The St George and Roma communities in Queensland recently welcomed the Rapid Relief Team (RRT) and its Farmers Community Connect events – with farmers still fighting the long-term effects of drought.

More than 300 farmers made their way to receive a free one tonne bulker bag of pellets to feed stock – but more importantly connect with fellow members of the community over a BBQ lunch and coffee.

RRT is made up of volunteers from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

A number of visiting farmers commented on the value of the event and ability to take advantage of the different services on hand, including: veterinary support, mental health support and rural financial aid assistance, among others.

Importantly, while official declarations of drought end across much of Australia in early 2020 – the lingering effects continue in the Western Downs.

It often takes months and years for recovery to properly take place – but local communities have great stores of resilience and faith that helps to get them through, RRT Director Lester Sharples said.

Local farming families and support service providers valued the event also:

Brett Conroy, Penrose Farm in Roma, said:

So the waiting for the rain just went for ever and ever. We had to sell stock and reduce prices and buy them back at three times the cost. At the moment, I’m still only half stocked and I have to wait another 12 months before I can sell some more. The rain has come, and we’re just ecstatic. It changes your whole attitude and your mindset and you want to get out of bed and feed the cattle again. Now we’ve got terrific feed and we’re running at about half stock capacity. But there’s still things to do at the farm and catch up on things we didn’t have time to do in the drought.

The organisation of the Rapid Relief Team, they’ve gone a step further than a lot of the others. If you’re stressed out and you need help from flood fencing and that sort of thing, there are people here to care for most situations – they’ve thought about everything. Today gives me a really good feeling to see how Australia can come together in situations like these. Fires, floods and drought – Australia is just renowned for them and people will always be there.

Ellen Smith from Tralley Farm St George, said:

The drought has affected us dramatically. We have sheep, but we’ve lost a lot of sheep and especially during the dust storms, young sheep seem to die. We also farm, and we didn’t have a crop for years so we’re just grateful now that we’ve seen some rain.

I think events like today are really great. I can’t believe the amount of work that the Rapid Relief Team have put in and it’s just been a really good morning out and the pellets are always a bonus. The support staff that are here bringing services have been very useful and easy to approach in an event like this.

Thank you to the RRT from the bottom of my heart. This is a really lovely gesture. 

Bryson Head, Regional Recovery Officer for South West QLD for the National Drought and Flood Agency said that the FCC events were a great opportunity to bring people into town to see one another and reach out to support services.

“In drought, farmers get busier and busier all the time and they put off social events and opportunities to catch up with their neighbours and this is just really good for people to get off the farm and catch up with their neighbours,“ Bryson said.

Ally Boshammer, a FCC recipient said that the events allows farmers to come out of their shell and reach out for support.

“We know how hard our farmers work but they can also be a stoic bunch and keep to themselves,” said Ally Boshammer a recipient of the one tonne bulker bag of livestock pellets.

“A reminder that despite the remoteness of our regions it is the sense of community which we are able to draw strength from in difficult times,” Ally said.

Since 2018, RRT’s exclusive Operation Drought Relief initiative has donated over 12,525 bales of hay, with FCC events delivering and donating 2,036 tonnes of livestock pellets to 12 locations across NSW and Queensland, helping over 3,360 farmers and their families in need.

It is Christian values of charity and compassion that drive us to help and it was so fulfilling to see the recent events in Queensland positively received, Mr Sharples said.

The movement of the feed pellets was supported by volunteers from Plymouth Brethren Christian Church in Leeton, NSW before they were transported by truck convoy to Roma and then St George.