As Australians battle multiple natural disasters throughout the nation, Frontier Services staff are doing what they can to stand beside people and lend a hand. In Queensland, Frontier Services is supporting people who have been inundated with flood water at the same time as assisting others who are desperate for rain on their properties so they can feed livestock.
In the Gulf Savannah region in North Queensland, families are doing it very tough having lost 1.3 million hectares to bushfires before Christmas. At least 20 stations were affected with cattle having little or no feed and fences needing repairs. The areas affected were declared a disaster.
Families in the region are still waiting for the wet season to bring rain to the parched grass on their properties.
“We’ve had just six inches of rain since the wet season began in December. Last year the bridge was under water, this year we’ve hardly had a trickle in the river,” said Anna Burley, primary health care nurse with Frontier Services Savannah Regional Health Service.
At the same time, graziers in the Gulf are under huge financial strain caused by a number of factors, with debt levels mounting to an average of $1 million. Many graziers have suffered losses as a result of the detection of Bovine Johne’s Disease on a leading cattle stud near Rockhampton last year.
As a result, 120 stations in Queensland were placed under quarantine, halting production and income for families. This comes on the back of the disruption to live cattle exports which has had ongoing ramifications for beef producers across the country.
“Out here 90 per cent of the local economy is based on cattle. Therefore, the stress on the industry impacts businesses locally and regionally in a profound way,” Ms Burley said.
An injection of relief funds were received following the bushfires, however the long term impact – particularly on mental health – remains a concern.
“I am doing my best to have an ear to the ground and see what people need,” Ms Burley said. The service works closely with Flinders Patrol Minister Craig Mischewski who has visited families in the region to offer pastoral care.
“There are some very desperate situations,” Mr Mischewski said. “People are getting down. When I talk to people they’ll refer me to another station. People are looking out for each other.”
A recent report found income from the cattle industry in the Gulf had dropped sixfold. In some cases, property values have fallen by up to 45 per cent, for example from $5 million to $2.75 million. At the same time, ongoing operation costs can be as much as $30,000 a month. Some families are relying on food parcels to get by. All of these stresses have taken a toll on the mental health of people in the region.
Mr Mischewski has found that simply talking about the situation can make a difference. On a recent visit, a man opened up about the stress he was under and as a result has been able to seek further help.
“Obviously these issues are not something I can change, but I can advocate for people and offer pastoral support,” Mr Mischewski said.
Meanwhile, for families east of Emerald, flood waters have again left them stranded on their properties.
Renee Rudd, with the Emerald Remote Area Families Service (RAFS) said she had spoken to at least one family that may be cut off by flood waters for up to two months on their station outside Duaringa, near Rockhampton.
“It can be quite difficult for those families. They need to be self-sufficient when it comes to food or depend on food drops. It can be really difficult when they do not have much interaction with other families for a while.”
The service was contacted about another flooded family that had suffered substantial losses to their cattle and feed. The RAFS team is working with other services within Frontier Services to provide some assistance.