THERE was silence at the end of the phone when Country Women’s Association NSW president Annette Turner was asked to comment on a $1 million donation from entrepreneur Dick Smith.
“A million dollars?” she asked, not really believing what she had heard.
Mrs Turner had just stepped out of the CWA’s drought roundtable in Broken Hill.
“Thank you is too light of a word,” she said. “I can’t think of how best to adequately convey our feelings,” she added, caught a little on the hop as news of Mr Smith’s donation sank in.
“It’s absolutely amazing this man is putting forward how he really feels about rural Australia,” she said.
“It’s quite emotional to know somebody is thinking about our farmers and landholders to such an extent,” she said.
The feeling was the same at Tooraweenah CWA headquarters, as women approached The Land’s photographer and proud Tooraweenah lass Rachael Webb.
“Everybody was just amazed,” Miss Webb said.
A farmer herself, Mrs Turner knows well the impacts of the drought. She and husband Barry were forced to destock their back corner NSW property 15 months ago.
As the drought expands its hold on rural and regional NSW, the state’s CWA convened the Broken Hill forum to discuss ways of addressing the escalating crisis, and helping the state’s producers, rural industries, small businesses and country communities.
Called in to the emergency discussions was a cross-section of organisations and individuals, as well as NSW politicians and their representatives, looking at existing support measures, and considering further avenues of support and assistance.
It began at 8.30am Wednesday and, after hearing personal stories from landholders of the hardship forced upon them, the news from Mr Smith’s was heaven sent.
“Our organisation is proud to represent the interests of rural and regional NSW communities and many of our members are feeling the pain of this drought,” Mrs Turner said.
“It’s time for action and the kind of support that will make a real difference to the state’s producers, and by convening this forum we hope some great initiatives will be put on the table,” she said.
“Drought doesn’t just affect our farmers, it affects everybody who relies on our agricultural industries, and the communities in which they live.
“So it’s up to all of us to help make a real difference, and provide them with the support they need to carry on until the rain finally arrives.”
Mr Smith just made a real difference.