This Christmas, our farmers and their families continue to face the ‘most severe drought conditions in 120 years of records^’ on top of everything else they encounter in the human experience.
As BaptistCare HopeStreet works on the frontlines in our Dubbo and Wagga Wagga communities, we bear witness to the immense strength, resilience and grace of those fighting for survival - none more so than Julie, who epitomises these values every day.
Julie was already stretched between homeschooling her youngest son, being her husband’s carer, and helping tend their drought-ravaged property in central west New South Wales.
“We only had the farm four months before Michael* had an accident causing life-long injuries to his leg. It doesn’t stop him, he gets out there and has a go,” said Julie.
“Then the drought happened, it’s hit us pretty bad. The bore is dried up. We cart water in.”
“It’s dust outside the kitchen window. Everything’s gone. It breaks your heart. There’s no grass. I used to have the loveliest lawns, spick and span, now there’s nothing.”
Current conditions make forging a living very difficult for Julie and Michael, who buy livestock and feed them up for resale. “It’s our way to make money, but at the moment you can’t make any money.”
“Every dollar counts. We’re living on carers’ and disability pension, it doesn’t go far. You either pay bills or you put money away for feed. Week to week here, that’s what it’s like.”
On top of that, Julie has had a health battle of her own. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer, the treatment has been a long process. I’ve had scans again this week. My little boy didn’t know about the cancer - we didn’t want to scare him. And just this morning he heard someone mention it.”
“He asked, ‘Mum, do you have cancer? That lady on TV had cancer and now she’s gunna die.’ He started to cry saying, ‘I don’t want you to die, Mum.’
“I mustered my strongest voice, ‘Mama’s not going to die’. It’s been hard. I’m a stronger person for it. My doctor often says, ‘Julie, I just don’t know how you do it all.’”
“But it’s the broken times that make you stronger. And it’s times like these that wake you up. You realise, yes, life is bad, but there’s other people worse off,” said Julie.
Since June last year, BaptistCare HopeStreet has been supporting farming families like Julie’s with food and fuel vouchers for their local stores. Beyond these vouchers, the community centres provide food parcels and daily breakfasts, relief through utility payments, rent assistance, no interest loans, counselling and support from our local chaplains.
“BaptistCare HopeStreet has given us food vouchers. They’ve also helped us get access to resources like help with the power and water bill. It’s a big help for us financially,” said Julie.
“They are beautiful to us, I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done. They even give us leftover bread for our sheep.”
BaptistCare HopeStreet Manager, Karen Windley, said it’s been a pleasure to support Julie and her family during their tough time.
“Like all our farmers, they show so much gratitude and appreciation for all they have received,” said Karen.
Julie’s insight into the pain caused by the drought is as palpable as the desperate situation on the land. And while there’s no end in sight, BaptistCare HopeStreet continues to walk beside rural communities to give practical support, a listening ear, and hope.
“My husband came home from the yards the other day and said he was glad I didn’t go. There was an elderly couple from out west who brought the last of their cattle in. So undernourished, one of their girls went down in the lot. The husband and wife just sat beside her in the dirt, patting her, crying. They were broken,” said Julie.
“It’s so terrible what’s happening. There are places around here that have just shut up and walked – there’s nothing left. I was talking to another farmer yesterday, who said ‘There’s no rain coming, and I just don’t know how we are all going to cope’.”
Please give hope and walk beside our farming families and communities this Christmas. Your generous support will help us continue to provide food relief and vital services to farming families like Julie’s.
*indicates name change, images for illustration purposes only.