Drought coordinator reveals why farmers aren't accessing aid
EVEN in the face of critically low water supplies, Southern Downs producers are still struggling to ask for a helping hand, according to one of the region's drought coordinators.
Southern Downs Regional Council drought coordinator Charee Aspinall said there was plenty of aid available for those in need, but a lack of understanding of options and application processes meant many were getting left behind in the dust.
"It's really hard to get in contact with primary producers because the normal channels aren't there," Ms Aspinall said.
"The average age of a farmer is 56 - they don't have Facebook."
Ms Aspinall said most of her time with producers was spent filling out online forms to access assistance, because some farmers were not digitally minded and lacked time to apply on their own.
"If you're not tech savvy and tired from being up at 3am feeding cattle, you don't even want to think about it," she said.
"I've lodged paperwork on behalf of people who were eligible for farm household assistance who didn't know they were eligible because they didn't know how to access it."
Spending her days face-to-face with farmers on their last legs, Ms Aspinall said pride was a major factor stopping farmers from asking for help.
"A lot of producers are hesitant to accept assistance," she said.
"It's my job to say yes you will take it and that money will be spent locally.
"Ag is the biggest industry in Southern Downs and the drought affects the whole economy.
"You have to let them know they are accepting on behalf on their community."
Reaching out for help can also be a sign of emotional support as well as financial, as it can be a way to close the gap between the country with the city.
Ms Aspinall said drought aid was a heartwarming sign Australia was still rooting for its producers.
"The people in Brisbane (who) have donated millions are standing beside us. It's not just $5 here and there, it's millions," she said.
"When people feel alone, that's when it can get rough but I want people to know the nation is standing beside us."