NOTHING TO SEE: Bare dairy paddocks haunt Killarney as an ongoing reminder of drought.
NOTHING TO SEE: Bare dairy paddocks haunt Killarney as an ongoing reminder of drought.

‘Forgotten’ drought hits Southern Downs farming families

SOUTHERN Downs farmers are mentally, physically and financially exhausted and now they’re facing a new battle — being forgotten.

Drought charity Rural Aid, who visited 10 Killarney farmers on Tuesday to deliver 128 bales of hay, said the plight of drought was at serious risk of being overlooked in light of coronavirus.

Rural Aid counsellor Jane McCollum said a national focus was no longer directed toward the ongoing problems of farmers but rather on the pandemic.

“Unfortunately the drought has been put on the backburner and farmers are really struggling with that,” she said.

“With bushfires and coronavirus, there is only so much that can go around as far as funds and support.

“But the farmer’s issue is still there and still strong — where a lot of the support has gone down, the issue of drought is going up — and they’re feeling scared of where things are going.

“It’s really impacting at certain levels.”

Truck load of hay being donated to Killarney producers.
Truck load of hay being donated to Killarney producers.

It was the first time the counsellor had been able to conduct face-to-face visits since restrictions started and said the common sentiment among the local rural community was uncertainty.

“It’s very overwhelming when you’re in an industry you love but losing control over it,” Ms McCollum said.

“When that happens in other careers, a lot of people get up and get another career altogether but that’s not the case for farmers. There is a strong degree of anxiety about how, and will their child follow in their footsteps, and what the future holds.

“That causes depression, too because the family farm can no longer be handed down.”

It was something Queensland Dairy Farmers’ Organisation state councillor Gary Wenzel, who was also at the bale drop off, could attest to.

“It is not just the financial help that’s so important; it’s the emotional support they give to any member of our community who is finding it tough,” he said.

“No one wants to rely on charity to get by. We are a pretty resilient lot and staunchly proud. “While we’re inherently grateful, we need long-term solutions to the climatic challenges we face, rather than having to rely on goodwill donations from everyday Australians.”

Visit www.ruralaid.org.au for further information on these programs and other support.

Contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you’re in need of help.