Fund for farmers

Fund for farmers

The ‘Stand by your Farmer’ community campaign in Orbost is up and running with a working group recently formed.

The community campaign, designed to help struggling local farmers in the Orbost area, is composed of Orbost Regional Health, Orbost and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Orbost Rotarians and members from the local farming community.

An account has been set up through Orbost Regional Health to ensure those who donate receive a receipt, which is tax deductible.

Chief executive officer of Orbost Regional Health, Meryn Pease, says the green drought is having an effect in the East Gippsland community and it’s anyone’s guess when it will end.

“All the information we’re hearing in the media is about the drought and how it could be prolonged,” Ms Pease said.

“We’ve had businesses close in Orbost, so drought can affect an entire community.

“I’m from a farming background and where farmers don’t spend businesses struggle.”

Having grown up on a farm on the edge of the Mallee in north central Victoria, Ms Pease said she was aware how important it was to look out for farmers and their families.

“One of the biggest risks in times of drought is the farmer’s mental health and wellbeing,” she said.

“My brother, who is still farming there (in the Mallee) said to me he never wanted to see another farmer suicide.”

The CEO says she’s well aware of the impact the drought is having on local farmers.

“A lot of our staff are farming families and I’ve been hearing about the cost of hay, so we wanted to do something where there was a gap,” Ms Pease said.

She says the national campaigns don’t give local communities control over where the money is distributed. The local working group, with their connections and contact to the Orbost community, will be in a better position to decide where the funds are disbursed.

All donated funds will be distributed to local farmers via Chamber of Commerce vouchers. Ms Pease said this provided flexibility for farming families to purchase what is most needed for their family from any local business, whether it be food, clothing, petrol etc.

She said the ‘Stand by your Farmer’ campaign hoped to raise $100,000.

Ms Pease said the response to the local campaign had been positive with donations flooding in.

She said it also provided an opportunity for other funds being run at various businesses in the town to combine into one big fund with central control.

Already Rotary clubs throughout Gippsland have been forwarding monies to the campaign.

Ms Pease said a farmers’ barbecue lunch will be held next month with a date yet to be determined, but it was hoped Rotarians would be actively involved.

“It is important that family and broader community connections remain strong to support each other through these stressful times,” Ms Pease said.

“We’re relying on the local network to keep us informed of who’s in need.”