Country ladies from Mullewa Julia Foulkes-Taylor and Holly Freeman talk passions and the rural life

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Flax and Fleece owner Julia Foulkes-Taylor from Mullewa.
Camera IconFlax and Fleece owner Julia Foulkes-Taylor from Mullewa. Credit: Raquel Aranda- Gatherist

The townsite of Mullewa is in full bloom, enjoying the fruits of being in the middle of its busiest time of year.

And it’s the people behind the scenes who are doing the hard yards to help capitalise on the spotlight that wildflower season and the town’s annual ag show brings.

Breaking the stereotype that one might hold of your typical Mullewa resident are two thoroughly modern women — Holly Freeman and Julia Foulkes-Taylor — who are front and centre in helping their town flourish. And you couldn’t find two bigger advocates for the simple bliss of rural life.

Holly Freeman is 24 years old and lives with her family on their third generation farm. Born in Mullewa, she moved back home two years ago after completing her degree in commerce at Curtin University in Perth.

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Because of the rental crisis in regional towns like Mullewa, Ms Freeman said living with her parents was unavoidable although she enjoyed it.

“I moved out of home when I was 12 because I went to boarding school in Geraldton. I’ve come back how many years later and it’s actually nice to spend that time with mum and dad,” she said.

Apart from working around the cropping and sheep farm, Ms Freeman scored a job managing the Mullewa Community Resource Centre after finishing university. Responsible for co-ordinating the town’s biggest event of the year, the Outback Bloom wildflower festival.

The three-day festival runs from August 25-27 and celebrates the unique biodiversity of the Mullewa fauna and flora. Bush walks, bush tucker yarns, wildflower origami and the story of Monsignor John Hawes are all part of the event.

Despite it being her job, Ms Freeman said wildflower hunting was one of her favourite pastimes.

Ms Freeman was nominated as Mullewa’s 2022 Rural Ambassador after volunteering with the Mullewa District Agricultural Society since a young girl.

A steward in multiple provisions and managing certain exhibits at the Mullewa Agricultural Show since a high school student, she often volunteers with setting up for the day.

Melody, Mates and Mental health is a program run by the CRC. Ms Freeman said the project received grant funding to host a series of concerts and live music events in town in a bid to promote mental health resources in the Mid West.

“We’ve found in Mullewa, not a lot of people know where to go for help for their mental health,” she said.

“It’s also a good excuse to get out with your friends and family and listen to live music.”

Ms Freeman said the band, Henry and Ranahl, would perform at the Mullewa Agricultural Show to support the cause, following the fireworks to go out with a bang at 7.30pm.

Growing up, Ms Freeman said she never considered herself a farmer. It wasn’t until she moved to Perth when she realised she had a close connection to the rural lifestyle.

“I thought, ‘well I’m definitely not a city girl’. Everyone would call me a country girl and say that I spoke that I was from the country,” she said.

“As I’ve gotten older I’ve identified myself as being from the country, but I’m not the stereotypical country farm girl.

“I think community is so important, especially in small rural towns. Building stronger communities is what I’m passionate about and I love working in that area.”

Another non-stereotypical country girl is clothing designer Julia Foulkes-Taylor. Stylish and community-minded, Mrs Foulkes-Taylor established her label Flax & Fleece about five years ago.

She’s at the heart of the operation, from design and manufacturing to shipping her products.

The Mullewa local comes from a background in costume and theatre after studying at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. The 30-year-old is married with two kids, aged four and two.

When she married her husband, she found herself living 90km north of Pindar on a fourth-generation sheep station, wondering how she would keep herself entertained.

As much as Mrs Foulkes-Taylor wished she could devote all her time to her business, she finds she runs a very busy life schedule.

“It is just me and I use all of my spare time to do as much as I can but it would be more successful if I had more time.”

The designer is part of a Mullewa Arts Development Group, running workshops and involving herself in the community. She recently collaborated with local artist Helen Ansell on a artistic fashion collection, and said she was always keen to upskill.

“I love the challenge, I love keeping my skills and improving my skills in sewing and pattern making. I love meeting people where there are those other creatives and working with them,” she said.

Mrs Foulkes-Taylor said she was part of the Mullewa Tennis Club, participated in the Murchison Shire arts group and museum, jumped at the opportunity to hold a market stall and supported women throughout the Mid West.

“I love making clothes for the women in the Mid West because there aren’t many clothes made here. I went to the Mingenew expo last year and the ladies were so, so supportive,” she said.

Other than her business, Mrs Foulkes-Taylor is also involved with the Mullewa Agricultural Show. She said she supported the show however possible and exhibited wherever she could.

“I think it’s really important to have lots of local exhibits on show day because it makes it look so better and for people that come to Mullewa to visit, you want to have a full pavilion to showcase everything that Mullewa’s got and all the talent we have,” she said.

Mrs Foulkes-Taylor said living in a rural area like Mullewa was possibly the best thing she had ever done and found the benefits of being apart of a community were everlasting.

“I love that you can be friends with people of any age group, and mixing with far more people than you ever would because there’s less and you don’t just get to choose your friends,” she said.

“Rural living is the best thing you could ever do.”

With monster trucks, livestock, stalls and stands, the Mullewa Agricultural Show is on August 27.

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