It was a dry and dusty AgQuip in Gunnedah this year, but the NSW Nationals were determined to lift spirits during the annual event.

Local Nationals MP Kevin Anderson fired up the barbecue and cooked 300 steak sandwiches as a fundraiser for the Buy A Bale Campaign. The $1500 raised from hungry punters was matched dollar for dollar by the NSW Nationals, with $3000 set to go to the drought-relief appeal.

Mr Anderson said it was great to be “on the frontline” and he looked forward to doing it again next year.

“We spent three days hearing from farmers, families, small businesses and big businesses all facing different challenges and all with ideas about how to help, which we’ll take back to parliament and share with our colleagues,” he said. “It was a great opportunity to share information about the drought support on offer, and especially seeing the Centacare counsellor reaching out and connecting with people in the grip of drought. It was a really worthwhile experience, raising $3000 for Buy A Bale thanks to the fantastic steaks from Teys Australia.”

A Centacare counsellor organised by Mr Anderson was also at The Nationals stand at AgQuip, providing advice and support to people doing it tough through the drought.

The NSW Nationals crew said the signs of the drought were all too obvious, but they heard some great stories of country people banding together, including a pair of neighbours who visited on alternating days, with those at home looking after the other’s livestock.

The NSW Nationals in Government have secured more than $1 billion in drought relief and assistance measures, which also includes funding for counselling and mental health. For more information on the Emergency Drought Relief Package visit www.droughthub.nsw.gov.au.

If you are worried about anyone, farmer or otherwise, who is doing it tough, please encourage them to seek help. Rural financial counsellors provide referrals to counsellors and support to access programs and there are also a number of phone and web-based support services of particular help to farmers. They allow access to expertise without the need to travel and are fully confidential. The following numbers can be called free of charge for assistance 24 hours, 7 days a week:

• Lifeline 131 114
• Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
• MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
• Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467