A group of Gippsland farmers has set up an organisation to give the region’s farmers a united voice and enable them to better communicate.
Farmers Voice aims to help East Gippsland farmers to better express their views and to raise and solve problems – within and beyond the group – by improving communication between farmers, so they can work together on the issues they all face.
Farmers Voice is supported by a $30,000 grant through Gippsland PHN’s One Good Community grants program, which is designed to creates cultures of participation robust enough to tackle the major social determinants of health, mental health and wellbeing.
Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, said the Federal Government grant would provide seed funding to set up Farmers Voice, establish a database, and engage and train a part-time co-ordinator.
“This project is an important way we can bring our farmers together, support them during tough times and provide new ways they can help each another individually and unite as a group,” Mr Chester said.
“No-one should think that because there’s been some recent rain that this drought is over. The drought is continuing to take a toll on our farmers, their families and our communities. We need to do what we can to support each other and Farmers Voice is another way we can try to lessen the terrible effect of drought on our people.”
Orbost farmer and the chairman of Farmers Voice, Chris Nixon, said the overarching aim was to ensure farmers and their families experiencing financial and emotional stress get the support they needed to help reduce the impact of drought on their mental health and wellbeing.
“Farmers want to be taken seriously by local councils and politicians and they can only do this by acting together with a unified voice,” Mr Nixon said.
Gippsland PHN Chief Executive Officer Amanda Proposch said the initiative recognised the importance of community in building individual resilience during difficult times and the impact this had on improving health and wellbeing.
“One Good Community offers community groups and individuals up to $30,000 towards activities that improve social connectedness, improve access to help and assistance, and decrease isolation and loneliness,” Ms Proposch said.
The grants support community development activities which enable communities to identify and address their own needs and bring people together to connect, learn and contribute in their community through social, educational, recreational and support activities.
The Farmers Voice database will include all East Gippsland agricultural producers, divided into nine geographical districts. Each district will contribute information about the social and farming issues they’re experiencing, to be shared at least monthly via newsletters or bulletins. This will be supported by a website, information portal and social media platforms.
Mr Nixon said the initiative would help overcome issues of geographic and social isolation, allowing farmers to help farmers.
“Farmers spend a high proportion of their time on the farm, which means there is less opportunity to find balance in their lives and can reinforce the grief when times are tough in their work environment,” he said.
“It makes contact with others more difficult and can lead to anxiety and mental health problems. Governments have to intervene and we, as a community, must also help.”
Find out more about the grants program at www.onegoodcommunity.gphn.org.au
Pictured (from left) are East Gippsland farmer Chris Nixon, Gippsland PHN Chief Executive Officer, Amanda Proposch and Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, at the presentation of the One Good Community grant for Farmers Voice.