THANKS to the efforts of the Bathurst community, a rural aid counsellor has been appointed to the region as a lifeline for drought affected farmers.
The push for a counsellor started with Grant and Chezzi Denyer, who were seeing the devastation the drought was causing first-hand.
“We were really concerned when we were visiting farms in this area, that there was a lot of people who weren’t coping, and given we were Rural Aid ambassadors, we spoke a lot to Rural Aid and said ‘We need a counsellor and we need someone good’,” Mrs Denyer said.
To put a ‘top-notch’ counsellor in the region was going to cost $150,000, and so the couple organised the Black Tie and Boots Ball to raise money.
Mrs Denyer said that she chipped in $7 after the ball to reach the target and secure a counsellor, Zoe Cox.
She will be covering a big area, however the service is both by phone and face-to-face, depending on the needs of a farmer.
Ms Cox is not only an experienced counsellor, but has a rural background that she believes will help when talking to farmers.
“A bonus of the choice of myself, not only do I have the counselling expertise … and I’ve worked with families, so couples, individuals and their children, that’s my area of expertise, but I also grew up in this area, about an hour east of here on a farm,” she said.
“So I also have the rural experience and I do feel that I can empathise with the everyday farmer, having grown up on the land, having farmers in my family.”
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Farmers are encouraged to seek help, with Ms Cox able to assist in a range of ways by providing someone to debrief with and hopefully solutions that can help ease the pressure.
Family members, not just farmers, can also seek help.
She said she was pleased to be in the role of Rural Aid counsellor now, as she had the opportunity to connect with the farming community ahead of what is predicted to be a tough summer.
Mrs Denyer said she was thrilled that a Rural Aid counsellor was finally available to the region, knowing that farmers needed the support of a specialised person.
“I was getting very caught up in the whole emotions of the thing [during the farm visits], I found it really difficult,” she said.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve probably ever experienced, some of these discussions with local farmers, it just broke my heart, so I’m just overjoyed that Zoe is here.”
Anyone looking for help, or people who would like to put her in contact with a farmer, should contact Ms Cox on 0428 445 831.
Ms Cox said it can be difficult to ask for help and open up to a stranger about deeply personal situations, but those conversations could offer a lot of relief.
“Give it a go, just call me, and if it doesn’t feel right we can end the conversation,” she said.
“But unless you reach out, you won’t know if it will benefit you or not.”