Ever wanted to experience the wonders and heartbreak of rural Australia from the comfort of your nine-to-five office job in the CBD?
Well you, along with another 140,000 followers, can see the outback through the eyes of social media’s Jillaroo Jess.
Jess Edwards, affectionately known as Jillaroo Jess, is a road train driving, cattle wrangling, snake handling, horse riding, can-do-cowgirl with a passion for showing the real side of agriculture.
With a massive following across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube, Jess strives to show the world what happens in the great Aussie Outback.
Jess is making her lasting legacy and her contribution to Australian agriculture by advocating the wonderful stories out of regional Australia.
Born in Brisbane, Queensland, Jess didn’t make the move to the country until she was 16.
It wasn’t until she made this move that she discovered her love for agriculture and her passion for media.
At 16 she started volunteering at a radio station and a youth magazine.
“I wasn’t sure how to combine my two passions so it went on like this for years,” Jess said.
“I worked at an art gallery, a radio station, a law firm – all while working on a horse stud and contract mustering in central Queensland when ever I had the chance.”
In 2012, when she focused more on agriculture, Jess started writing a blog, created to show her family and friends at home the wonderful things she was seeing in her travels, under the name Jillaroo Jess.
“It was definitely a creative outlet which I needed since I was moving more into agriculture,” she said.
“I started dabbling in cattle carting at this time too.”
With a bit of truck driving experience under her belt Jess made the decision, at 23, to move to WA’s Pilbara and “drive big trucks for big bucks” on the mines.
Our world is moving so fast but we are still the same.
At this point Jess realised she had become too busy to write her blogs and moved all of her creative expression to Facebook where she started sharing photos and captions of her experience.
In her spare time she was still writing for a magazine and interviewing country music artists for a radio station, so moving to social media was her best choice.
Fast forward two years, Jess said she couldn’t hack the mines.
“I thought it was boring and I couldn’t stand the rules,” Jess said.
“So I went back to the stations and I was occasionally driving a cattle road train up there too.”
It was here one day that she had a very close near miss on the highway with a “stupid car driver.”
“I made a video about that event,” she said. “The video was adrenaline-fuelled sarcasm.
“I put it on Facebook and it went international. It had two million hits in the first week.”
This exposure, from what seemed like a silly video, has helped Jess expand into new adventure like filming with multiple television shows and filming the release of a new Qantas plane, called Jillaroo, which she said was really exciting.
But these days, at the age of 28, she generally travels around the country doing different bits of work.
“It’s a really interesting way to see Australia,” she said. “I am currently carting cattle with a B-double truck in Victoria for a mate who just had a baby and wants to spend more time with his wife and child.
“And somehow I manage to do all this work while running an interactive Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube account.”
Jess said she was proud and happy she could now combine her two passions into one dream job, but it’s certainly not without its downfalls.
Social media has become such a huge part of our lives, whether it’s business or personal.
“I am so glad that I missed out on social media as a young person,” Jess said. “Because the impact we have seen within our young people in the rural community has been absolutely devastating.
“There are many good things about social media but we really need to be careful when using it.
“It’s a great tool to communicate things, but it can have a really negative impact on your mental health.”
Jess said what most people don’t know about her is that she’s a nerd who is fascinated by evolutionary psychology.
“I could go on forever but basically the emotional part of our brain has not evolved as quickly as society has,” she said. “Our world is moving so fast but we are still the same.
“Consider our world 50 years ago or even 20 years ago. Our poor caveman brains are being overloaded.”
Jess said being recognised online opened her up to the negativity of social media and it wasn’t something she was equipped to handle.
“I have copped a lot of rubbish just for sharing my life,” she said.
“I have even had nasty people go to the lengths of contacting companies I work with, like Akubra and other big companies, just to try and take me down.
“I don’t know these people and they don’t know me.
“A lady once told me that I was too well written to be who I claimed to be, so I must be a fraud.”
Jess’s advice was “as simple and as obvious as it sounds in regards to trolls, don’t react just block them.”
Jess said the trolls were out there looking for a reaction, so don’t bite.
“I struggled with this for a long time,” she said. “I’m an opinionated person and it’s so hard not to fight back when someone is sitting there and saying things that are nasty.”
But Jess said the places she had been to and been paid to go was absolutely incredible.
“I would have never had these opportunities if it wasn’t for social media,” she said.
“But Facebook and Instagram are tools, and the more you realise it’s just a tool and the people on it aren’t physically harming you, the easier it is to separate yourself from it.”