Story by : Megan Stafford