The CFA warnings came too late for the women who pledged to deliver donated food to the community of Rosedale. Driving the extra mile to dodge deadly bushfires is a hazard nobody wants to be locked in. Nicole and Sophie did not buckle, instead, changed routes and were lead by the VIC Emergency app!
They were determined to achieve what they set out to do with the support of family, friends and colleagues to donate non-perishables and provide relief to a Victorian rural community in drought affected Gippsland. Needy families struck by drought that is not going away any time soon were more than welcoming to receive even the smallest of acknowledgment feeling they were not forgotten.
The journey began days before while skating across Melbourne to collect tokens of human kindness. Peak hour traffic did not deter these two young women, who were on a mission to make even the smallest of difference. The ten hour round trip on Sunday to deliver a car full of food while crossing regions riddled with bushfires, may seem like a mindless act. Giving up a few weekends of me time to their time was admirable and inspiring when Siri’s VIC EMERGENCY alerts were highlighting red along roads and highways of restricted areas ahead. ‘Authorities have warned residents against becoming complacent, saying that both fires are still burning out-of-control, however there are no longer any immediate threats to property’. Siri’s insisted voice paused as the fires blazed in the background and smoke filtered the clouds.
On arrival, it was more than non-perishables that were needed. This once thriving town had now become a soft humming town with whispers of plea! It was surrounded by dry dusty paddocks unfit for livestock or seeding. Australia’s landscape seemed hidden behind a tired, sunburnt version of its own glory. The substitute neon signs were plastered of farms for sale amongst the changing dry landscape. Livestock that once scattered the green pastures were nowhere to be seen. The quaint rural community of Rosedale was reliving its very own historic walk amongst a withering township, as Government support is not enough to Victorian farmers and beyond.
Perhaps the worst part of this experience for Sophie and Nicole, was the discovery that many farmers resolve to suffer in silence until hardship is too obvious to conceal. While non-perishable donations provided some respite to families in Rosedale it was clear that lasting and impactful relief could only result from serious reductions to farming overheads. Significant reductions to council rates and land taxes, could ensure farmers spend precious income maintaining their farms to keep Australia’s sinking farming industry afloat. ‘Drastic intervention from the Government (as drastic as the drought) is needed to see Victorian farmers through the harshest conditions on record in 400 years’.
While the markets entice customers to celebrate all things fresh and organic some are made to imagine that supply comes effortlessly and in abundance. Droughts are affecting our produce and health and it is adversely challenging our communities towards moving green. With souring prices to make a profit, farmers are ‘desperately seeking delayed government funds as they struggle to meet Centrelink eligibility requirements’ and from further sinking into the earth’s expanding cracks. ‘A grant of up to $5,000 (ex-GST) per farm business is available to assist eligible farm businesses implement on-farm infrastructure improvements. Eligible farm businesses are required to provide at least dollar for dollar matching funding co-contribution’.
It seems the future of Victoria’s forgotten farming industry looks bleak to say the least. It is hearing reports of selflessness that remind us of the remarkable and compassionate people that live amongst us; whether they are those willing to circumvent bushfires to get to families in need, or people that donate, to those less fortunate. However, despaired farmers want to tell their story of desperation and deprivation. Movement of stock and produce when there is not a penny to spare, reflects the doom of a lesser fresher produce on our shelves. Disheartening stories of sacrifices in the land of plenty is becoming Australia’s new reality.