Longreach

2015


With 80% of the state drought-declared, Longreach and it’s community in the heart of Western Queensland are struggling. After a third failed wet season, trade in town is slow and the flat red terrain of surrounding properties is scattered with white bones of deceased livestock.


Dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in the community, Rex - a Drought Support worker, believes many of the graziers they deal with feel as though they are forgotten. Although they are a resilient bunch, seeking financial or psychological help does not come naturally to them. 


With no simple solution to the challenges presented by drought and the extensiveness of those effected, they believe there is a greater need for on the ground support workers to battle social isolation and hardship during these tougher times.



John
Salvation Army Rural Chaplin


John and his wife Karen are Rural Chaplains with the Salvation Army in Longreach.


Dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in the community, John said many of the graziers they deal with feel as though they are forgotten. ‘They are such a resilient bunch and seeking help during some of these harder years does not come naturally to them’.


John stresses that people need to understand that even if the rain comes tomorrow, it will take two or three years until life returns to any kind of normality for graziers that manage to remain.

Rex 

Drought Support Case Worker for Centacare.


With countless boards and committees in the region, Rex is one of the only people out in the paddocks and on the ground in the Longreach area, talking to those vulnerable community members. Often, mayors, politicians and board members call him to see how bad it actually is out there.


Rex says the people he deals with are proud and don’t often want to take up Centrelink. He frequently hears ‘It’s not the way it’s done out here’. Fortunately after building up genuine connections with people, he can help them see that it is the way for them to get back some of their hard-earned taxes and help to put food on their table. Often the middle man, Rex connects donations, grants, and appeals to those who need it, and often these people will only accept it from him.


Although his role is a Drought Support worker - Rex often finds himself providing a lot more physiological support then simply financial. With social isolation and hardship fairly common, Rex feels that there is a greater need for on the ground support workers travelling out to these properties.

Keg and Flo 

Aged Pensioners


Keg and Flo have been together and lived in Longreach for decades. 


Their love of horses and birds is clearly visible, with paintings, saddles and cages scattered through in their humble home and down through their backyard. Built primarily from tin, their house is cool enough during the colder months but dramatically heats up during summer.


On the aged pension, they struggle to make ends meet and while growing their own vegetables and herbs helps, it makes little difference when the bills arrive. Last month, Keg suffered a panic attack and was hospitalised when the rates bill arrived, not knowing how they would find the funds to pay.


Seeking out assistance remains problematic in regional towns when the person across the counter is often an old school friend or the 30 page forms online are too complicated to complete. With the help of on an on the ground case worker from Centacare, they can make it by month to month and remain positive. 

Ted 

Grazier - rural property owner


Yanburra Station has been in the Fegan family for over a century. Now 82, Ted lives alone on the 8,300 hectare property in a small square building with cement floors and a single solar powered light. Ted explained that after mustering costs, transport and agent fees, his last round of sales left him with a profit of $8 per horse.


While selling his stock is far from profitable, the alternative is that they die in the paddock with limited food and water. Unfortunately, as many of the other graziers are in the same situation, there is minimal market locally for the stock and the flat red terrain is already scattered with thousands of white bones of deceased livestock.


With only basic rations and unfiltered water from a bore, Ted is confined to shuffling around on an A frame walker after falling and breaking his hip years ago. He’s connected to the simplistic lifestyle and has never been interested in company or a wife, but admits he now needs a hand around the property, but does not have the funds to hire anyone.


The banks have sent a valuer out to asses the land and Ted, like many others in the region, fear that once the drought breaks, the land will become more attractive to sell and Yanburra could be foreclosed and Ted forced to leave.


’I won’t sell or leave this place. It’s my history. It’s my life.’

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