A rural financial counselling service in south-west Queensland says more social counsellors are needed to help farmers cope with the mental stress of drought.
Around two-thirds of Queensland is now drought declared and the state will get an extra $20 million for concessional loans this financial year.
The Queensland Government has also appointed two new rural financial counsellors to Charleville in south-west Queensland.
Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh says rural financial counsellors will help people work through their options.
“We’ll have people here operating in Charleville and elsewhere in the south-west in coming weeks,” he said.
Mental health issues ‘very overwhelming’
Karen Tully, from the South-West Rural Financial Counselling Service, says although the financial counsellors are welcome, health needs should not be overlooked.
She says more social counsellors are needed to help farmers cope with the mental stress of drought.
“Sitting over and above this, we need social counsellors on the ground,” she said.
“People are not coping for a variety of reasons, and I think particularly with mental health issues – it is very overwhelming.
“What we really, really need is increased rural financial counsellors, but we also need social counsellors to help with the personal health and well-being of our primary producers.”
Ms Tully says there is currently a four-week waiting list to see a financial counsellor with the service.
“32 per cent of people approaching South-West Rural Financial Counselling Service at the moment are brand new clients to the service, so this means people in previous periods of dry who have been self-reliant and able to wade their way through it,” she said.
“We are just seeing this massively increased demand and we more than welcome the Queensland Government’s announcement.”
Loans scheme a ‘band-aid measure’
Ms Tully says many graziers are not in a position to access the concessional loans or borrow more money.
“I would say it is very much a band-aid measure,” she said.
“It is assistance that assists in the very short term for businesses that can use it.
“However, if we are really going to look at how we are going to deal with prolonged periods of dryness, I think the answer lies more in the drought preparedness.”
This article first appeared on ABC Online on 7 November, 2013.