Busselton grandfather Philip Atherton has used his skills and spare time to make a difference for a farming family in the mid West.
Mr Atherton is a volunteer with the Frontier Services program Outback Links that provides support for families in rural and remote Australia.
Earlier this year, he spent six weeks on a farm in Marchagee, 240km north of Perth, to help out a family during the busy cropping season. He loved the experience so much he is keen to volunteer again when the crops are ready to harvest.
The 66 year old said he jumped at the chance to use his time and experience to help.
“I’ve been involved in the farming industry one way or another all my life. I know it can be hard (on the farm), particularly at times when there is no income or prospects. I felt my time was better spent helping out rather than sitting around Busselton.”
Mr Atherton signed up for two weeks but stayed for six as he knew there was more to do, and he was having a great time.
“The best part is that you become very good friends with these people,” he said. Since he has come back, Mr Atherton has stayed in touch with the family.
The retiree, who has experience in dairy farming, potato growing, shearing, fencing and orchard work, said he enjoyed learning more about crop-based farming.
His broad skill base enabled him to assist the husband and wife team on the farm.
“My role was to help move the machinery from one place to another…which was quite complicated. Having three of us there saved quite a lot of time.”
“I was also able to do some gardening and I cooked a meal occasionally. Another good thing is you’re never expected to do anything you’re not comfortable doing.”
Mr Atherton travelled 450km to reach the property. He was provided with accommodation close to the house and shared meals with the family. Over the stay, he also got to know people in the community.
“I got to meet all the locals. It is a very close knit community. People look after each other.”
A passionate Mr Atherton encouraged others to consider becoming a volunteer.
“You come away feeling like you’ve done something to help somebody; you feel good.”
“Rural people are used to doing it the hard way. Often they find it very hard to come to terms with the idea that someone wants to help them.”
As well as providing support to others, Mr Atherton said he gained a lot from the experience.
“It’s a great cause and it’s very good for yourself. You come away a winner as well. I’ll be around as a volunteer for years to come yet.”
Outback Links volunteers come with all kinds of skills.They may be asked to help with gardening, to feed the animals, put up a fence, assist with computers or plumbing jobs, look after the children or help out on the farm. All that is needed is a willingness to pitch in wherever needed.
To find out more go to visit the Outback Links website or phone 1300 731 349.