Meet the women who stay and work the land on their own despite tragedy.

Three graziers, who each lost their husbands in separate tragedies, have taken on the running of enormous, remote sheep and cattle stations almost on their own.

Ann Ballinger, Penny Button and Ros Wood all lost their husbands suddenly.

The three women, who live within 200 kilometres of one another, were left to manage close to 60,000 hectares of grazing land between them in outback Queensland.

In the worst of times they chose to stay and work the land.

For Ann Ballinger, there was no question of whether or not she should stay running Stockholm station, a grazing property near the tiny town of Muttaburra.

“We get it in our blood a bit, the culture of this life becomes part of us,” she said.

“I don’t think if you have that, I don’t think it’s easy to ever change.”

Penny Button’s eldest son Rodney died in a plane crash in 2003. Her husband Ian died of heart failure in 2006.

Losing both within three years, she found her connection to the property and community was her saving grace.

She owns a Crossmoor station near Longreach, a vast 32,000-hectare property that, in a good year, can run up to 5,000 head of cattle.

“There’s no truer saying than ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until you haven’t got it’,” she said.

“I just realise now the stress in running these properties and the tough side of things that he [Ian] shielded me from forever.”

While for some the thought of flying again is unfathomable, Ms Button said it was just part of life in the bush.

“My father was killed in a car accident, but you don’t just not drive,” she said.

“I did think about it and I don’t think I did have a fly for a while. It wasn’t deliberate bit I just didn’t do it.

“Rodney was a very positive character and I think of him a lot. One of his great sayings was ‘every day is a good day’ and I often think of that.”


Despite the tragedies that have struck her family, Ms Button’s youngest son Hugh has come home to take over the family property with his wife Amanda and young son Charlie.

Hugh Button cannot imagine living anywhere else.

“I just love the adventure of the country life. I love the adventure and the freedom of it and getting out and about in the wide open spaces … every day is so different,” he said.

“The support network in the bush — it just says so much about the bush.

“People stick together through the good times — and they celebrated the good times crazily — and when times get devastating they all stick together and get amongst it.”

The tale of strong women left to make it on their own is not uncommon in western Queensland.

Ros Wood lives at Koondoo station, a 16,000-hectare property about 75 kilometres from the small community of Blackall.

She was left to raise her three daughters and run the station on her own after her husband Colin died in a motorbike accident on the property in 2008.

“I ask myself all the time: ‘What am I doing here?’ But I guess I just love being here and I have no great desire to do anything else at this stage,” she said.

For almost a decade, Ms Wood has run the mixed grazing station by herself, raising thousands of sheep and caring for hundreds of head of cattle.

“A good friend once said to me ‘life is not fair but it is still good’ and I think of that all the time.”

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This post originally appeared on ABC News.

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