23 June 2020
A conversation with a drought support worker, often known as a farm gate counsellor, is guiding people across the state on the path to mental wellbeing, thanks to an additional $4.38 million investment by the NSW Government. 

NSW Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the program involving 27 drought support workers across eight Local Health Districts was being extended because the specialised care they provided to communities is crucial.

“The impact of the ongoing drought, compounded by devastating bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, is weighing heavily on our rural communities,” said Mrs Taylor. 

“Having an authentic conversation wherever it works for the person doing it tough can really help to get the ball rolling towards improved mental health and wellbeing.

“This support is about providing a friendly face who gives the right help, at the right place, at the right time.”

Drought support workers, often called ‘farm gate counsellors’, come from a variety of backgrounds, from individuals with nursing degrees to peer workers who combine invaluable lived experience with on-the-job mental health training and support.

Drought support worker Justine Clark says she felt a strong connection to the role and wanted to share her life experience with the Hunter New England community.  

“I am a confidant for these people. They can call me and talk about the weather, their livestock or crops, the bull that jumped the fence. Having someone to vent to and talk things through with allows them to go home and enjoy time with their families”.

“It’s encouraging to know they feel there is someone out there that’s in it with them – someone they are comfortable enough to call and chat about anything”, she said.

The additional funding is available under the Emergency Drought Relief Package which was announced earlier this month by the NSW Government. It includes an $11.93 million investment to improve access to and delivery of mental health services in rural and remote communities. 

For a full list of drought support measures, including drought mental health programs, go to: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/droughthub and www.nsw.gov.au/drought-in-nsw​.