Dry bridges di­vide

Central Queensland News - - RURALWEEKLY - TRI­CIA AGAR Bush Kids Face­book

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.

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