By Growcom CEO David Thomson
If resilience were a muscle, then farmers as a whole would be a particularly well-toned group. With each change in the weather or drop in the market offering a weight to lift and another opportunity to build muscle.
But as with all muscles, real or metaphoric, under constant or heavy weight it is possible to stretch our resilience muscles too far.
As bushfire-affected regions take steps to rebuild and drought continues to drag on, whole farming communities across Australia are struggling.
It’s important for us all to realise events such as these not only cripple local economies but can have ongoing, detrimental impacts on people’s mental wellbeing.
Cash injections from governments and private donations are of course important but so is emotional and psychological support.
To this end the Australian Government recently announced individuals, families and emergency service workers affected by the bushfires are eligible to receive Medicare rebates for up to 10 therapy sessions through the Medicare Bushfire Recovery Initiative.
People can be referred without a Mental Health Treatment plan so they can access these services as soon as possible or at a time that suits them.
Those in drought affected areas can call the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16 for advice about local mental health services and support available.
The message to our farmers should be loud and clear: you don’t have to go through it alone.
Thankfully the Australian Taxation Office has also automatically applied deferrals to lodgements and payments due for bushfire-affected Queensland postcodes in the local government areas of Livingstone, Noosa, Somerset and Toowoomba so that people living in these areas don’t have to rush to sort out their tax affairs.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by bushfires and are concerned about tax affairs, visit the ATO’s website to see if your postcode is covered under the deferral: https://bit.ly/2RR49bF.
But relief mustn’t stop here.
Growcom is calling on the Queensland Government to give drought affected growers relief from unavoidable fixed costs, whether a crop is in the ground or harvest is likely. This includes relief from local government rates and water access charges.
We are also seeking an expansion of the payroll tax discount announced by the Queensland Government in its last budget. This measure was announced then as a signature policy for growing jobs in the regions, but should now be seen simply as a means of saving jobs.