Rural Aid and QDO to provide on-farm counselling to an industry in crisis

SUPPORT: On-farm counselling aims to protect the mental health and well being of farmers struggling with an industry in crisis.
SUPPORT: On-farm counselling aims to protect the mental health and well being of farmers struggling with an industry in crisis.

THE Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation has introduced an on-farm counselling program with Rural Aid to support the mental health and well being of dairy farmers.

So far 38 Scenic Rim farmers have registered for the program.

QDO said there had been a 15 per cent drop in the number of dairy farms operating across Queensland and a 10 per cent drop in the volume of milk produced over the last 12 months.

QDO president Brian Tessman said the dairy industry was in such crisis that it would likely be years before it found its feet again.

"We are trying to weather a perfect storm at the moment," he said.

"The rising costs of production and the ongoing drought across most of Queensland and New South Wales has put a serious financial and mental strain on Queensland's dairy farmers."

Rural Aid chief executive Charles Alder said the organisation provided assistance to farmers in times of drought, fires and flood.

"We know farmers are a proud bunch," he said. "Many won't ask for help. To allow Rural Aid to assist our farmers and their families, we need to know who they are, by registering with Rural Aid.

"We can't help if we don't know who they are.

"There has never been as much demand for counselling support for farmers and rural communities as there is now."

Mr Adler said Rural Aid's mental health counselling service was fully funded thanks to the generosity of Australians.

"Many farmers are up to hundreds of kilometres from the closest doctor or counselling service and find themselves in a place where they feel helpless and alone," he said.

"Rural Aid qualified counsellors help reduce some of that isolation by visiting the farmers and their families where they live.

Mr Adler said counsellors were in contact with farmers daily.

"Many farmers are not available to book in a formal 50-minute counselling session off-farm. It's not only the session time, but also the driving time," he said.

"We understand that, and for that reason we offer a different approach. We contact them for a chat, so they can talk to us when they have time and for as long as they have time.

"Our counsellors also talk to farmers about other Rural Aid programs that could be available to them, that could also help relieve some of the pressure they are facing."

QDO communications manager, Sarah Ferguson said the organisation had looked at several professional counselling services available and evaluated them against what farmers needed.

"Certainly, a lot of other organisations do a great job in the mental health space, but we felt that our farmers could be best helped by the kind of on the ground counselling that Rural Aid can provide," she said.

"The enthusiasm and the lack of bureaucracy we've seen from the people at Rural Aid is such a welcome change.

"It's not just dairy farmers who are doing it tough in the current climate.

"Any farmer or member of a rural community who is finding things difficult are encouraged to give Rural Aid a call."

Farmers can register with Rural Aid at buyabale.com.au/can-we-help-you/ or call the Rural Aid team on 1300 327 624 during business hours.