The Salvation Army is on site at AgQuip to help farmers apply for drought assistance.
Farmers can fill out the forms right then and there at site X32 with the help of Salvos staff, including Major Gaye Day, Captain Richard Day and Noel Duffin.
Also on hand to help is Leah Woods from the Moneycare Financial Counselling Service, Doorways worker case worker Casandra Eggins and rural chaplain Rusty Lawson.
Mr Lawson and his wife Diane are from Dubbo but cover a wide rural area, visiting farmers to offer practical, emotional and spiritual support. They are also taking calls in regards to drought assistance.
“We’re meeting farmers where they’re at and offering drought assistance to those who feel they need a hand up, not a hand-out,” Mr Lawson said.
“They don’t need debt – they need practical support.”
Mr Lawson said drought assistance from the Salvos could help with electricity bills, groceries and other household necessities.
“In the last four to five weeks, [Diane and I] have given out close to $200,000 worth [of assistance] to farmers and graziers in the New England area and out as far as Walgett through the R U Aware We Care campaign out of Tamworth,” he said.
“The Salvation Army has handed out through its hotline and internet log in resistration page a further $350000 plus dollars in the same period over the area.”
The rural chaplain said the impact of the drought was starting to show itself emotionally and mentally in farmers.
“The drought has been like a necrosis that has crawled across the land that has been impacting not only their lifestyle and cropping but it’s also the smaller communities that suffer,” he said.
Mr Lawson said food security was going to become “a real issue” in Australia if the drought continued.
“It’s not going to be a short-term solution if it rains; it doesn’t rain grass,” he said.
One of the key parts of the Lawsons’ role is to visit farmers and see how they can help.
“Most farmers are resilient but it is starting to take its toll on those who have been on the land a long time,” Mr Lawson said.
“Our average visit is two-and-a-half to three hours. We sit down and have a cuppa and eventually, they open up [and] we build the relationship.”
To apply for drought assistance, phone the Salvos on 02 8757 8088 or visit salvos.org.au/drought
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