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Life and Death Planning for Country Properties

With special guest:

  • Owen Catto
    … in conversation with Bill Kable

Our guest today is Owen Catto from The Regional Men’s Health Initiative of Western Australia.

Owen’s life as a farmer began when he worked on the family farm for 18 years with a small interest in that farming business given to him by his father. To back up this direct experience of conditions on the farm Owen also has a Bachelor of Business in Agriculture and has operated a farm consultancy business. When talking about life on the land we might say that Owen knows his onions.

This is a particularly important time for our families on the land because in 2018 our farmers are facing an unprecedented drought. Yet the toughest critics of our farmers are the farmers themselves.

Owen calls his farmers warriors and he is fighting for their wellbeing. There are three main areas that he talks about in his presentations, these being communication, risk-taking and winning. With communication Owen notes that it is perfectly normal for men to talk in dot points or just grunts. Blokes are hard-wired to take risks, it is most likely an evolutionary development to ensure that the strongest get to pass on their genes. And winning is a really important part of the warrior culture but can be problematic when applied to finances, relationships and business matters. So how do we incorporate these characteristics into a healthy lifestyle? This is the challenge that the Regional Men’s Health Initiative in Western Australia deals with on a daily basis and Owen is able to distil for us in the program today the advice provided in the courses he delivers in rural and regional areas.

In our discussion we payed particular attention to succession planning. We are in a situation where misunderstandings on property ownership are rife, where families can become bitter towards each other and in some extreme cases the disagreement can lead to tragedy. Owen’s approach is to make succession planning part of a bigger picture that The Men’s Health Initiative has called Progression Planning.

Owen strongly urges that proper planning and communication should start early. The son may work on an unpaid basis for years on an understanding of entitlement that turns out to be incorrect. The older generation may still believe that the farm should go to the sons rather than the daughters although this has never been stated out loud. Rather than relying on a wave of the hand as the older generation says “one day all this will be yours” we need to get the parties thinking about what retirement looks like for all of them. And a big change such as a marriage breakdown would mean a fresh look at the arrangements is required.

Owen says everything starts with the people and the communication. Only after that has been worked on should the accountants and lawyers become involved to look at the figures.

This way of thinking can apply to all of us but particularly for farming properties where there are big dollars involved and there may be a problem of remoteness. Don’t miss the plain speaking Owen Catto.

The Men’s Health Initiative will send brochures, pamphlets and other material anywhere in Australia. If you would like these to come to you please contact Owen on,au or go to the website

Owen Catto

Owen is married with three children. He has completed a Bachelor of Business in Agriculture and farmed in partnership with his father for 18 years in Morawa Western Australia while also operating a farm consultancy business. After selling the family farm in 2005 Owen and his family travelled across Australia.

Owen’s interest is in empowering men to move forward and embrace progressive changes in their family relationships their wellbeing and their health. Since 2007 Owen has worked specifically in men’s holistic wellbeing and health. He presents a range of educational programs and strategies for men, their families and communities.

Song selection by our guest: Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin

If you need help in a crisis:

Lifeline 131114
Suicide Call Back Service 1300659467

Further information and general support:

beyond blue 1300224636
MensLine Australia 1300789978

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