Emergency Drought Aid a Welcome Relief, But Long Term Focus Needed
15 August 2018 at 4:36 pm
The social sector should unite to provide long term support for drought-affected farmers and their communities once the issue “leaves the headlines”, a rural sector advocate believes.
Following a recent announcement that 100 per cent of New South Wales is drought-affected, charity organisations around Australia have provided emergency aid which includes hampers, fodder delivery and food vouchers.
The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal’s (FRRR) program manager for Queensland and NSW, Jacki Dimond, told Pro Bono News it was important for the social sector to “come together” so that programs could be coordinated and managed properly to effect change.
“We often find, particularly in a disaster scenario that communities are completely bombarded by lots of individual groups that want to help, and will all come to them for a separate conversation,” Dimond said.
She said the role of FRRR was to “provide an avenue” for consultation between philanthropic and community groups so they could work collaboratively together.
“It’s vital that level of consultation exists both within the philanthropic sector but also importantly talking to communities about what support they need and being able to cover the gaps,” she said.
While the immediate relief efforts was welcomed by FRRR, Dimond said it was important to acknowledge the aftermath of the “economic decline that accompanies drought”, which is why long term programs were critical.
“Drought, like other natural disasters, has an extended recovery period… once [drought] breaks, communities are affected for at least two years,” she said.
“Locals of rural communities are incredibly resilient and resourceful, but distance and the small size of most communities makes it hard to fundraise normally – let alone when there is a drought.”
The recent announcement of extra federal government funding for drought-affected communities had a mixed response from various organisations.
Chief executive of the Country Education Foundation, Wendy Cohen, said the two $12,000 payments to families “would not go far”, especially when it came to education costs.
“Many families are determined to prioritise the education of their children, but there’s only so far limited budgets can stretch,” Cohen said.
“We need to ensure this drought, shaping up as the worst in living memory, doesn’t become yet another barrier to education for a section of the community that already faces inequality and exclusion.”
FRRR did welcome the funding, but reiterated it was necessary for government and corporate donor groups alike to “collaborate” with the people receiving the funds, to ensure the “support does what it needs to do”.