The Power of Jack

It’s the sort of thing that inspires scriptwriters and movies: a boy in Brookvale has an idea for a way to support farmers struggling on the land. Four years down the track, the charity he established has raised millions ...

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Where it all started ... Jack on the set of Studio 10 with Sarah Harris, Denise Drysdale, Richard Reid, Angela Bishop and Joe Hilderbrand. Photo: Supplied
Where it all started … Jack on the set of Studio 10 with Sarah Harris, Denise Drysdale, Richard Reid, Angela Bishop and Joe Hildebrand. Photo: Supplied

It was almost too simple an idea. Dress up like a farmer for a day and donate $5 for the privilege.

$2.1 million dollars later, the freckle-faced kid behind it still can’t believe what he’s done for those living through the worst drought Australia’s seen in centuries.

Lucky to have $20 in his piggybank at the time, today Jack Berne has his own charity and known worldwide for Fiver for a Farmer and his incredible efforts uniting the nation for those struggling on the land.

For someone who’d never heard of the word drought up until a few years ago, he now spends every waking minute coming up with ways to assist those battling them.

And that support continues, almost four years later with his Jack’s Mates Foundation launching a new appeal this week for farmers in Queensland and northern New South Wales this time devastated by floods.

“He has donated $50,000 to Foodbank Australia to help send hampers to families in urgent need.”

Following the advice from his mum Prue, Jack is using his “small but mighty voice” to help those who have lost everything in the deluge.

Scores of requests from farmers for urgently needed assistance have flooded in and Jack has again sprung to action. He has donated $50,000 to Foodbank Australia to help send hampers to families in urgent need.

He said the resilience shown by farmers facing so many desperate challenges constantly inspires him in his mission.

“Drought, fires, a mouse plague, a pandemic and more floods, and they just keep going, it’s so unfair,” he said.

“It’s heartbreaking these farmers put all the care and time into what they do and now it’s gone, just washed away.

Today, Jack Berne has his own charity and known worldwide for his incredible efforts uniting the nation for those struggling on the land. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Today, Jack Berne has his own charity and known worldwide for his incredible efforts uniting the nation for those struggling on the land. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“It seems like the problems for farmers are never ending, but I promise you if you talk to a farmer they will make it seem anything but difficult.

“They have an amazing ability to look at the bright side and will always suggest someone worse off than them.

“We have proved before that Australians dig deep to help those in need and we need to do it again.”

Jack is far from your typical teenager … according to just about everyone but him.

About to turn 14, he plays footy and basketball, loves school (most days) and enjoys knocking about with his mates, but it’s his almost incurable need to help others that sets him apart.

“Honestly I just want to help anybody that needs it, and I think that comes from being Catholic.”

On reflection, Jack reckons it comes from his Catholic faith and being told from a very early age to always help others.

“Honestly I just want to help anybody that needs it, and I think that comes from being Catholic,” he said.

“Definitely going to a Catholic school and learning religion from an early age gave me a better understanding of how important yet simple it is to lend a hand.

“There are lots of acts of kindness that come with being Catholic like compassion, humility and empathy, so I guess a lot of what I have done and continue to do comes from my faith.”

In addition to his fundraising, the remarkable Year 8 student from St Augustine’s at Brookvale, is hoping to repeat his incredible feat, but instead of raising 2.1 million dollars he wants to encourage 2.1 million acts of kindness.

Jack with his mentor radio presenter Ben Fordham. Photo: Supplied
Jack with his mentor radio presenter Ben Fordham. Photo: Supplied

In his first paying job, the young entrepreneur has begun hosting his own podcast called One Small Act which celebrates children across the world who have performed incredible tasks.

For Jack, the global platform gives him the opportunity to tell the world about other inspiring young people and how easy it can be to get started.

Delayed due to COVID, the talented teenager is preparing to head to America in April to receive one of his many accolades, a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award, as well as meet up with some of the kids he has interviewed on his new podcast.

“I’m super excited to go to America and meet some of the kids face to face, it will be really great,” he said.

“They really have done incredible things and I want the world to know about it.

“Fiver For a Farmer started from such a simple idea, just imagine what an amazing place the world would be if everybody had a go?”

“Basically, we have kids from everywhere come on the show and talk about how they’ve changed the lives of others by one small act.

“People can also call in or just log the acts of kindness they’ve done, it really is that simple.

“There are so many incredible young people who have done unbelievable things and I think hearing how they started makes it achievable for all of us.

