TOUGH TIMES: Things aren't looking too good at Tricia Agar's property in south-west Queensland.
TOUGH TIMES: Things aren't looking too good at Tricia Agar's property in south-west Queensland. Tricia Agar

Desperation on the rise out west

WHEN you can turn on the tap and water comes out without fail every time, it can be pretty easy to forget that some people see it as more of a luxury than a right.

It sounds like the start of a World Vision ad pleading for people to help starving children in poor African countries, but sadly, it's about families living only a few hours' drive away.

Things are getting so bad out west that Drought Angels co-founder Tash Johnstone had even taken calls from families without enough water to take a shower.

Broken farmers have been reduced to shooting cattle and families were struggling to pay the bills and simply survive.

Those that hadn't yet reached this point were still looking down the barrel of it, wondering if the weather would break before they did.

But if they were forced to give in and leave the farm, Ms Johnston wanted to know where people thought their food and clothes would be likely to come from.

The coffers were running low for the Chinchilla-based charity as donations dried up, with many east of the divide unaware of how bad the drought's grip was on farms further out.

Hay prices skyrocketed at the same time as supplies dried up and Mrs Johnstone said the organisation currently lacked the resources to buy much more.

It was instead focussed on the equally important task of ensuring families were fed, watered and could pay the phone bill.

She said instead of things looking up, farmers were on the edge, thanks to the Federal Government's Farm Household Allowance coming to an end.

"I spoke to one lady who was using dishwashing liquid to wash her hair because she couldn't afford the few dollars it would cost to buy shampoo and conditioner," Mrs Johnstone said.

"It's getting bad again and the Farm Household Allowance is coming to an end for a lot of families because it only goes for three years.

"I had one woman ringing me in tears because that was their grocery and bill money.

"Obviously everybody hoped the drought would be over by now."

She said it was gut wrenching to hear stories like this while successive governments failed to act and farmers were reduced to absolute despair, unable to sell their properties, even if they could bear the thought of leaving the country.

Out on Tricia Agar's Wyandra property, Barbara Plains, things were starting to look pretty dire.

"Our place, like most others in south-west Queensland has been drought declared since 2013," she said.

"The summer rains fell in the first part of 2012 and then haven't really fallen since.

"We had excellent winter rain in 2016, and the herbages and salines that grew in this time, sustained our stock really well up until March 2017.

"We don't have a lot of grass left, and what is left the kangaroos have devastated as they have been in plague proportions but are now dying in droves as the effects of drought takes it toll.

"The last grass-growing rain was in 2012, so we are living on a wing and a prayer right now, pouring the lick supplements into our livestock as well has feeding copious amounts of hay and cotton seed."

She said a visit from the Drought Angels or Care Outreach meant the world to producers like her family as they brought a little love and kindness.

She had faith that rains would come in the end, but it didn't make life much easier in the meantime.

And not only was the government failing to help, it seemed to be hindering efforts to survive.

"The other issue is the State Government's Vegetation Management Laws - these ruthless laws supersede the property owners' rights, especially on freehold land, tying up vast reserves of mulga, which is a veritable hay stack, causing people to have to either de-stock or buy in fodder, even when there are mulga trees still standing.

"The State Government has imposed these laws in order to regulate the very people that have bought these properties via a commercial transaction, due to pressure from the environmental groups and the Kyoto Climate Change Agreement.

"Farmers and graziers are picking up the tab for the religion of "climate change", against their will and best interests.

"To me that smacks of socialism."

Burrumbuttock Hay Runners are planning another major donation of up to 500 semi loads of hay to drought stricken Queensland farmers.

The hay run to southern Queensland will coincide with Australia Day next year.

The Drought Angels have been working on a Christmas appeal and people can help by dropping goods in at the Drought Angels Charity Shop in Chinchilla or by contacting the organisation on 0409 548 414.


Burrumbuttock Hay Runners

BSB: 062438

ACC: 10211156

Description: Drought Appeal

Drought Angels

BSB: 064409

ACC: 1018 4522

Care Outreach


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