In the midst of the chaos and confusion that has characterised the past few years, perhaps there is no other word more synonymous with the times than ‘unprecedented’.
The 2019–20 bushfires were first in a series of catastrophes to arrive at our door: widespread floods that unceremoniously replaced the long-standing drought; cyclones that swept away homes, properties and livelihoods; a devastating mouse plague; and, to top it all, a global pandemic.
The physical damage caused just in the past year has been unimaginable. Houses have been destroyed, billions of animals have perished and so many beautiful lives have been tragically lost. The emotional trauma inflicted on our people and communities is immeasurable. Farmers and remote communities face an already isolated life with little to no access to resources they need when times get really tough.
Our mission, simply put, is to stand with people in the bush.
We dream of an Australia where everyone who lives in our rural and remote areas feels cared for and supported, to have a mantle of safety and quality of life.
According to a new study from the National Rural Health Alliance, tragically a farmer dies by suicide every 10 days in Australia. We, as an organisation, are taking a stronger stance on suicide awareness and the mental health crisis out bush. We believe that everyone in rural and remote Australia deserves access to help and support when they need it most. Our existing network of Bush Chaplains and Outback Links volunteers are on the frontlines working to connect, fill the gaps and be a trusted friend. Unlike traditional support workers who are only present for the initial response, our workers are not contracted for specific outcomes or for a certain quota of people.
The key aspect is that a multidimensional approach to supporting our farmers is vital. Our Bush Chaplains have a significant role to play in the continuum of care. Mental health research states that a Bush Chaplain is often the most accessible person, hearing personal stories as people start to make sense of the situation before new understanding and acceptance can emerge. Bush Chaplains are carers, part of the first response when there is a mental health issue, and a reassuring presence to those who are hesitant to reach out for help. People are the highest priority for a Bush Chaplain, and they can support and offer options, especially those that contribute to overall wellness and safety.
Our Bush Chaplains – a group of extraordinary men and women – build community capacity one person at a time. Hundreds of ordinary Australians – skilled and unskilled – lend their time and compassion through our Outback Links program. Besides volunteering for a practical list of jobs, our volunteers provide mateship to so many isolated Australians. Frontier Services has firsthand knowledge of the isolated properties, remote towns, First Nations communities and mining camps in need of support. This puts us in a unique position to respond to disasters and emergencies quickly and effectively.
Going into 2022, our goals are:
25 Bush Chaplains providing practical, pastoral and spiritual care and hope to people across remote Australia
2,000 active volunteers bringing helping hands, practical support and hope to people in the outback
1,500 Outback Angels increasing the financial safety net that enables us to continue to provide crucial services
Advocacy providing a voice for people in the bush who are not being heard.