“Fiver For a Farmer started from such a simple idea, just imagine what an amazing place the world would be if everybody had a go?”

The accidental young podcaster was asked to host the global chat show established by international app company PINNA, after the original host thought Jack would be a better choice.

Footy, farmers and family are among Jack’s favourite things … the young entrepreneur at his Northern Beaches home with mum Prue, dad Mick and younger sister Ruby. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Footy, farmers and family are among Jack’s favourite things … the young entrepreneur at his Northern Beaches home with mum Prue, dad Mick and younger sister Ruby. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Devised for Aussie motivational speaker Kath Koschels, who despite overcoming extraordinary challenges including having to learn to walk again and losing the love of her life to suicide, dedicates her time to making the world a better place through kindness.

However, after thinking about the role, she decided that if the aim was to see kids being kind to one another, the message needed to actually come from a young person.

“Originally I was to host it but the more I thought about it I didn’t think I was the right person, Jack really became the first and only real candidate for the job,” she smiled.

“I met Jack about 2 years ago and when you listen to what he has to say you are always going to walk away feeling touched by no matter what he says.

“And it’s going to be quite profound in only a way Jack can pull off.

“Jack’s praises have been sung by everyone from Prime Minster Scott Morrison, to US actor/comedienne Melissa McCarthy and thousands of farmers in between.”

“His story about Fiver For a Farmer and how he started it by himself as a 10-year-old is something we as adults can learn from.

“If all of us had a little bit of Jack in us the world would be such a better place.”

Jack’s praises have been sung by everyone from Prime Minster Scott Morrison, to US actor/comedienne Melissa McCarthy and thousands of farmers in between.

He has appeared on just about every television and radio program in the country and graced the pages of newspapers and magazines talking about his charity work.

His mentor, top rating 2GB radio host Ben Fordham is proud to call Jack his mate and considers him a young man on a big mission.

Wheat harvesting
A farmer harvests wheat. PHOTO: CNS/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters

“Jack Berne is a little legend,” he said.

“His creativity and enthusiasm is contagious and I love what he’s done to support the bush.

“He’s got all the qualities that we need in a leader.

“There’s nothing stopping him, he might even be Prime Minister one day.”

For Jack, one of the toughest aspects of his charity work is sifting through the hundreds of requests for help from struggling Aussie farmers.

“We are now getting emails from farmers caught up in these terrible floods, life on the land really can be incredibly tough.”

He said some of the emails he’s received have made him cry of both heartbreak and happiness.

“Farmers apply to us for assistance and we check it out and make sure they are applying for the right reasons and then we offer to pay for things like their electricity bills, or some cattle feed or whatever they need,” he said.

“We are now getting emails from farmers caught up in these terrible floods, life on the land really can be incredibly tough.

“So many of the stories are heartbreaking, they make you tear up and really touch your heart, although the one thing I have found is that despite how tough a time they are going through they always have a smile on their face.

“A lot of it is pretty tough to hear, particularly as a kid, I guess it’s made me grow up a little quicker.”

Jack Berne has his own charity and known worldwide for Fiver for a Farmer. Photo: Supplied
Jack Berne has his own charity and known worldwide for Fiver for a Farmer. Photo: Supplied

His mum Prue agrees that Jack has been a wonderful example not only to little sister Ruby, but to children around the world that despite having a young voice, people are listening to it.

“Watching him grow is a privilege. Lots and lots of moments of being terrified of what he is going to say, but then being in awe when he replies and people do hear him,” she said.

“Back when this all started and Jack was about to appear on Channel 7’s Sunrise show I knew he would be asked questions live on air. I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to write down or find out for him and he replied ‘all good mum, they are just questions’.

“Years later I still cry every time he speaks in public, we are overwhelmed, overjoyed and in awe of our little man.

“I guess one thing that’s really lovely is knowing his faith is top of mind.

“It’s something we find important as a family, constantly reminding Jack and Ruby of our family values, morals and the importance of kindness.”

“We are now getting emails from farmers caught up in these terrible floods, life on the land really can be incredibly tough.”

Through it all, Jack said he has learnt the most important aspects for change is to be “bold and brave”.

“You really are never too young or too small to make a difference,” he said.

“Age is just a number and if you put your mind to it you can do anything.

“I really have come quite a long way, I used to be a quiet kid in the class who hated public speaking but when I started talking about something that I was really passionate about, it was just easy.

“My advice for other kids to make a difference is, just be bold and brave.”

Go to: https://afiverforafarmer.com.au/