Support for drought-stricken community
Despite being 800 km apart, Katamatite Lions Club extended the olive branch to Coonamble, a farming town of about 3000 people on the NSW central-western plains, ravaged by drought.
Despite the long journey, Lions members felt compelled to meet the community to deliver a cheque for $6500.
The money was raised though Katamatite’s Big Day Out in a Little Town event in September, with members deciding the money would go toward drought relief.
Lions secretary Rob Peachey said selecting a town to receive the money proved a difficult task.
‘‘After much discussion among members, extensive research and phone calls to numerous Lions Clubs and organisations, the Katamatite Lions Club decided on supporting the community of Coonamble,’’ he said.
‘‘Upon further investigation, we realised that the Coonamble Rotary, Lions, Quota, Red Cross and Chamber of Commerce had formed an alliance to help and support their community in drought.’’
Sensing and experiencing the hardship, the groups and service clubs initiated a program called Coonamble Drought Buster Dollars.
The program allows those struggling to apply for or be recommended to receive money which can only be spent within the Coonamble Shire, with the intention of helping all affected by drought, including local businesses.
So on November 24, Lions members, including president Graham Lukies, secretary Rob Peachey, Zone 6 chairperson Julie Ballard, and Andrew Moffatt, travelled north to Coonamble.
Once there, they met with Coonamble Lions president Wayne Phillips and other club members and dined at the Coonamble Bowling Club.
The next day, the visitors went to the Coonamble Drought Relief Fun Day, which was attended by hundreds of locals from the area.
It was a free family day with live entertainment by a young indigenous rock band with children as young as seven.
There was also a free barbecue, drinks and lots of other activities for families to enjoy. More importantly, it was a day for everyone to get together, talk and support one another.
Mr Peachey said club members chatted with community members.
He said anecdotes from local farmers laid bare the challenges they were facing and hit home how difficult their plight had become.
‘‘One member of council and a local farmer whose family had been on the land since the 1890s had records of annual rainfall since the early 1900s and said that the lowest recoded annual rainfall was over 100 years ago, which was 11 inches,’’ Mr Peachy said.
‘‘He said they had only reached eight inches this year and expected this to be their worst year on record.’’
Mr Peachey said Lions members had been told that most farmers in Coonamble had sold all but core breeding stock, while other farming families talked of their desperation and need for hay for their remaining stock.
While faced with confronting conversations and sights, Mr Peachey was happy they had made the effort to go to Coonamble, offering a new voice for the residents to listen to, while showing people care, even though they may be 800 km away.
‘‘Plenty of people came up to us and asked us a little bit about how we found them, why we found them and they just wanted to talk a little about their own circumstances,’’ he said.
‘‘They not only appreciated that we donated the money, but I felt that they seemed really grateful that we had made the effort to go up there and meet them and see the place for ourselves. I think that carried a lot of weight.’’
Mr Lukies was pleased the group could contribute in some way to momentarily easing the strain on Coonamble residents.
‘‘When farmers are doing it hard the whole community does it hard,’’ he said.
‘‘We wanted to not only get money to farmers, but also to farm workers, contractors and local businesses that are all severely affected by the drought.
‘‘Donating to the Coonamble Lions for the drought-buster dollars program was an ideal way to do that.’’
In another initiative sponsored by Katamatite Lions Club, the club has teamed with Katamatite Cricket Club to support Drought Relief in the local community.
There will be a free barbecue at Katamatite Recreation Reserve on Saturday, December 15, from 6 pm, providing family entertainment with a jumping castle, children’s train and a special visit from Santa. Everyone in the local area is welcome.
Helping hand: Coonamble and Katamatite Lions club members stand as one with the $6500 cheque from the Katamatite Lions to provide some temporarily relief to the drought-stricken NSW town.
Show of support: Katamatite Lions Club president Graham Lukies (right) with Coonable Lions Club president Wayne Phillips.