ALL levels of government need to do more to support local drought-affected farming families, according to Gippsland MHR Darren Chester.
Speaking after a tour of drought communities and a meeting with Victorian
Farmers Federation representatives, Mr Chester said he was concerned the level of assistance being provided was not matching the high level of need in the community.
Mr Chester has written to the Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister to repeat his call for a whole-of-government approach to the drought, with a focus on reducing costs for farmers in Gippsland.
“While the federal government has already taken a lead role with the Farm Household Allowance and a range of other measures, the drought has quickly worsened in our region and the level of assistance will need to be increased if we are going to support our farming families during these difficult times,” Mr Chester said.
“I’ve had a meeting with the VFF, met individually with farmers and small business owners, and held regular discussions with local government representatives.
“It is very clear that more needs to be done to reduce red tape and assist families.
“In some parts of the region, farmers are telling me these are the worst conditions in 100 years.
“Many families are now struggling to maintain breeding stock and meet every day costs such as municipal rates, wages, stock feed and household expenses.
“In my letter to the Prime Minister, I have explained the need for all levels of government to work together with a co-ordinated plan to support farmers to ensure they are able to continue providing food for our nation when better conditions arrive.
“Forecasts predict this dry weather is likely to continue and conditions will worsen before they improve, so we need to support farming families with a broader range of measures.”
Mr Chester encouraged local residents to reach out to family and friends on the land and provide moral support in the weeks and months ahead.
“This is a difficult period for many people, but we have a proud tradition of looking after our mates during hard times in Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.
“My message to everyone who has been hit by the drought is to reach out and get support from family and friends.
“If you notice someone you know isn’t coping, encourage them to ask for help.”
The federal government has committed almost $7 billion for drought support, including more than $25 million to improve mental health services in drought-affected areas.
For immediate mental health support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978, or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
For information about mental health support specific to the region, visit www.healthdirect.gov.au.
A convoy of trucks and utilities will be delivering hay bales and hampers to drought-affected farmers this Saturday as part of the Lions Need For Feed program.
Eight semi-trailer trucks carrying about 300 round bales, and utes with square bales, will be visiting farmers around Briagolong and the Longford, Seaspray and Giffard West area.