Reflecting on 'drought'

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The Right Rev’d Cameron Venables reflects upon the effects of what some out west are calling the worst drought in living memory, outlining four practical and life-giving ways that we can respond, so people in the broader Diocese know how to help, encourage and support the resilient and courageous farmers in our Diocese who are doing it tough

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The recent media coverage of drought in Western New South Wales seems to suggest that the absence of rain is a new thing! Many property owners in Western Queensland have rolled their eyes about this because the current situation has been going on foryears, and drought management and drought mitigation are part of life for most of the Australian agricultural industry.

When annual rains do not come for sheep and cattle farmers, the grass does not grow, and there is the challenge of feeding stock. And, when the rains continue not to come, then the dams start to dry up, and the paddocks need to be de-stocked. When the rains do not come for those who grow sorghum, wheat, barley, chick peas, and a host of other good things we like to eat…the seed may not germinate, or if it does, it may not yield. And, when the rains continue not to come, then irrigation becomes harder, and then not possible…and there may be a year, or some years, without income.

But, most people who live on the land love the land, and they are resourceful and resilient. They diversify their crops, they take part-time jobs in other places to pay the bills, and they keep finding ways to make things work…until the rains come again. Obviously, there are other significant challenges to work with, including feral dogs, unscrupulous banks and political decisions about agricultural products. But, ‘drought’ is currently on everyone’s lips as we look down the barrel of a tough summer and already smell bush fires on the wind.

People have written and called from across the Diocese to ask how they can help support drought-affected communities in the west, and this is really encouraging. There are at least four ways to respond.

1. The Bush Ministry Fund: or BMF, enables clergy to be on the ground and present in parishes that are not able to afford a full-time priest. Whether it is the six visits each year to the Quilpie District and Diamantina Shire, the full-time presence of clergy in the Maranoa- Warrego, or Leichhardt-Chinchilla, Anglican Mission Areas, or top-up funding to half a dozen other parishes. In God’s grace, these trained people offer spiritual leadership, encouragement and care…and we can be part of making this possible by financially supporting the BMF. Donations can be made via direct deposit, tagging the transactions with BMF and your name and emailing Helen Briffa at hbriffa@anglicanchurchsq.org.au with details to generate a receipt. The bank details are: BSB: 704-901, Account Number: 00013448, Account Name: Corp of Synod of Diocese Brisbane. Alternatively, please call Helen Briffa at the Regional Bishop’s Office on (07) 4614 7050.

2. The Archbishop’s Drought Appeal: sends financial assistance to those who most need it through clergy and lay leadership on the ground. Most commonly, this is distributed to those in difficulty through Visa Debit cards so that money can be spent with local businesses, who also struggle significantly in times of drought. Donations can be made over the counter at any Westpac branch. The bank details are: BSB: 034-844, Account Number: 000148582, Account Name: Corp of Synod of Diocese Brisbane; or via EFT BSB: 704-901, Account Number: 00014858, Account Name: Corp of Synod of Diocese Brisbane; or by calling 1300 33 72 77.

3. Partnerships and visiting: parishes and schools can partner with western communities through formal and informal partnerships. For example, this is the third year that Coomera Anglican College has sent out a group of students to the Maranoa-Warrego Anglican Mission Area as part of their service learning for Grade 9s. And, St Bart’s, Toowoomba, and Mt Gravatt Parish regularly send parishioners to visit the community in Charleville, so that when people come to Toowoomba and Brisbane from Charleville, many go to friends they have come to know. ‘The west’ also offers great places for a holiday: from dinosaurbones at Eromanga, opal fossicking at Quilpie, star gazing at Charleville, vineyards at Stanthorpe, amazing farm stays and great National Parks.

4. Pray: in the midst of good times and tough times, our lives of faith are sustained by prayer. So praying with, and for, people who live in communities impacted by drought are important. Please pray that people get the support they need to endure and survive, and pray with them for the gift of life-giving rain.

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