A recent rural safety day aimed at kids from farming communities was made all the more special thanks to the expertise of some helpful Southern District staff members.
The ‘Think Safe Brain’ farming day, held at Maheno School, was the brainchild of former teacher and children’s book author Harriet Bremner, who began the campaign to promote safety for farmers and their families.
It has seen her partner with a number of agencies to organise rural safety days for children that focus on shifting people’s attitudes towards health and safety on farms. Harriet promotes this kaupapa through her books, which often feature her very own sausage dog, Pops.
After COVID disrupted previously scheduled safety days, Harriet was delighted with the event in Maheno.
“To see a whole community come together and be engaged in talking about things that we need to talk about to reduce accidents and deaths on farms in the future, it’s just fantastic.”
On hand to promote those conversations, and lead rural safety workshops, were Southern Police staff members Constable Karren Bye, Middlemarch Sole Charge Constable Allan Lynch, Sergeant Blair Wilkinson, Constable Niall Gough and Constable Melissa Wallace.
Melissa brought a special guest with her too. Maotai, her trusty horse - decked out in police hi vis - proved very popular with the student participants from Maheno and Five Forks schools.
The risks that rural families are exposed to can be unique, and were reflected in the range of workshops that were run for the children.
The police staff on hand kicked the day off with first aid training, and then Allan and Karren ran a workshop on firearm safety.
Allan says it’s an important element of farm safety, and he had plenty of valuable messaging for the kids and parents taking part.
“For rural families, it’s almost inevitable that they will have firearms on their property,” he says. “That’s just the nature of farming households.
“So, if we can get in there early to teach those important lessons about staying safe around firearms, these kids will take that through their lives and hopefully continue to keep them and their families safe.”
The engagement of the kids taking part in the workshops was a real highlight for Karren, who was marking each group for a prizegiving at the end of the day.
“I’ve been handing out a lot of high marks, because they’re all so keen to learn and engaged in the whole day.
“Rural kids are so interconnected and supportive of each other, so to have all of these safety messages tailored specifically for them and the lives they lead in their farming communities is something pretty special.”
The involvement of Police in the Think Safe Brain campaign is something Harrier Bremner doesn’t take for granted, and it’s clear she highly values the expertise police staff bring.
“I’m seriously humbled to have New Zealand Police backing this.
"Rural cops are such a big part of these communities and to have them here starting these conversations, it will help people realise that a lot of these farm accidents are avoidable, and that we can put things in place that are practical, that will save lives.”