Boots on the ground for drought program

Friday 6 March, 2020
The first crews have commenced work as part of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) Drought Employment Program.

The program is part of the Victorian Government’s drought response package and is being delivered by the Goulburn Broken and North Central CMAs.

Program coordinator Brett McFarlane said there had been plenty of interest in the program, especially from dairy and orchard farmers and workers.

“They still have to maintain a farm regardless of what happens with the weather and their incomes drop dramatically, but they can’t leave the farm and get a full time job because they’re still farmers,” Mr McFarlane said.

He said he was enjoying working with the participant and was impressed with their appetite for hard work.

“This program is about local people working on local projects for the local good.”

Shepparton orchardist Sophie Stefcropolous is part of one of the first crews to start work.

The mother of five said she applied for the program because a need to sell their family farm’s water meant she and her husband had to generate off-farm income.

“We needed money to survive and we weren’t able to make a living from leasing the farm. So far this has been a great experience for me, just getting a job gave me hope straight away.

“It’s very stressful thinking I need to buy something but I’ve got no income.”

Ms Stefcropolous said the program included training in first aid and chemical handling.

Nathalia dairy farmer Alastair Whittington said the program came at the right time for him.

“This will help us get through these hard times. It provides people with dignity, a capacity to earn a wage, pay our bills and put food on the table,” Mr Whittington said.

“The dollar that has been given to the GB CMA to employ us will be spent many times over in our communities, which in turn helps the economies in small towns keep ticking over.”

Greater Shepparton City Council CEO Peter Harriott said the program would tide farmers over during a difficult time.

“Considering the impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the drought and climate change, farmers are doing it tough. So, this drought employment program is very timely,” Mr Harriott said.

He said the program offered endless potential to participants.

“During the last program there were a number of participants who gained full-time employment at the council.

“They came with good skills, good attitudes and a real commitment to hard work, which is exactly the type of person we need.”

There are still spaces available in the program. For details call Chandler Macleod Group on 58256000 or visit http://bit.ly/GBCMADEP