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RURAL AID CONTINUES TO SUPPORT FARMERS AND COMMUNITIES DURING COVID THROUGH DIGITAL AND WORKFORCE ENABLEMENT INITIATIVES



As many businesses look to pivot in the eye of COVID-19, we are no different except, we’re continuing to deliver behind the scenes – trucking fodder and water to farmers and, bushfire affected areas.

Drought, fires, floods and now the impact of COVID-19 restrictions has meant farmers and rural communities are experiencing a cascade of unforeseen events over the past six months and, unfortunately for some – a mix of all.

Between January and March this year, Rural Aid delivered more than $8 million in support to our Aussie farmers and their communities through hay, domestic drinking water, counselling and financial assistance – including pre-paid Visa cards and the Gift of Music program.

Rural Aid CEO, John Warlters said that there was a greater need for services than ever before. Through digital and workforce enablement initiatives our team has found unique ways to stay connected with rural communities. Our counsellors are in regular phone contact and we’re also conducting online webinars including our Community Builders Webinars Series.

“While it has been fantastic to see the onset of rain in many areas, the drought is not over – far from it,” John said. “In the past six weeks, we’ve delivered 6894 bales of hay to 459 farmers in 95 locations, trucked 936,000 litres of domestic drinking water; as well as providing over $1.2 million dollars in financial assistance that includes Visa gift cards to almost 1500 farmers. Of course, our counsellors continue to support farmers and their families too, conducting 124 counselling sessions and reaching out to 597 farmers by phone.

“Our volunteers are currently sitting tight and we hope that they will be back on the road helping our farmers and rural communities over the coming months.

“Transport continues to be an essential service during these current restrictions and by leveraging Rural Aid’s proven delivery model, we have been able to ensure farmers can continue to feed their livestock and receive domestic drinking water.

“Two of our counsellors, Gary Bentley and Zoe Cox also have regular media participation, with Gary’s weekly column reaching 8 million readers across Australia. To further support farmers and their families, Rural Aid counsellors conducted the first On the Couch webinar on 13 May and the next being held on 11 June.

“Organisational planning around COVID-19 has been undertaken to support Rural Aid’s direction as a matter of course to ensure the charity continues to meet the needs of primary producers and regional communities.

“We’re operating in the background to deliver for our farmers, many who haven’t had a level of support as they start to rebuild post the summer bushfires.”

Livestock and Agricultural Fire Loss NSW and Victoria

Livestock loss across New South Wales, as a result of the fires, exceeded 13,000 with over 16,000 landholders estimated to have been impacted by the fires. Southern New South Wales had the greatest losses with more than 12,000 head of livestock dying as a result of the fires¹. As of 28 January 2020, the fires in NSW had burnt 5.3 million hectares or 6.7% of the State².

In Victoria’s North East and East Gippsland areas, livestock and agricultural loss for the fires late December and early January were significant. Over 7000 livestock – including cattle, sheep and beehives – were lost. Over 53,000 hectares of pasture, field crops and softwood plantations were destroyed by fire. There was also significant fencing and farm infrastructure damage, such as fodder reserves, machinery and hay sheds³.

As at 1 May 2020 in Queensland, over 67% of the land area of Queensland was drought declared.

Bureau of Meteorology

The Bureau of Meteorology noted in the Events section of its Annual Climate Statement 2019, published on 9 January 2020, that, ‘The extensive and long-lived fires appear to be the largest in scale in the modern record in New South Wales, while the total area burnt appears to be the largest in a single recorded fire season for eastern Australia’⁵.


Warmest year on record for Australia – mean temperature 1.52 °C above average

Warmest year on record for New South Wales and Western Australia

Annual total rainfall 40% below average with much of Australia affected by drought

¹Sourced from NSW Department of Primary Industries  

²Sourced from Parliament of Australia Parliamentary Library

³Sourced from Agriculture Victoria

⁴Sourced from Queensland Government’s Longpaddock Drought Declarations

⁵Sourced from Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)


Marriage and a new baby - a note of thanks from a farming family

We write to express our sincere thanks for the assistance offered from Rural Aid.

An exhaustive 2019 saw the drought climax with the worst bushfires we've seen on our property. In November, we were forced to evacuate our property due to immediate bushfire threat. When we returned home, we were lucky, we had a home but still spent the following days fighting fires. This firefighting exhausted our water supply, with local emergency services using our last stock watering hole to save our local community.

Despite the effect of drought and fire we remained resilient, we even got married on the weekend after the fires hit.

The Rural Aid Christmas parcel and financial bill relief meant so much to us. With our livestock suffering depression with no feed and little water, this token reminded us we weren't alone.

With 2020 bringing a change we were excited to see the rain begin. This too brought challenges as the rain caused local floods and further property damage with erosion. During this time, we were isolated on the farm due to flooding. This was a nervous time as we were expecting the birth of our first child anyday! In February we welcomed our daughter, Ember on the day the creek subsided to allow us access to town. The Rural Aid visa card was another unexpected surprise that was invaluable for our young family.

With COVID outbreak our resilience was once again tested but the acts of support and kindness like that that Rural Aid provide will continue to see us succeed. So, we apologise for the delay in passing on our gratitude, as you can read, we were a little distracted!

About Rural Aid

Rural Aid is one of Australia’s largest rural charities. Well known for the highly successful ‘Buy a Bale’ campaign, the charity also provides financial assistance, water and counselling to farmers in times of drought, flood or fire. Other initiatives support its vision that farming and rural communities are safeguarded to ensure their sustainability both during and after these natural disasters. Visit www.ruralaid.org.au for further information on these programs and other support for our rural communities.

Visit www.ruralaid.org.au/snapshots for Rural Aid’s latest assistance statistics.

Register at www.ruralaid.org.au/towns/webinars/ to be part of the Community Builders Webinars Series and to access past episodes.

Media: 0447 116 757 | media@ruralaid.org.au

Spokesperson: Rural Aid CEO John Warlters | 0409 618 641

Follow Rural Aid for updates on:

Rural Aid – FB: @ruralaidaustralia | IG: @ruralaid |IN: Rural Aid Ltd | TW: @ruralaidaust

Buy A Bale – FB: @buyabaleofhay | IG: @buyabale | TW: @buyabale

ENDS