Regional Australia is full-to-bursting with inspiring, ambitious women. One of these is Claire Dunne, just 25 years old and already spearheading an incredible journalism enterprise.
Dunne publishes Graziher, a quarterly print magazine that celebrates the stories of rural and regional women.
The project took off in mid-2015, initially starting as a blog that Dunne worked on as a side gig. By early 2016, she had published her first issue of Graziher, and published it independently, to boot. Dunne says that she didn’t have much traditional expertise in creating a print magazine, but she credits the support of other women as being instrumental to her success. This seems to be a thread seen time and again amongst regional entrepreneurs; the encouragement of a strong community is frequently cited as a driving force behind these passionate individuals.
Though Graziher officially got started in 2015, it’s likely that the seed of the idea was planted far earlier, perhaps harking back to Dunne’s youth. A love of the land starts early for many regional Australians.
Beginnings in Rural Queensland
Familiarity with flora, fauna---and hard work---was undoubtedly instilled in Dunne from the start. She grew up on Wooroona Station, a Central Queensland cattle station located approximately 60 km southwest of Duaringa. She was the fifth generation in her family to grow up on the 12,500-hectare station.
Dunne attended boarding school away from the family home---common for many rural kids---but visited home as often as she could. After obtaining her HSC, she decided to attend university in Brisbane. She chose Queensland College of Art, where she pursued a Bachelor of Communication Design. Her work was graphic design focused, but after a year and a half, Dunne felt called to return back to her family farm. She put her studies on hold and planned to help out for a short period. This short period quickly turned into 3 years, giving her ample experience in the grazier lifestyle, and further cementing part of her passion.
Dunne ached for some global experience, as well. She spent 8 months travelling in Canada and New Zealand, and some of this included exposure to other women working in the agricultural industry abroad. This was eye-opening for Dunne, and likely influenced her desire to explore the stories of women in her own rural Australia.
Even while adventuring, Dunne was busily thinking about what she might pursue as a career. She stumbled across Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Work Week which inspired her deeply and helped her chart her eventual course. Perhaps she could start her own business from the ground up! She says, “Before that, I had no intention of starting anything like that, your own thing, but I liked his approach. I followed other blogs, and fed off the ideas of validating and bootstrapping philosophies - that's where it all started."
The Germ of an Idea
In 2015, in addition to helping out on the station, Dunne was doing some freelance writing, focusing heavily on rural publications and rural stories whenever possible. In many ways, Dunne was drawn to the childhood stories of her youth, such as the rural characters of Jennie Gunn’s famed We of the Never Never. Yet as she freelanced, she realised that there wasn’t a huge array of publications seeking those kinds of rural stories.
It occurred to Dunne that a magazine focused on that very topic was needed. And the subject matter intrigued her personally. She said, “I found the more women I interviewed, the less I knew about other country women, working and living in a rural and regional environment.” Their accomplishments and diversity were fascinating, and Dunne’s interest to hear and gather the stories of other regional women grew. The germ of an idea was born.
Not necessarily emerging from a ‘Eureka’ moment, it seems that the various threads of Dunne’s life came together slowly to form the basis of Graziher. At first, Dunne kept the project as a blog, to gauge if there was interest in the subject matter.
As it turns out, there was.
By mid-2015, Dunne was publishing the first edition, one which quickly sold out, demonstrating the keen interest in, and appeal of the magazine. That initial run included 3,000 issues. Today, the magazine has expanded to printing 10,000 copies each quarter, with some reaching as far as the UK and USA. The Graziher community is active on social media, too, with more than 21,000 Instagram followers, and 20,000+ Facebook followers. These platforms are an excellent way for rural women to connect, from wherever they may be.
Challenges for Dunne
It’s never easy to start a major undertaking, such as launching your own business. But to do so when living in a rural location is especially impressive.
Opportunities abound in all regions of Australia, and many motivated individuals are taking full advantage of these opportunities to create great things. This is precisely what Dunne did.
She has built a popular print magazine despite having almost no formal background in the publishing industry. While she didn’t complete university, Dunne did obtain a diploma in journalism, plus found her feet as a freelance journalist on her own. These are impressive testaments to her determination. Though it was a “steep learning curve,” the finished product shows just how successful Dunne was.
At the start, she also struggled with the unknown. Though she had a sense there was a demand in the rural female market, she took the leap on faith. This magazine is essentially the first of its kind; Dunne had no previous examples to build upon. There were times leading up to the initial release that she grew frustrated and considering ceasing the project, but her determination won out.
Then there were marketing concerns. Getting the word out about Graziher would be an obstacle. Although aimed at the rural, regional female demographic, these women are the very ones who are spread far and wide, and often out of the reach of ‘traditional’ advertising. Promoting the magazine through social media was the primary way in which news of the magazine expanded and it has continued to be one of the leading methods of building the Graziher community.
And of course, Dunne faced the challenge of being located in a remote, regional part of Australia. While this provided her close access to the subject matter of her magazine, it made it perhaps more difficult to access the helpful resources that are common in an urban area.
Yet none of this mattered.
Dunne persevered and was able to create something of her very own. She frequently expresses her gratitude to many other women who assisted her along the way. No doubt Dunne is continually inspired by those she profiles in the pages of her magazine.
Graziher and the Rural Female Community
Dunne definitely believes she’s found a niche that needed to be filled---and one that was frequently passed over by mainstream media. "Rural women are so diverse and there's nothing that really covers each individual area that they're in," she has said."There's women who run the farms, women who work on farms, work off farms, the professionals in the industry, teachers, doctors, nurses who live in the rural and regional areas, farmers, housekeepers.”
Graziher aims to reach women in all aspects of farm life and work, and to empower and connect them. This is an important and worthy mission, particularly since an estimated one-third of Australian women reside in rural and regional areas. Of Australia’s farmers, approximately 40% are female. Clearly, this is a significant demographic. Dunne’s magazine has a serious audience.
And Graziher is building and showcasing the rural/regional community in amazing ways. Not only is Dunne herself a regional woman, she’s promoting the stories of other regional women who are doing awesome things.
While Graziher is centred around its print issues, there is a thriving online aspect of it, too. A large social media community is alive and well, providing near-constant access to women throughout the whole of Australia. Even those in the most remote of spots can connect with others via Instagram, Facebook, and more. This in itself is a remarkable achievement.
The Internet also bears some responsibility for the growth of the magazine. Without the Internet, it is unlikely that Dunne would have had the success she’s had (after all, the project began as an online blog). But of course, the credit all belongs to Dunne herself. With her entrepreneurial spirit, she has capitalised on the immense connections made possible in the digital age, and this enabled her to spread the word of her magazine. In particular, it helped her to gather the many pre-orders for the first edition---orders that let her know this was a publication with plenty of appeal.
The magazine seems poised to continue growing, as well. Undoubtedly, it has found the perfect niche.
Perhaps the Graziher website says it best:
“Graziher magazine is simply a collection of women's stories.
Women of the land; women who love the land; women who know the land.”