WA driv­ers scram­ble

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Barry Reynolds

PERTH is about as far away from drought-stricken New South Wales as it is pos­si­ble to get and not cross oceans, but that hasn’t stopped much-needed hay mak­ing the lengthy jour­ney from WA.

About 20 road trains car­ry­ing 2000 bales of hay made their way across the Nullar­bor to the cen­tral west of NSW, a jour­ney of 3500km.

Such was the re­sponse from WA truckies to the plight of farm­ers on the other side of the coun­try that it took less than a week to put the con­voy to­gether, ac­cord­ing to the Rapid Re­lief Team (RRT) char­ity.

RRT, an ini­tia­tive of the Plymouth Brethren church, pur­chased more than $660,000 of WA hay which is enough to feed 1000 cows or 20,000 sheep for a fort­night.

RRT spokesman Alex Sharpe said com­mu­ni­ties, farm­ers and busi­nesses had ral­lied to the cause.

“Some of the driv­ers are do­nat­ing their time, some are do­ing a route they wouldn’t nor­mally do, oth­ers are driv­ing for com­pa­nies, but in most cases they’ve per­son­ally put their hands up,” Mr Sharpe said.

As part of the re­lief ef­fort, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of Wat­sons Logistics and Trans­port Robert Watson do­nated two trucks loaded with 80 tonnes of hay.

While he felt there was lit­tle WA could usu­ally do to help the east coast in other sit­u­a­tions, the drought in NSW was one where they could of­fer as­sis­tance.

“This is some­thing we can do so we put out hand up,” he said.

“It’s Australia and ev­ery­one gets to­gether and helps out.”

RRT is also sup­ply­ing $260,000 of food vouch­ers.

Vouch­ers of $100 per fam­ily will go to 200 fam­i­lies for the next 13 weeks.

Sep­a­rately, Michael Mor­gan of Mor­gan Feeds in Toodyay is do­nat­ing about 20 tonnes or about $9000 worth of pel­lets, which will go by rail to NSW next week.

Other char­i­ties are also scram­bling to bring re­lief to farm­ers, in­clud­ing the Queens­land-based Drought An­gels which has been help­ing farm­ing fam­i­lies in need – many in dire straits – since Jan­uary 2014.

Natasha John­ston and Nicki Blackwell started fundrais­ing af­ter they heard sto­ries of farm­ers strug­gling to put food on their ta­bles.

They be­gan by help­ing just one fam­ily but such was the heart­felt grat­i­tude of those they helped it spurred them on to con­tinue help­ing strug­gling fam­i­lies in any way the could, in any place they found them.

Over the past four years, the char­ity raised more than $2m and dis­trib­uted.

Now they are help­ing to get hay to the dri­est ar­eas of both Queens­land and NSW.

“We are sourc­ing hay... and get­ting it sent down to the fam­i­lies we’re help­ing in NSW,” Natasha said.

They’ve now helped farm­ers in Dubbo, Coon­am­ble, Co­bar, Bourke, Mudgee and Guneedah.

It may be a small char­ity but it of­fers “a lis­ten­ing ear, a warm hug and per­son­alised sup­port to each fam­ily”.

The char­ity’s web­site says: “We like to tell our fam­i­lies that this is not a hand­out but a thank you. We help those who would not nor­mally reach out but pre­fer to bat­tle it alone, which can lead to se­vere de­pres­sion and in some cases sui­cide”.

Do­na­tions can be made to drough­tan­gels.org.au.

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