The Nationals in Government are backing up more than a billion dollars in drought relief measures with visits to affected communities to ensure help is getting where it’s needed.

Primary Industries Minister and NSW Nationals Upper House Member Niall Blair was in the Riverina this week to find out how the drought was affecting the region, while Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro visited Tamworth.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said communities across the North West were experiencing some of the driest conditions on record, which is why he believed it was beneficial to continue bringing the Deputy Premier back to the region to meet with local farmers.

“This is a great opportunity for my community to have direct access to the Deputy Premier,” Mr Anderson said. “They want to be able to tell their story and I encourage them to do so.”

Mr Barilaro said the latest additions to the package were quite extensive, and he wanted to be able to discuss the measures first-hand with landholders, especially those who had provided input prior to the recent announcement.

“The message I am providing to farmers is quite simple: When you spoke, you were heard, and we are still listening,” Mr Barilaro said. “We want to ensure we continue to do whatever we can to assist people on the land who are doing it tough, which is why we will continue to make our way around the State and get direct feedback from landholders. Drought can have a devastating effect on regional communities, which is why we will continue to find ways of providing the best possible assistance wherever possible.”

While the Nationals in Government had been securing much-needed funding to fight the drought, local communities were also banding together to help each other through the tough times. In the North West and New England, organisations banded together to create “R U Aware We Care”, which was raising funds for families and communities with a range of events.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will open a series of forums hosted by R U Aware We Care entitled “Navigating the Drought” on August 7 in Attunga, near Tamworth. The forums will be held in Narrabri, Moree, Inverell and Glen Innes until August 15, with information available on financial aid, agricultural support and mental health support. The Federal Nationals Leader said he welcomed community support for farmers facing drought and the support also provided by businesses and Governments.

“I commend everyone involved in supporting farming families and their communities during this extremely tough time and the R U Aware We Care initiative is a great example of local communities rallying around to support those in need,” Mr McCormack said. “There’s nothing more Australian than helping a mate in need and whether you’re in Charleville, the Mallee in Victoria, Narrabri, Bathurst, Hay or Attunga, it’s great to see so many people and organisations out on the ground and elsewhere doing what they can to support our farmers and farming communities at this difficult time.”

Mr McCormack said that as Leader of the Nationals, along with other elected representatives, it was their duty to look at how they could provide any additional assistance measures – such as the Federal Government’s recent improvements to the Farm Household Allowance scheme and extra funding for mental health services and Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) or the NSW Government’s recent $500 million drought relief package – to help people manage their way through the drought and ensure timely support is targeted to where it’s needed most.

“The R U Aware We Care initiative is looking to bring vital service providers like the RFCS together with farmers in need, while providing a forum to speak with their elected representatives about solutions to current challenges, which can only be a good thing and will provide another layer of support,” Mr McCormack said. “I’d also like to reiterate that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has estimated there may be 19,000 farmers eligible for Farm Household Allowance who have not yet applied for it so I’d encourage everyone to use Centrelink’s expertise to determine if they are in fact eligible for support payments, rather than relying on self-assessment.”

The NSW Rural Assistance Authority will begin processing applications from Monday, August 6. Click here for more information on the NSW Government’s emergency drought relief package. Information on the drought assistance measures the Federal Government has in place can be accessed here and information on the drought assistance measures the NSW Government has in place can be accessed here.

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