Robyn Russell has always been a country girl. She grew up on Charlotte Plains, a 70,000-acre sheep and cattle station 700km west of Toowoomba, Queensland. This isn’t the first drought she’s faced, but she said this time it’s particularly tough.
“When my mother passed away in 2001, I moved back home from north Queensland to manage Charlotte Plains,” she recalled. “It was a bad drought then too. The sheep were dying. The lambs were dying. The cattle were dying.”
“This time, the drought’s beating us physically and financially. It’s a never ending job to go out every second day to get cotton seed for the animals because there’s no grass to eat. Hay is too expensive.”
“It’s the worst drought I’ve ever experienced.”
Robyn standing by the shearing shed
Keeping farmers on their land
Last year, we took a group of Outback Links volunteers to visit Robyn and a number of other stations in Cunnamulla, bringing much needed mechanical skills to service trucks, tractors, 4WDs and motor bikes – essential for harvesting, mustering and bringing animals feed.
“It just so happened that a lot of our vehicles were breaking down at once…We were lucky to have a visit. The help was just wonderful.”
When times get tough, a paid mechanic is a luxury farmers cannot afford. But without these vehicles, how would they be able to earn an income? By lending a helping hand, our volunteers saved them time and money, so they could battle on through this relentless drought.
Farmers need our practical care today. By supporting our drought appeal you can ensure our volunteers and Bush Chaplains can be there to lend a helping hand. Can you give a gift of $30 or $50 to help them?
Volunteers bringing practical support to farmers like Robyn
We’ve been standing with people in the bush, including Aussie farmers like Robyn, for over 105 years. Our volunteers and Bush Chaplains have been by their side through good times and bad. And with your support, they will see them through this drought.
Right now, our Aussie farmers are in dire need of your help. Many are approaching their seventh year of drought and as much as we pray, it feels like there’s no rain in sight.
I have been on the road and seen their hardships first hand. It’s just heartbreaking. The earth is dry. The air dusty. There are stations vacant of stock and ploughed fields with nothing growing. These families are struggling to stay on the land.
“Coping with the financial side of things can be a big issue and an emotional stress.”
This long drought has put a lot of financial and emotional strain on people who already battle with isolation. I cannot imagine how farmers like Robyn are coping. I don’t think it matters how good a farmer you are – if you haven’t had an income for seven years, it’s tough. It’s really tough.
“I’m anxious to get fencing done this year to keep the wild dogs out, but it’s difficult to pay wages,” Robyn said. “The banks have been tough, too. I want to keep this property.”
Our farmers’ stoicism is remarkable. Their pride often keeps them from asking for help, even when they need it. But this is where our Bush Chaplains come in. Being on the front line, they’re often the first to identify when someone’s in need of support. They provide that listening ear when people in isolation need someone to lean on.
“Sometimes it’s good to sit back and talk to someone you know.”
Robyn looking out onto Charlotte Plains
Robyn appreciates our Bush Chaplains’ value, especially during times of difficulty. They have been with her family for over 45 years. They were there to christen her children and they were there to conduct her late husband’s memorial service.
More recently, Robyn told me how grateful she was for Rev Sunil ‘Sunny’ Kadaparambil and his work to make last year’s volunteer trip a reality.
“I like Sunny because he knows it’s better to be out and doing things for people,” she said. “It’s great to have someone from Frontier Services who comes and listens to you.”
“Sometimes it’s good to sit back and talk to someone you know. They’re there to just listen while you have a good old yarn about the hard times.”
Right now, there are farmers losing hundred-year-old fruit trees to the drought while others are making the difficult decision to put down stock because there’s just not enough feed to go around. Can you imagine being under all this hardship while living in remote Australia?
Now is a critical time for Bush Chaplains like Sunny to be visiting remote properties
Now is a critical time for our Bush Chaplains to be on the road visiting properties. You can bring practical and pastoral support to more farmers doing it tough by giving to our drought appeal. Your gift of $30, $50 or a very generous $100 can help us mobilise more volunteers and keep our Bush Chaplains on the road.
We’re with farmers like Robyn for the long haul
Charlotte Plains has been in Robyn’s family for 95 years. Her mother’s dying wish was that she and her brother could stay on the property. Despite the hardships, this is what keeps Robyn on the farm.
“When I came back to Charlotte Plains I had to learn how to run it. I had to learn it all. It just gets in your blood,” she said. “Maybe we’ll have to sell it. I just don’t know. It’s hard to decide what to do.”
Sadly, Robyn’s story isn’t unique. There are many farmers struggling financially and emotionally. Families are breaking down. They’re struggling to stay on their farms; farms that have been passed on from generation to generation.
Farmers like Robyn need your support today
The recent outpouring of support from the wider community has been encouraging. It’s the Aussie way to stand by your mates; it’s been our way for over a century. We’ll continue to be there long after the bales of hay have been delivered and consumed.
Our Outback Links volunteering program is free for farmers. But resources are needed to screen and match the skills of volunteers to the job required. Group trips need coordination and mustering of resources; but food, accommodation and materials to get the job done are locally sourced, providing a much-needed financial injection into the local community.
We try to minimise expenses as much as possible. We’re hoping to raise $150,000 for this appeal to help assist farmers in need. You can make a real difference today and ensure our volunteers can continue to provide year-round practical support to farmers like Robyn by giving a gift of $30, $50 or $100.
As you read this, volunteers are travelling to their next placement to provide practical support and respite to drought-affected farmers. Volunteers are also working with Robyn to put up the 70km of fencing she needs to protect her precious stock from wild dogs.
But there are more farmers in need. Seven years of drought has taken its toll on them. With your support, together, I know we can see them through. If you are able, please help us today.
Jannine Jackson, National Director