The Other Side of Drought
Posted on Friday, 24 October 2008
Cracked red ground, cows with visible ribs and sheep lying alone with flies buzzing around their eyes.
These are the emotive images of Australian drought we so often see in the media.
Yet when it comes to government policy, the cash-poor family who can not afford school excursions for their children and who have just laid-off their workers, are often forgotten.
“Finally, there is a report which looks at agriculture and rural life as something other than a GDP figure, a number contributing to national exports,” said the Hon Judi Moylan MP, Federal Member for Pearce.
“Drought takes a huge toll on families, social networks, regional business as well as farms, yet the focus has been on providing money for farms, while in many cases the remainder crumble.”
The report It’s About People: Changing Perspectives A Report to Government by an Expert Social Panel On Dryness, was released yesterday and Mrs Moylan said the government should now act on the panel’s advice and implement policy which will benefit all rural and regional communities struggling with drought.
“Here in Pearce there has been farmer talk about multi-peril crop insurance underwritten by the government, a way to protect growers from the fluctuating seasons without the traditional “drought assistance,” Mrs Moylan said.
“I welcome the reports suggestion to move away from the words “welfare” and “propping-up” as our nation’s farmers are some of the most efficient in the world, and I think by adopting multi-peril crop insurance the government would encourage farmers by making an investment in the industry’s future.”
Covering the issue of declining regional communities, the report looked at how demanding roles both on- and-off farm have exhausted farmers and their lack of financial injection into business have diminished the population in country towns.
As people move away, the report suggested volunteer organisations have suffered.
“There is an army of volunteers in Pearce, they are the heart and soul of communities and often they man the emergency services in rural communities,” Mrs Moylan said.
“Financial and time pressures make donating hours harder, so the role of government now should be to ensure our country towns can still fight fires and attend accidents by providing compensation for volunteers or ideally, additional services.”
“It is time to look at the human-side of drought, and it is time for the government to step-up to ensure the emotional, physical and educational wellbeing of those who feed Australia.”