Dry bridges divide
RECENTLY I wrote an article about being a “farmer’s friend” that was published in the Rural Weekly newspaper and how important it was for city people to wake up to what’s happening out in the farming and grazing areas of our nation, and the need to close the huge gulf that had been growing ever wider with each passing year.
I personally used to despair about how this chasm could possibly be bridged and what it would take to reconnect the city and country.
Mostly whenever the subject of farming came up in my conversations, it was either met with a yawn from most urban dwellers, whose understanding of how the basics of their lives were produced was of little or no interest, as farmers were the nameless, faceless ones, too far away to be considered.
When questioned about their knowledge of rural Australia, many would reply “but there is nothing out there” and others would admit they had been overseas but had never been more than an hour or two away from the coastal strip here in Australia.
The other reaction I have encountered – and this was mostly on Facebook – was that farmers were greedy and cruel and there shouldn’t be any farming (especially animals) in Australia anyway and we should give the land back to the kangaroos.
Fast forward a month or two since I wrote the article on being a “farmer’s friend”, the media finally seemed to realise there was drought gripping the eastern Australian states and started to report on the big dry that was sucking the very life out of rural Australia.
They began to chronicle the effects of the protracted dry on man and beast, streaming the images into the homes and devices of the Australian public as though they were reporting from a battlefield on some foreign shore.
Like a bear aroused from hibernation, the public reacted with anger, that this crisis was going on in their own backyard and they hadn’t been told.
For many urban Australians it was a revelation to them that people actually lived out past the city limits and these people grew their food and fibre.
The Australian public, who are by nature a very generous lot, were aghast that the farmers of this land were in such dire straits and rallied like true champions – putting their hands into their pockets and giving to the multiple charities that have sprung up in response to this crisis.
Suddenly, from a situation where most Australians were totally disconnected from their food producers and had been for years, they reacted with swiftness and great compassion when confronted by the sight of farmers, a hardy and tough breed trying with everything they had to keep their stock alive.
But in the midst of all of this was the governments – state and federal.
The NSW Government realised it had a crisis on its hands and started to react, although in the typical way of governments and bureaucracies, lumbering and slow.
Read Tricia’s full column at www.weeklytimes.com.au.