Man experiences life after dairying due to life-threatening accident

By Sophie Baldwin

James Goulding has always lived by the belief when one door closes another always open.

And he would know.

He has looked death in the eye.

And survived.

A decade ago, in his previous life as a former dairy farmer, the Leitchville man was fixing some loose tin on the roof of an old piggery.

Then he was lying flat on his back, staring up at the roof he was supposed to be repairing.

That he survived, it would turn out, was indeed a miracle. His second in as many seconds.

Because on his way down he missed impaling himself and landed on the cement in the narrow walkway between the pens – and that was miracle one.

Looking back he thinks he may have stood on a weakened truss; but by the same token he should not have been working on a roof in gumboots.

Mr Goulding knows he is lucky to be alive, and in many ways the accident has been a rebirth. Not just for him but also for his wife Rose and children Rob, Glenn and Meagan.

It brought forward a decision to sell the dairy farm (which had been in the family more than 50 years) and left him with no alternative but to open a new door – in his case one that has led to a loved and rewarding career at Shepparton GOTAFE as a trainer in dairy, agriculture, pigs – and in one of those little moments when life tweaks your nose, he is also one of the health and safety representatives there.

“I was on the second last sheet of tin and walking backwards when I fell. I was working with Glenn who in shock said to me ‘what are you doing down there dad’?” he said.

Glenn raced back to the house to call an ambulance and both Glenn and Rose were dumbfounded when James appeared at the door saying he had just broken a couple of ribs and needed some Panadol.

He had no idea he was just two hours from dying – already well on his way to bleeding out internally.

After being stabilised by Doctor Barker at the Cohuna District Hospital, he can remember the ambulance speeding up the middle of the road with sirens blaring and being greeted by a group of doctors at the door to the Bendigo Base hospital before he was put in a coma.

Just as he started going under he finally realised he was in trouble.

Months later, visiting the professor in charge of his care, he asked what they had actually done to him – but once they got to his collapsed lungs, broken bones and a bowel operation he switched off.

Mr Goulding was meant to spend months in recovery but with 300 cows at home and a three-hour round trip for Rose to visit in hospital, while still managing the farm, he knew he was needed at home.

He spent the next three months in a bed in the lounge room; and it was two years before he really recovered closer to his new normal.

“I couldn’t think straight, and I was getting things wrong. I had lost my memory and I had to learn how to concentrate again.

“Lying in bed I started to realise there were so many important things in life and every day you get to enjoy them is a bonus – I realised Rose and I had never been anywhere and only ever had short breaks away. But that is farming.

The opportunity to sell the farm to a corporate group became another one of those doors you choose in life – albeit a pretty big door, not just for him but for the whole family.

A chance sighting of an article in the paper by GOTAFE and a parallel drive by Dairy Australia to try and keep skilled farmers in the industry gave Mr Goulding the opportunity to try something different.

A lifetime in the dairy industry had left him with a long list of qualifications and in 2013 he was able to attain an Advanced Diploma in Agriculture which led him to study further and gain a Certificate IV in TAE (Training and Assessment of Education).

That little piece of paper has now set him on a career path mentoring and teaching people through his role as a trainer at GOTAFE – a role he absolutely loves.

The studying bug had hit and James then went on to complete a Diploma in VET ((Vocational Education and Training).

“I had to learn my way around a computer and my daughter came up to me and put her hand on my shoulder one day and said ‘geez dad; you really have come along way’. I am still terrible at the computer, but I am much better than I was,” he laughed.

Mr Goulding said it is important to never underestimate the value of learning or the myriad skills a career in the dairy industry provides.

“I say to the students, who range in age from 16 to 60, to get as many qualifications as they possibly can while they can. If there are three people all going for a job and all have the same ability, a certificate will stand you above. It can also help you get into the perks of farm management without having to find the huge financial commitment to buy your own farm.
“I have had some wonderful mentors in my life, who have helped me get to where I am, and to be able to pass those skills and lessons onto others is so rewarding.”

He said students and employers also find it easy to relate to him because his background means he speaks their language and they know it.

“I understand my students really well. When I talk about OH&S I can use my own experience of falling through the roof to illustrate how important it is to stay safe on the farm in any situation; and the same goes for my dairy knowledge.”

James said 10 years ago he would have never dreamt he would be where he is today.

“If anybody had ever told me one day I would be a teacher I would have laughed; yet here I am doing it and loving every minute of it.”