Thursday, 24 October 2019

Standing alongside farmers

Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer has joined Frontier Services staff on a visit to drought-stricken areas of outback New South Wales.

Dr Palmer and Frontier Services National Director Jannine Jackson made a pastoral call to three farms around Tottenham and Nyngan with Bush Chaplain Rev. Phill Matthews who is caring for farm families facing the worst drought conditions on record.

Some properties in the area haven’t seen rain for the past six years, and the impacts of the drought are immediately apparent.

“Paddocks where there would normally be ground cover are bare. The top soil is blown away. The effects of this drought are clearly devastating,” said Dr Palmer.

Dr Palmer and Ms Jackson heard first hand the stories of farmers running out of water, destocking prime breeding stock, even having stock stolen.

“We continue to pray together as a Church for families in the outback, who are under enormous pressure as they face really hard decisions,” said Dr Palmer.

 “Some families are hand feeding their remaining stock. Others are wrestling with the decision whether to stay or leave their properties.

“Whatever their decision our Frontier Services bush chaplains are standing alongside them to provide practical, pastoral spiritual support.”

Ms Jackson thanked volunteers with Frontier Services’ Outback Links program who have been working in the area. “The practical help provided by our volunteers is often the best way to show support,” said Ms Jackson.

“These trips are about a hand up, not a handout.”

“We also support the local town, by ensuring we buy locally whenever possible and stay locally because everyone who lives in regional Australia does it tough during the drought. We carry in our own water too because it is so scarce.”

The work of Outback Links volunteers around Australia has caught the attention of a number of media organisations in recent months amid coverage of drought. Outback Links volunteers Carol and Robert Hogan Baker from Redcliffe Uniting Church in Brisbane were featured in a report on Nine News Queensland - one of many recent media reports.

Ms Jackson has asked Uniting Church members to keep up their support of Frontier Services at this time. “Please keep giving what you can at this time of great need. There are outback families who desperately need your support right now,” said Ms Jackson.