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Charities fill the gap for drought affected farmers where government fails

As the government is criticised for a lack of crucial funding, charity groups have stepped up with critical support

Charities and community groups have launched appeals for drought-inflicted parts of Australia, as the government is criticised for failing to provide crucial funding.

Malcolm Turnbull defended the government’s drought relief package after critics said the $12,000 for each household was “too little, too late”. Edwina Robertson, a drought-awareness campaigner, said the cash injection was not enough to sustain farmers.

Turnbull, however, said that the package was a supplement to the Farm Household Allowance, a fortnightly payment for eligible farmers totally about $16,000 a year. He conceded the extra payments would barely pay for a load of hay.

“It is designed to keep body and soul together, not designed to pay for fodder.”

The Federal government has so far pledged a $190 million package with up to $1 million for community-led mental health and community resilience initiatives. On top of this, the government extended the Farm Household Allowance from three to four years.

To provide extra relief, the Australian Red Cross has set up The Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal to run until the end of August. The Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society have also chipped in, raising extra funds and helping out in the areas.

Vinnies, in partnership with The Sunday Telegraph, have launched an appeal, with Executive Officer for NSW’s central west and far western region, Kelly Morgan, saying: “We’re witnessing first-hand the devastation this continual dry is having”.

“People are really doing it tough out here. Many are investing all they’ve got in feed and other supplies to keep their farms going. As a result, they’re often struggling to keep up with regular bills, including groceries and even household water.”

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, NSW’s 2018 winter rainfall was well below average, meaning farmers who have already suffered years of drought have had no respite. Over the last 15 months, several areas have had the lowest rainfall on record.

“Vinnies members are part of these struggling rural communities and know what farmers are facing,” Morgan said.

Vinnies NSW Chief Executive Officer, Jack de Groot, said: “The State government has acted swiftly by injecting $1 billion towards drought relief for farmers, with $500 million of that announced just this week.

“These communities will need support in the coming months and years as the impacts of the drought are felt.”

The Salvation Army’s Rural Chaplains and Personnel are currently in drought affected areas conducting visits to farmers and rural communities and lending support.

Rural Chaplains for The Salvation Army are currently travelling around northwest NSW providing the necessary support for many farmers who have lost hope.

“They have been crying out for a long time but now they are finally seeing some momentum and it is lifting their spirits,” said Dianne Lawson, one of The Salvation Army’s Rural Chaplains. “But we need more resources to give them the practical support they need to get them back on their feet.”

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