The Tickell children Lucy (left), 8, Sophie, 6, and Tom, 5. Picture: Nigel Hallett
The Tickell children Lucy (left), 8, Sophie, 6, and Tom, 5. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Queensland Drought Appeal launched to help battling farmers

QUEENSLANDERS have been urged to dig deep to give much-needed relief to drought-stricken farmers.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today launched the Queensland Drought Appeal, with News Corp Australia joining forces with 7 News and the Country Women's Association to raise awareness during the state's showcase bush event, the Ekka.

Kicking off the appeal, Ms Palaszczuk and Agriculture Minister Mark Furner announced the State Government would contribute $100,000.

The Premier acknowledged the drought was taking its toll on farmers throughout Australia, and now was the appropriate time to start the appeal, given the wave of public awareness around the issue.

"We haven't forgotten our farmers, we have been making sure that families are getting the help that they need, but there has been a national awareness that has been raised as well, so we want to make sure our Queensland farmers are benifiting from that appeal," she said.

"That's why our small donation of $100,000 is on behalf of Queenslanders."

Anyone who would like to donate to the appeal can visit the Queensland Drought Appeal site or SMS "drought" to 0484 200 200.

Over half of Queensland remains in the grips of drought. Some of the 23 local council areas drought-declared have been without rain since 2013.

This year's summer was the driest on record in Queensland since 1989-90, making it the fifteenth most dry since records were created.

Ms Palaszczuk earlier said the appeal was one more example of Queenslanders helping Queenslanders.

"This has been a prolonged drought having a terrible impact on so many families," she said.

The appeal is aimed at families most in need as a grassroots way of city families attending this year's Ekka to show they care.

Mr Furner said all money raised would go to the QCWA, to be spent on the ground to assist those who lived in drought-stricken communities.

"While our farmers do it tough throughout this drought that has a direct flow on effect to many other businesses in rural and regional communities," Mr Furner said.

"The big dry has hit the economic returns of hard-working Queenslanders in those areas, placing them under severe financial and emotional stress."

QCWA state president Joy Coulson said the money would go directly to families in the worst-affected areas.

"We are overwhelmed with this generosity," she said.

"Rest assured this money will go where it is most needed."

Telstra, Commonwealth Bank and cloud data service provider Bulletproof have joined the appeal to provide technical support.

The Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail will highlight the stories of the drought across the Ekka and during the appeal.

Broadcast partner the Seven Network will host a 7 News special, The Queensland Drought Appeal, live from regional Queensland on Saturday, September 1, at 7pm.

All donations of $2 or more to the appeal are tax-deductible.

The Tickell family from Rylstone Station west of Charleville haven’t seen proper rain for as long as most of their kids have been alive. From left, Lucy, 8, Sophie, 6, Tom, 5, Cameron and Jacqui. Picture: Nigel Hallett
The Tickell family from Rylstone Station west of Charleville haven’t seen proper rain for as long as most of their kids have been alive. From left, Lucy, 8, Sophie, 6, Tom, 5, Cameron and Jacqui. Picture: Nigel Hallett

KIDS' LIFETIME WAITING FOR RAIN

BUSH Queenslanders are a tough breed, but the devastating drought that has clamped tight on the state's southwest for six desperate years has gone on too long, too hard.

West of Charleville, graziers Jacqui and Cameron Tickell and their kids Lucy, Sophie and Tom haven't seen proper rain in the six years they've been on the place.

There's not a blade of grass on the property for the cattle and it is costing thousands of dollars each week to keep them in hay and cotton seed and essential supplements.

But tough as it is, they regard themselves as among the lucky ones: They've got off-farm work to help them survive until the rains come, and the magic mulga to pull down to keep cattle bellies at least full enough, despite government interference robbing them of massive slices of the resource.

"Drought is more than a full-time job," Mrs Tickell said.

"It's tough," her husband added.

While there has been the occasional welcome weather respite closer to the coast, Queensland from Charleville to Cunnamulla, Longreach to Birdsville has been in drought for the last six years, with hopes dying fast of any break with rain this year.

Farmers out west are more likely to tell how hard their neighbours, friends or towns are doing it than put their hand up for help themselves.

Cameron Tickell with daughter Sophie, 6, amid the harsh conditions. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Cameron Tickell with daughter Sophie, 6, amid the harsh conditions. Picture: Nigel Hallett

But debts are piling higher, and once the loans outweigh the potential earning capacity of the good years, the bank's money gets turned off.

Proud cattlemen say visitors won't see desperate and starving animals across the south. Graziers are too far into the punishing dry and sold off what they couldn't keep alive years ago.

But those left with cattle, teetering on the brink between survival and disaster, have just been hit with another blow: Animals from newer-to-drought New South Wales are being sold off, flooding the market and slashing prices by as much as half.

With no money from the land, the towns are doing it tough too.

Charities such as Rotary and the CWA been helping with bills or have been mailing out vouchers and cash cards to those struggling, urging them to accept the gift to the bush and spend them in their towns to keep them alive.

Children are struggling too. With their parents flat out night and day, they are missing the sipervision required for distance home schooling lessons, and some kids are going backwards.

Other littlies are up early and late, doing what they can to help on the land.

But it all takes a toll.

One broken pump and the bore water stops. One busted dozer and the cattle go hungry, and there's no choice but to get them to market before they weaken.


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