Until 1994, no Australian woman was allowed to list their legal status as "farmer". Instead, women on the land were officially defined as unproductive "silent partners", "domestics", "helpmates", or even "farmers' wives". That was only 25 years ago.
This impacted on the tax paid by farming families. I recall a family on the Eyre Peninsula where he was the local chemist and she was a farmer, but the tax department attributed her farm income to her husband because a woman couldn’t be recognised as a farmer.
BPW Australia had many rural clubs at the time, so we lobbied the federal government to recognise that women who owned or managed farms must be recognised as farmers for all government purposes. This change was achieved, but women farmers remain invisible.
To address this, the Australian Research Council has funded a 3 year study called Invisible Farmer which involves a nation-wide partnership between rural communities, academics, government and cultural organisations. The project aims to create new histories of rural Australia, reveal the hidden stories of women on the land, recognise the diverse, innovative and vital role of women in agriculture and stimulate public discussions about contemporary issues facing rural Australia and its future.