By Beryl Spencer, NCWQ State Coordinator

Rural and Remote Women Adviser

From drought to flooding rain and back again.  It is a cycle of life and weather in this wonderful and ever changing Nation of ours.  With drought still covering over 70% of our state, in reality the long term impacts on not only the land but also the lives of many rural families will be felt for years to com. The rain will come again and water and wonderful regeneration will initiate “overnight” growth of grass in land that has been long rested, the real challenge is though that lives take so much longer to experience return to normal.  Some families have already had to ‘walk away’ from generations of establishing their properties and nurturing their land.  It has all become too much for some.  Following are some comments from across the inland:

  • ·         “There are reports on a regular basis of individual situations in the bush from lack of water, to no feed, to pressure from banks with many of our families being stretched to breaking point.  There is such a cry coming from the people of the Outback and we know that our job this year is bigger than we would have originally comprehended.   The need to get aid in the way of food hampers and toiletries to these families or even a voucher to use at their local stores is greater than ever.”
  • ·         Cunnamulla: ‘The 10kg bags of rice & catering size cans of peach/apple pie filling etc have been gratefully received beyond our expectations.  Because the difficult financial situations many are experiencing this donation could not have come a better time.
  • ·         The costs involved in purchasing hay, cotton seed etc to keep stock alive are almost unbelievable with amounts of $20-40,000 monthly commonly stated.  Even those that in the past have said “We are doing OK; there are others far worse off than us. Give it to them” have readily accepted goods.
  • ·         What an eye opener and a heart string puller we experienced whilst visiting some of the properties in the Cunnamulla area. Some of the comments spoken to us include:  “I`ve been raising cattle for 50 years and if there isn`t rain then I am going to have to make some very hard decisions.
  • ·         “Just recently I was within a hairsbreadth of giving up”
  • ·          “The Warrego River has broken the record for the length of time it is since there has been a flow in the river. The water that is left is unsuitable for irrigation and causing problems for our crop of grapes”
  • ·          ” I have never lost so many sheep in a drought as I have this time”
  • While farmers are thankful assistance is finally on its way, most have said it’s too little, too late.
    Farming families in Coonamble who’ve had to sell or put down their livestock, say it’s been dry for months. They fear the entire town could collapse.
  • Re the promise of Government assistance: Too little to late
    already too many animals have died, too many farmers have done suicide!
  • Right now, our family property is in an EXTREMELY bad place.. My family are making very hard choices right now. (This refers to having to sell off the young stock)
    The drought, the economic collapse, everything is working against us to make life almost unbearable…Except for taking joy in the ‘little things’ in our case, some little things are such huge victories that I just want to dance. 
    Here is one such little thing. Remember my prolapsed cow? I had to bring her down from the back paddock and dad operated on her in the tiniest hope that she would recover and calve safely. Well here she is! Against all odds she fought the biggest battle, against infection, disease, weakness, and illness, and she gave birth alone without help, and after 2 weeks is still here, happy and contented raising her tiny baby calf all by herself!! 
    Oh and while I was getting ready to go find her the temp dropped a few degrees, and I rode out on the bike, getting just a little bit damp! Those specks you see in the photo are hopeful spits of rain. The skies were clear while it fell, and it has stopped now, nothing measurable in the rain gauges, but still, it is like liquid hope falling from the sky… perhaps a little more tomorrow.

At the risk of bring only bad news, there are some beautiful stories too, and the work of Baked relief and QRRRWN (and all involved) has become a glimmer of hope, a life line to many.  While Baked relief is delivering food and some personal needs other farmers is providing fodder to starving cattle.  It has become a combined effort and lifting the emotions of farmers across the country.  Some of the beautiful verses written by city children to their country cousins have just been so beautiful.  They really are making a difference. In neither the South Burnett area many who have barely recovered from the devastating floods are nor supporting the drought relief.  One lady commented: “it is when you help others that your own problems seem less and you feel so good about it.”

I said at the beginning that the impacts  would last for years to  come, and they will but  these gifts of hope are softening the pain for so many and I  believe to  degree, will lessen the emotional impacts on health.

Rain is now falling in some areas but it is still scattered.  Many hope that this will start to break up what has been a devastating drought pattern across the state.

 Baked Relief & QRRRWN. https://www.facebook.com/bakedrelief   and http://www.qrrrwn.org.au/

A few tears as our last #lovetothewest for this round is loaded into the truck bound for Tara. The guys at St George Freightlines are our heroes.

https://www.facebook.com/voiceofthebush. Here is a challenging link to have a look at how the drought areas are going.

Another good news story:

A note from RFDS (Royal Flying Dr Services): “We are significantly expanding our social and emotional well-being program in recent years, particularly towards Longreach and the areas affected by the drought.  We are also providing a lot of women’s health programs ‘in Western and Northern QLD, where there are very few female GP’S.” http://www.flyingdoctor.org.au/

Key Issues that impact Financially

  • ·         One other key issue for the Agriculture sector remains the dumping of produce in this nation.  Some coming directly from Europe, Asia and some via Asia through New Zealand and marketed as New Zealand when the origin of much of it is very unsafe production in Asian Countries.  New Zealand negotiated a free trade agreement with China quite some time ago and this has enabled this dumping to further impact on Australian agriculture. Italy and Europe are also dumping vegetable foods on Australia.  

Some of the impediments faced by Agriculture in QLD:

  • Costs of pumping water   Electricity & Diesel
  • Bank interest

Key Health Issues:

  • Mental health and financial stress
  • Access to allied health and diagnosis
  • Ageing and Disability
  • Travel and other expenses of treatment

What can be done?

These issues and impacts for QLD Regional and Remote Families  are, I believe, beyond  Local, or State approach, I believe that there  is a desperate need for National approach to managing  the drought an flood cycles in our Nation to better provide food and financial stability for the whole nation.


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