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Bob showing the way

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

From flight engineer to beef farmer and beyond, Bob Haywood is not a man afraid to take on a new challenge.

He once spent his days cruising the skies, first in the air force and then as a flight engineer with Cathay Pacific.

But after a 35-year love affair with aircraft, Bob was keen to make a life on the land.

In the mid-1980s he and wife Joan bought a property in Margaret River and stocked it with beef cattle.

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Six years later, the Haywoods decided to start a Hereford stud and their love for the breed was quickly cemented.

"We liked them because of their docile nature and because they're easy to work with," Bob said. "We were starting the farming game in our 50s and they were right for us because we were able to get out of their way."

In 1994, the couple entered their first Perth Royal Show as the only Hereford exhibitor.

"We did the whole judging back to front and led the cattle the wrong way round - that's how much we knew," Bob said with a laugh.

He's a little wiser on Show etiquette now, having been involved in nearly every Show since, both as an exhibitor and a steward.

Farming is in Bob's blood and a return to the land is a return to his roots, considering he was the son of potato farmers in Victoria's Otway Ranges.

The ramifications of World War II meant Bob's mother became a single parent and, unable to cope, she sent him into State care.

Bob spent much of his childhood at Colac's St Cuthbert's Home for Boys, where he learnt some of the skills that would later hold him in good stead as a beef farmer.

Now in his 70s, Bob is keen on a new career and next year aims to enrol in university for the first time.

"I want to study psychology and get involved with doing something about depression and mental health in remote communities," he said.

"We've spent time sitting stations while the owners have a break. Most of those and others we run into are showing signs of mental stress with little idea of how to get help.

"There is a huge amount of stress in farming generally but out in regional Australia there are no facilities for miles."

Convinced there is a better way to deliver mental health services to remote WA, Bob is prepared to throw his hat into the ring to try to make a difference.

He envisages a type of travelling road show that would take psychological help to remote areas.

"Being a mature age student, I do realise the clock is ticking but I do have some ideas about bringing help to remote Australia," Bob said. "There is always a better way."

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