Paul Cockedge, Nerrena - April// 2024 Mental Health Calendar
by Gippsland Jersey
Paul began his career on the family farm before transitioned to share farming, and eventually into management to better balance work with his expanding family. Unfortunately, the relentless pace took a toll on his marriage, leading to its eventual collapse. Despite the breakdown, Paul found ways to structure his weekends, allowing more to spend time with his children and in his words “turned a negative into a positive because that’s the way I roll.”
The true test of Paul's mettle came when he unexpectedly gained full custody of his children, aged between 8 and 15 at the time. Overwhelmed, Paul leaned heavily on family and friends for support “I still remember one day I was just in a spin…I was like, panicking and luckily, I had some really good support. Family…you know, and friends, like I just relied on those.”
Amidst this personal upheaval, he continued to manage the dairy farm, thanks to the incredible support from the owners. They accommodated his new circumstances, allowing him to focus on being a full-time dad while still overseeing the farm operations.
His daughter Julia's admiration for her father is clear: “Can I just say amazing job? He raised five kids for six years..the whole thing, coming in, cooking for us every night.. And he did all the washing, like, everything, the whole thing. Super amazing.”
His candid nature and proactive approach in seeking assistance when necessary were instrumental in managing his dual responsibilities. “I’d always ask for help if I felt like I was struggling, I'd just ring someone…the family were all behind us. I kept them fully in the loop of what was happening. There's no good keeping it to myself because they would have thought, something's wrong with him.”
In reflecting on his journey thus far, Paul attributes his success to the love he holds for his work. “I just think you've got to just enjoy what you're doing and not get hung up when it goes wrong.” He also credits his sense of humour as a liberating means of reframing heavy situations, allowing him to face problems with a lighter heart.
The unique flexibility of dairy farming also proved crucial in facilitating Paul’s ability to juggle work and family. “I think if I was in any other industry…I wouldn't have been able to do it. I still remember doing the dishes, looking out the window and seeing that the cows are in the wrong paddock. Get on the phone to someone and sort it out, crisis averted. There's not many industries where you can sort of pull that off.”
Paul's narrative goes beyond the mere act of balancing his professional and personal life; it speaks to the profound impact of maintaining a hopeful perspective and the willingness to adapt to whatever challenges life presents. His story showcases capacity of the human spirit to thrive amidst adversity, fortified by a sense of humour, community support, and a commitment to family unity.