While this drought is all pervasive and impacting many livelihoods, it has also brought out the exceptional mix of strength, independence and generosity that makes rural Australia so resilient.
I recently visited seven small communities in NSW and Queensland to run workshops, and was uplifted by what I saw and the stories I heard. The landscapes around these communities in many instances are dust and drought affected, but the people in them are saying, “it’s our life, we own it, and we’re taking responsibility for ourselves”.
No dramas, no expectation of help, just getting on with it – but full acknowledgment must be given to the Federal Government’s Drought Communities Programme, which has helped many of these little communities give a much-needed overhaul to local facilities.
In Nevertire, the newly airconditioned and renovated 100 year old hall has just hosted its first ball in 15 years. About 250 people attended.
The organiser, as well as another local woman from the area, are now organising a long lunch for 100 people near Coonamble, which sold out within 48 hours of being communicated to invitees. When the going gets tough, people just want to get together, to talk and laugh and have fun.
Also in Nevertire, I learned that young farming sisters are now running the pub, and are doing a great job with it.
At Nindigully and Come By Chance, revitalisation of the preschools has been led by young parents who are committed to their community. It reverses that old conversation about young people leaving the bush.
In Thallon, I heard wonderful music drifting across the dry flats from the direction of the village’s newly-painted pink siloes. It was a group of Islanders who have moved to this little Queensland town, and who hold a sunset choir near the siloes.
Thallon used to get 3-4 caravans staying overnight; now it’s getting 60-70 a night, with benefits for the whole community.
I also heard about a men’s breakfast group that has started up in Burren Junction. There is 80 on the mailing list, sometimes 60 men at the monthly breakfast. They recently had their first female speaker … who spoke about yoga.
All the ingredients that make people in the bush resilient and great have been brought to the fore by drought. These people aren’t looking for fuss, pity, or handouts – although an injection of funds is always welcome.
They are getting on with their lives, and keeping their communities alive, and in doing so they are sustaining the human fabric so necessary to the future of non-urban Australia.
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.
This article was published in The Land newspaper on 31st August 2019. Link to the article can be found here – https://www.theland.com.au/story/6355392/drought-brings-out-resilience-in-rural-australians/?cs=4941