Hundred Hearts of Hilltop | Elke Cleverdon

WORTH THE CHALLENGE: Elke Cleverdon moved to Harden just over 25 years ago and believe women are the key to the social fabric of any rural community. Picture: Contributed

WORTH THE CHALLENGE: Elke Cleverdon moved to Harden just over 25 years ago and believe women are the key to the social fabric of any rural community. Picture: Contributed

My story is of a young woman immigrating to Australia, embracing rural life on a journey of personal growth and learning.

I came to Harden just over 25 years ago, newly married to a “born and raised at Harden” farmer I had met traveling across the US and Europe. Initially, I struggled with rural life, my lack of farming experience, lack of friends and family, language, customs, huge distances and snakes, still one of my greatest fears. Some worried I would not last long. I certainly didn’t last long in the cattle yards … infamously throwing the stick of poly pipe at my husband in fear of my life after being told “block them … but step out of the way if they mean it!”

Thanks to the support of family, beautiful friends, mentors, and a close-knit community, I felt inspired to fit in as best as I could. I put energy and effort into learning as much as I could.

Now 25 years later, I feel very much cemented in the Hilltops community. My husband and I are a great team. We have two beautiful teenage children, and run a successful farming enterprise. I love the land, the light, the wide-open spaces and the natural beauty of the country. I like the changing seasons, busy sowing/harvest time, the loading of cattle, the packed Esky, the roar of tractors, trucks and headers. I learned to accept and manage the challenges of climate and other farming risks. I love the no nonsense, spirited and authentic people with that great Australian sense of humour. It is a beautiful and rewarding life.

All these years, I also worked off farm in accounting roles and in the banking industry. I managed to qualify as a CPA accountant early on and kept learning, which all culminated in a Master of Business Administration last year, thanks to the support of my family.

In 2016, I started my own business ‘changing lanes business consulting’ and also worked as a rural financial counsellor. In this role, I assist many farming families with everything from Rural Assistance Authority support, succession planning, business management, budgets, cashflows or re-finance. I am lucky to meet many people in my day to day travels – salt of the earth people.

With the aim of further learning and seeing the bigger picture in many facets of rural and regional life, I actively engaged with community and sit on a number of local, regional and state-wide Boards or Committees including Local Land Services.

Some of the volunteer board roles over the years included Lambing Flat Enterprises, Regional Development Australia - Southern Inland Committee, NSW State Council for Women, and chairing the board of the Regional School of Music as well as the Hilltops Economic Development Committee. I believe women are the key to the social fabric of any rural community; volunteering, contributing, supporting … tirelessly and determinedly. But, I still don’t work in the cattle yard!

  • The Hundred Hearts of Hilltop features stories about local women, collected for International Women's Day from around our district, by Rita O’Connor.