August 22, 2018

No rain, but an outpouring of support for farmers facing “devastating” drought

There is no decent rain in sight for Western NSW which is already in severe drought. PHOTO: St Vincent de Paul NSW

Ordinary Australians are proving their reputation for generosity with their enthusiastic support for a St Vincent de Paul Society NSW’s major drought appeal.

A Vinnies spokesperson said that in the first two days since its launch the charity has received many more phone calls with offers of donations than is usual with other appeals.

“It’s kick-started really well,” he said.

The appeal follows the work of Vinnies volunteer members living in rural areas who have been providing support to people on the brink of disaster as “farms and funds are literally drying up,” says St Vincent de Paul Society NSW chief executive Jack de Groot.

“This situation is quickly becoming a crisis,” he said.

With 99 percent of the state in severe drought and no forecast for decent rain people “are really doing it tough out here” says Vinnies’ executive officer for NSW’s central west and far western region Kelly Morgan.

Herself a Parkes farmer, Ms Morgan said she has witnessed “first-hand the devastation this continual dry is having.”

“Many are investing all they’ve got in feed and other supplies to keep their farms going.

Cattle feeding at a Parkes farm. PHOTO: St Vincent de Paul NSW

“As a result, they’re often struggling to keep up with regular bills, including groceries and even household water.”

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, NSW’s 2018 winter rainfall was well below average, with the driest July since 2002.

Meanwhile, several areas have had the lowest rainfall on record over the last 15 months.

In recent weeks the Federal and State governments have announced emergency relief to drought-stricken farmers including cash bonuses for household bills, transporting of water and animal feed, and mental health support.

The charity last weekend launched its appeal with support from The Sunday Telegraph to raise funds for rural communities in need.

Mr de Groot commended the state’s government’s injection of $1 billion towards drought relief for farmers, but warned that communities will need ongoing support “in the coming months and years as the impacts of the drought are felt”.

The appeal will provide individuals and families assistance with groceries, household bill payments, fund the delivery of water and animal feed by partner organisations, and organise social events for respite and mutual support.

Ms Morgan said that she and her husband have been reduced to hand-feeding their own livestock and will need to transport feed in for them if no rain arrives in the next few weeks.

“There are so many farmers doing it far worse than us, and it’s been incredible to see communities pulling together during this emergency to help where they can,” she said.

Donations can be made by calling 13 18 12; at www.vinnies.org.au; or at any local Vinnies Shop.

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