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Good rains but drought not over yet

Good rains but drought not over yet

Good rains but drought not over yet

11 February 2020

Farmers (and their little helpers!) are still hand-feeding stock in drought-affected areas of New South Wales. Photo: Brad Munro

By Lauren Martin

Many farmers in drought-affected areas of New South Wales are celebrating this week’s rain, but more is needed to break the drought, according to Salvation Army rural chaplain Major Dianne Lawson. 

“It’s a positive start. This rain has filled a lot of on-farm dams and some of the rivers have started to flow that haven’t flowed for a while, but it’s certainly not drought-breaking,” she said.

As of 10 February, The Salvation Army had distributed just over $15 million to more than 5000 households as part of the Australian Government Drought Community Support Initiative (DCSI) that was introduced on 21 November last year. 

Denise Thomas, The Salvation Army DCSI Program Coordinator, said her team had received around 15,000 applications for assistance in recent months.

“We have 27 employees, 18 chaplains and a crew of dedicated retired officers and volunteers working full-time to stand alongside individuals and families affected by the drought. Corps officers in drought-affected areas are also on the front line supporting individuals, families and communities that are hurting.

“Those completing drought assessments are saying: ‘Every week the stories are getting worse.’”

Recent rain has lifted the spirits of many farmers in western NSW, but some areas remain dry and The Salvation Army says drought recovery could take years.

Denise said despite the recent rain, recovery is going to take years. “People are more and more desperate. Even though people have seen some rain now, the farmers say it will take five years of good sustainable rain to get back to just half of what they had and half of the income they had prior to the commencement of the drought. Some may never recover from significant debt.

“Farmers are walking off their farms daily. Some have de-stocked completely. Some farmers are not earning any money from their farms.”

Mobile Mission tour

Majors Dianne and Rusty Lawson, Western NSW rural chaplains, are preparing for a Mobile Mission tour later this month to bring joy to drought-stricken townships of Gilgandra, Warren, Coonamble and Coonabarabran. Retired Salvationists, mainly from the coast, will travel to the bush in their caravans to put on concerts, visit nursing homes and take part in combined church services.

“Spirits are lifted [by the rain] and some farmers are taking a gamble and planting crops,” said Dianne. “There’s more hope than there was a month ago. We just need the follow-up rain now. That’s what we’re praying for.”




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