Grace Bowman

The Coming of Age of a Cowgirl: an interview with Grace Bowman

Meet Grace Bowman, a talented Media and Communications student here at the University of New England (UNE) with a passion for regional and rural storytelling. As part of her HASS102 placement at TuneFM, our student-powered radio station, Grace embarked on a creative journey, aiming to shed light on the realities of a popular gap year experience – working as a “ringer” on cattle stations in northern Australia.

The result? A captivating podcast titled ‘The Coming of Age of a Cowgirl’, where Grace offers a unique and intimate perspective into the lives of three young women who dared to venture into the rugged and challenging landscapes of the outback.

In this interview, Grace takes us behind the scenes of her podcast, sharing what inspired her to explore this topic and what she learned throughout the interview process.

1. Can you give us a brief overview of ‘The Coming of Age of a Cowgirl’ and what it’s all about?

 ‘The Coming of Age of a Cowgirl’ is an insight into the increasingly popular gap year experience of going to northern Australia to work on cattle stations, told through the lens of three young women. Within the nuanced facets of this rural rite of passage, this coming-of-age narrative aims to contribute to the wider social discourse surrounding women in agriculture as it displays not only the challenging experiences that they can face from moments of sexism and brashness but showcases how this experience can equip them with skills to enter adult life as well.

2. What inspired you to cover this topic?

After graduating high school, I started to notice how many of my close friends were taking gap years in the Northern Territory and northern Queensland to work on these cattle stations as ‘ringers’ which are essentially the people who muster and do the cattle work. They would come back in the summer and retell the wild adventures and extremely fun times that they experience up there. Particularly, I noticed how it impacted some of my close girlfriends and began to look at it through the context of a rite of passage or a coming-of-age journey, which I thought would be an interesting talking point.

3. Did you learn something throughout the interview process that surprised you?

I found it extremely useful to spend a day shadowing one of my interviewees, Ella, noticing her everyday gestures, habits, and manners, as she saddled her horse, mustered her cattle, and rolled a cigarette, to really observe the nuanced details of this story. I also was shocked about some of the answers that the girls said to do with their experiences with male superiors, like when the first thing one of their bosses asked her was if she came up here to chase a boy.

4. As a Media and Communications student, why did you choose to study a unit that involved creating a podcast?

It worked really well paired with my Creative Non-Fiction unit as I actually wrote a narrative journalism piece on the same stories and interviews. The practical element of physically creating, recording, and editing a podcast that I can add to my portfolio was pivotal, but developing the skills of audio journalism is also essential for the media industry upon graduation.

5. How did you find the experience of putting a podcast together, were there any unique challenges/opportunities presented by this format?

I implemented the skills I learnt in the radio booth with TuneFM into the creation of my podcast and realised I much preferred the creative freedom the form allows where I could focus and speak about something that I was passionate about as I found it easier to move a story along with interview questions. The editing and proof-listening stage was quite challenging but a great learning experience.

6. Would you recommend TuneFM to other students who may be considering doing the HASS102 or WORK300 units?

With the shift of modern-day media from print to a more digital form, it is essential that students are equipped with practical experiences and skills and have a portfolio with impressive work samples to showcase their potential for future opportunities and employment. I would absolutely recommend TuneFM as a learning ground as you get to be taught by professionals in the industry and develop the skills to use the technical equipment. The website portfolio I created in HASS102 has allowed me to showcase many different works from a multimedia narrative journalism piece to a podcast which has allowed me to show potential in applications for scholarships and internships.

To listen to Grace’s podcast, click here.

To find out how to gain professional experience with TuneFM, click here.