The start of 2020 has not been easy for many people living in the bush, with 11 million hectares of land burnt and more than 1 billion animals perished and all the while, the heat, drought and dust continue to pulse around us in a record-breaking summer.
However, as always, the bush is fighting back.
There has been a collective push for the promotion of ground-up initiatives and innumerable tales of heroism, community and good people looking after each other.
Not only domestically, but internationally, we are seeing a flood of global acknowledgement of the hardships faced by many Australians at the moment.
Golden Globe speeches by Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe as well as tangible action taken by celebrities including the Hemsworth brothers, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kylie Jenner who continue to pour millions of dollars into the country.
However, the road to recovery is long and with no end to the drought in sight, it is more important than ever for local communities to look after each other and hold on.
So what can we do beyond pressing the donation button?
- Volunteer your time: from working in first aid centres to helping with fencing. Whatever you can give, try and give it. If you can't fence, clear debris. If you can't clear debris, make sandwiches.
- Look after each other: call your neighbours, call your family. Keep checking in with people. No one expected the drought to go this long or be this horrendous and it is so vital that we continue to support each other.
- Continue to buy local. The fantastic initiatives started last year including #BuyFromtheBush, #StayintheBush and #BuyWithThem haven't stopped. So, please continue to buy local where you can and encourage our city friends to do the same.
- Take advantage of all the government assistance you can. Take the time, do the administration and make sure you are capitalising on anything being offered that may be relevant to you, including local events and initiatives.
- Seek help if you are feeling down or know someone who is that you can't get through to. Beyond Blue and Lifeline are all free services and well worth accessing.
The Future Farmers Network will continue to work for people in the bush in 2020, offering free tickets to interesting events, subsidies for education programs and hosting networking opportunities across NSW and Queensland - opportunities for people to get off-farm, meet each other, and chat to people who are doing things a little differently.
To contact us or to become a member, head to our website www.futurefarmers.com.au and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@futurefarmers).
- Olivia Falkiner is a Future Farmers Network director.