Drought Angels return from flood recovery
LAST week marked a Drought Angels first for 15 volunteers from across southeast Queensland.
Chinchilla born and raised, Angela Holland joined the Drought Angels family back in August and has been on several trips to drought-affected regions, but last week was Mrs Holland's first flood recovery trip.
Hundreds of northwest Queensland cattle stations have been deeply impacted through loss of livestock as well as home and contents damage.
About 50 farmers from what is being coined the "Forgotten Four Ways region” met at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse last Friday to seek support from the Drought Angels.
Mrs Holland said by the end of the week-long trip, Drought Angels had assisted 37 families with a combined amount of $90,500 in pre-paid Visa cards.
This financial figure is exclusive of the hay bales, molasses, calf formula and dog food the Drought Angels volunteers loaded up farmers' utes and trailers with, as well as the new kitchen utensils, children's toys and clothing also on offer to families.
"Last week was the first time many of these farming families have ever received any form of support,” Mrs Holland said.
"So it's essential we don't force anything on anyone. We only let them take what they feel comfortable taking. We also treat everyone on a case by case basis when it comes to the assistance they receive,” Mrs Holland said.
"Their stories are all very similar, but very different at the same time.
"Some farms might only have lost a couple dozen cattle but their entire household has been lost, others have lost $4.5million worth of bullocks from one paddock alone. It will take their property a decade to recover from a loss like this.
"Some people come in and they don't want any help. Countless farmers with severe stock loss kept telling us, 'I'm not doing so badly, there's other places worse off than us,' even though this is the worst flood a lot of these properties have ever experienced.
"Others just want to sit down and have a yarn. They're on such secluded properties this is their first chance to actually talk about what has happened to them,
"Then we get some families come in, take a few small household items, then once they feel comfortable they return and load up a box with all the possessions they've lost,” she said.
"A lot of these farmers still don't know where they are in terms of loss yet.”
Drought Angels events fundraiser Jenny Jenner said there were still roads closed and back properties the farmers couldn't reach.
"Some farmers won't know where they stand with stock loss until they've done a couple of musters by the end of the year,” she said.
Leftover supplies, including kitchenware, clothing, toys, food and toiletries, were boxed up and donated to the Julia Creek and Cloncurry communities for distribution to families who were unable to make it to the roadhouse last week.
Former Dalby mayor Warwick Geisel said the trip with Drought Angels had been an eye-opening experience and he'd heard some particularly shocking stories.
"One property had to fly the women and children out one evening via chopper and the next day they had to land the chopper on top of a stock crate on top of the back of a truck to get the men out. The water just rose so quickly,” Mr Geisel said.
"It was very heartwarming to see everyone wanting to help one another out. It's going to be a very long recovery for these farmers.
"I'm just pleased we've been able to help in some way. It's probably a drop in the ocean for some of these stations, but it's a start and that's exactly what we came out to give them, a bit of a head start.”