Woolworths, Rural Aid partnership delivers $1.5 billion for hay, mental health support

MAJOR BOOST: Rural Aid founders Tracey and Charles Alder have welcomed the partnership with Woolworths.

MAJOR BOOST: Rural Aid founders Tracey and Charles Alder have welcomed the partnership with Woolworths.

“Just dust.”

That was Rural Aid CEO Charles Alder’s response when he was asked to describe the situation facing farmers from the Hunter to the state’s far west.

“Next-to-no coverage on their land, next-to-no animals, just dust.

“Just lack of feed, lack of water, and just not sure where their next, not their next meal, but they’re all fretting for their animals and that’s the really serious emotional part about it.”

ALSO MAKING NEWS

Rural Aid is this week celebrating a $1.5 million partnership with supermarket giant Woolworths, $1.2 million of which will help to double the capacity of the charity’s Buy a Bale program.

But the other $300,000 will support the appointment of two counsellors to the state’s north (around Lightning Ridge and far west (Broken Hill).

Dubbo is also set to receive a counsellor.

“We’ve gone from zero to eight [counsellors] within a month of starting the program,” Mr Alder said.

“There’s never been a free counselling service for farmers and farming communities. There have been rural financial counsellors and there have been calls in to Lifeline or other services, but this is actually about having professional, qualified counsellors on the ground, meeting farmers in their own environment and allowing conversations to happen freely and openly.

“Some of them might be in financial stress … marital problems or the fact they can’t pay the kids’ school fees. It doesn’t always have to be a counselling session that ends with a medicinal plan. It could just be someone that needs someone to talk to.”

Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale program has been consistently delivering fodder to Dubbo, Coonabarabran, Lightning Ridge, Narrabri and Newcastle.

They have delivered more than $1.8 million in assistance this year, with 850 farmers who have never contacted Rural Aid calling for assistance.

“We’ve purchased and committed 14,000 bales, so $1.4 million in hay and on top of that we’ve spent more than $600,000 of NSW taxpayer-funded transport subsidies – $200,000 in just the last month,” Mr Alder said.

“The $1.2 million [from Woolworths] will mean that we can provide more hay and the … budget [will] go further.”