HOW do you describe drought? What is it? How do you cope? How can we help? This is what I've been asking farmers all week on Sunrise and everyone has a different answer. There is no one size fits all solution to the drought, except for rain, and there is none of that forecast.
Here are the facts. It's been the driest autumn since the Federation drought in 1902. One hundred per cent of New South Wales is now in drought and 60 per cent of Queensland. Some parts of the country haven't seen decent rainfall for six years.
The statistics are stark but seeing the devastation first hand is a lot more confronting. As we leave Sydney and travel through the Upper Hunter, the ground gets drier and drier.
We come across a farmer droving cattle along the roadside. Murray Coe was hit by the Sir Ivan Bushfires in February 2017. He lost property and some of this best animals to the inferno. Now, he is facing drought and is running out of feed. Like his neighbours, he has shifted cattle from his paddock to find some sustenance along the road. Soon, that won't be an option either.
We continue onto Coonabarabran where the town is down to 22 per cent water in their dam. They are on level six water restrictions. It's not just farmers who are struggling in this drought crisis, towns are doing it tough too. If farmers aren't making any money, they have nothing to spend on supplies or luxuries. They are going without to feed their animals and in the most extreme cases, are struggling to feed themselves
Further out west at Come By Chance, there is not a cloud in the sky. The properties here are the same size as city suburbs and the people are drought hardened. When the going is good out here, it's very good. The land is fertile and fed by water from the Artesian Basin. But when drought hits, it hits very hard. They have only had one good year in the past six. Most of the grain that was harvested has been put back into the ground. They dig giant pits and bury the feed so they can dig it back up in tough times. It's been the practice here for 30 years but this is the first year when they have come dangerously close to running out altogether.
Mark Evans can trace his family history back nearly two hundred years. His ancestors came to Come By Chance in the 1830s and have been here ever since. He says it's the worst drought he has ever seen. Down the road, Rob Colless is looking to the heavens for help. When I ask what's next. He says rain, hopefully.
he term Aussie battler is overworked but there are so many Australians genuinely battling this drought. Until now, many have done so privately. They are either too proud to ask for help or didn't know where to go or if anyone would listen. But that has now changed.
If we have learnt anything in the past week, it's that Australians truly care. We have seen an outpouring of donations to drought charities and schools and communities in the city are rallying together to help where they can.
The farmers we have met are just thankful that someone is actually paying attention now. They don't want to whinge, they don't want welfare, they don't even want to watch it on television anymore because they can look out the window and see if for themselves. But they are so appreciative that people in the city are thinking about them and doing what they can.
Put yourself in their shoes. It's the best thing you can do. Imagine going to work every day and not getting paid. Not just missing out on income but actually going deeper and deeper into debt. That's the situation facing many farmers at the moment and it's only going to get worse.
This will continue for months and years for some families. Keep them in your thoughts. Keep Aussie products in your supermarket trolley. Keep doing what you can. There's a saying in the country that every day is one day closer to rain. Let's hope that day comes soon.
New Idea has also proudly teamed up with Dollars For Dust campaign.
Five cents from every issue sold this week will be donated to Drought Angels.
EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS
- $28 Dog food to keep working dogs in top condition during harsh drought conditions.
- $20 Small hay bales to feed horses and calves.
- $90 Large hay bales for feeding stock in large quantities.
- $100 Pre-paid visa/fuel card or care pack.
- $170 Grocery box full of items families forgo due to financial difficulty
Visit droughtangels.org.au to make a donation.