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Leonie Pollock, Inglewood and Districts Health Service

Leonie is 99 and during World War 2 was a member of the Australian Women’s Land Army, working on farms across Victoria.

Woman picking fruit with the words World Wars, Loss of a Parent, Country Life, Women

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Leonie Pollock was only five when her father died of injuries he’d sustained fighting in World War I, prompting her mother to make the move from country Victoria to the suburbs of Melbourne. ‘Mum couldn't get away fast enough, she hated it,’ Leonie says. Now 99, Leonie says those early years instilled a love of country life and she never took to office work. ‘When I finished Hampton High School, I went to work at Liverpool Electric Cable Company,’ Leonie says. ‘I hated being inside all day, so they had me out delivering the unstamped mail, so I saved them a bit of money.’

Getting outdoors

Outdoor sports also appealed. ‘I played cricket. We had a women's cricket team and travelled around to different clubs. We started off playing in cow paddocks, now they play on proper pitches at the MCG. We were pioneers!’ When World War II began, Leonie was recruited into the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA), which was formed to combat rising labour shortages in the farming sector as the men left to fight overseas. The AWLA girls were sent all over Victoria, wherever there was a need. ‘I loved it. I got away from the rat race of the city life,’ Leonie says. ‘We had to do men's work — plough, drive a horse, pick fruit, whatever the farmer wanted. There wasn't a man left.’ Fruit picking was Leonie’s favourite job, and she admits to sampling some of the produce. ‘We used to eat so much we couldn't eat our lunch.'

Building a family

After the war, Leonie met Neil and the fact he was an agricultural farmer, from Derby in Northern Victoria, increased his appeal. ‘I loved the land, and a farmer is a special person. My husband was a lovely man. A good man. An honest man. And good looking.’ Whilst actively involved in the farm, Leonie and her handsome farmer also made time to have six children — three boys and three girls.

Reviewed 30 January 2024