Sup­port for drought-stricken com­mu­nity

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Pa­trick Tansey

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.

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