Relief for our country families


With the whole of NSW being in the grip of devastating drought, the difficulties faced by many families in our boarding community have been brought into very sharp focus. Abbotsleigh is dedicated to supporting our boarding community and the Abbotsleigh Foundation has announced that it has generously committed $75,000 to support these families. Members of the Abbotsleigh community who would like to add their support will have the opportunity to make a donation, with details of how to do so in the coming weeks. It is when we come together as a community that the real spirit of our school shines through. 

As stated by Mrs Rennie, ‘Abbotsleigh, like many boarding school communities, has families who are facing the terrible effects of drought. Last week I attended the ICPA (Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association) Annual Conference in Canberra where much of our discussion was about the current challenges facing rural areas. Former Federal Regional Communications Minister, now Charles Sturt University regional development adviser, Fiona Nash, opened the conference. In her speech, Ms Nash acknowledged the contribution that rural, regional and remote Australia makes to our nation’s economy and, indeed, its significance to Australia’s social fabric. She also noted that “strong regions mean a strong nation,” and reminded us that a third of our population lives outside of cities, and yet so much focus remains squarely on the metropolitan capitals. With such thoughts, and at a time when much of our country is in the grip of drought, it is vital that as a school community we are aware of the challenges faced by many of our families.’

I encourage all families to consider how they might contribute and support those in rural areas, whether through donation or prayer. This week I have asked three of our boarders on the land to reflect on the impact of the drought and the challenges faced by their towns and home communities.

Phoebe Harris – Year 10
According to latest figures released this week, 99% of NSW is drought-affected. Where we live, north-west of Moree on the NSW/QLD border, we have been feeling the effects of this drought for the past few years. Dry times are unfortunately common. After a wet season, we try to plan ahead for an oncoming long dry season. However, this particular dry season has gone on much longer than anticipated. When in a drought there is minimal which can be done on the farm; soil is dry and often cannot produce sufficient yield, livestock feed runs low and becomes more expensive to buy, and as livestock prices rise, farmers try to keep animals until fat or sell because they are good value. With these factors, it can become difficult to keep staff as there is minimal work to do; no tractors to drive if crops are not being planted, minimal stock to feed as majority have been sold, and agronomists are not needed as there are no crops to check.

My family owns cattle stations in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, [and] it can be advantageous to have a spread of different climatic areas so when one area is affected by drought, often the other area helps spreads the risk. However, one of the reasons this particular drought is so significant is because it is affecting Australia wide. The drought is hard on farmers; however, it is important to remember that the whole rural community is affected. My home town, Mungindi, relies on locals both in town and out on farms, to buy their products, use their services and attend their schools. When farmers need to get through a drought period there is a domino effect to all small local businesses.

Sophie Greer – Year 8
My name is Sophie Greer and I am from a country town in New South Wales called Moree and we, among many others, are experiencing the effects of the drought. We have been in drought now for approximately three years. We farm cattle and crops on our property and as the drought gets worse, so does our farm. We feed our cattle daily as it’s so dry and their food is becoming sparse and limited. It may be hard to believe, but it is becoming the norm to find newborn calves abandoned by their mothers, simply because they are too weak to look after them. Because of the harsh conditions, the baby calves quite often don’t survive.

Tragically, this is happening all around NSW. Not only are our livestock suffering but so are our crops. My family planted our crops earlier this year, but as the drought has continued, our crops have died, so the money spent on planting the paddock has gone to waste. Sadly, the drought has not only affected my family, our life and livelihood, but many more people around NSW just like us. In farming, our only hope for our farm is rain, so every day we continue to pray that rain will come and save us from this drought, because that is the only thing we can do. I encourage everyone to bring their donations to Chapel next Wednesday as all funds raised will go to helping farmers just like us.

Stella Carolan – Year 8
Sitting and waiting for rain,
The farmers are going insane.
The cattle are thinner,
With nothing for dinner,
No feed in the big empty plains.

The paddocks are nothing but dead,
And animals need to be fed.
Nothing is green,
And all to be seen,
Is dryness continue to spread.

The forecast shows nothing but drought,
We are all living in doubt.
Waiting in vain,
For one mill of rain,
Trying to figure it out.

We’re losing our water to drink,
And always have plugs in the sink.
No rain in the tank,
No funds in the bank,
All draining before you can blink.

It’s putting our faith into chance,
Could be losing our stock at a glance.
And as for the crops,
No choice but to stop,
As we can’t see our luck in advance.

Our neighbours we know understand,
Communities lending a hand.
And early at dawn,
There’s ‘roos on our lawn,
‘Cause feed is so high on demand.

Now there’s no work left sell,
The backpacker’s leaving as well.
Like a cloud in the sky,
We wave them goodbye,
The drought always tends to repel.

So when we are stuck in a drought,
The farmers all moping about,
Keep waiting for rain,
Try not to complain,
And hope we can figure it out.

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