On Tuesday, the Federal Government announced the expansion of its Drought Communities Programme to provide 52 additional councils with up to $1 million and an additional $10 million for schools.
The announcement was made in Blayney, NSW by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who was joined by Drought Minister, David Littleproud; Education Minister, Dan Tehan and National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson.
The Drought Communities Programme enables local governments to invest in projects and programs that they deem appropriate with the benefit of creating and maintaining jobs and providing a morale boost to communities managing drought.
Prime Minister Morrison said the funding would go a long way to supporting rural communities get back on their feet as they continued to struggle with the unrelenting dry.
“The Drought Communities Program was one of our first responses to the drought and that was putting a million dollars into councils in drought affected areas right around the country, including right here in Blayney and that was designed to get money into these communities, to put people into work.
“That program has been immensely successful. It will now extend to 180 councils to ensure that important local projects, important local works, bringing communities together, providing them support at one of their most difficult times,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
A further $10 million was added to a previous funding round of the same value, to assist with the continuity of education for remote students.
“Many children in our drought-affected rural areas attend school away from home because of the tyranny of distance. This imposes a considerable cost on a farming family’s dwindling budget,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
“It’s our strong hope that this money for non-government schools will be directed to school fee relief to ensure children’s all-important education is not disrupted.”
The Prime Minister’s announcement coincided with the Federal Government’s National Drought and North Queensland Food Response and Recovery Agency Advisory Board’s first meeting, led by Shane Stone.
Ms Simson attended the meeting and said that while farmers welcomed additional drought relief measures, there was still a lot of work needed to ensure that Australia is better prepared for the next drought.
“The worst drought conditions in a hundred years continue to impact on vast areas of Australia,” Ms Simson said.
“We know that the hardship of drought extends way beyond the farm gate.
“With an audience of the Prime Minister, Minister Littleproud and Shane Stone, I urged the Government to continue its focus on supporting rural Australia through this drought.
“The priority is to address the immediate cash flow needs of farmers, to keep people employed on farm and in our towns and to develop a plan for recovery.”
“The NFF continues to advocate for local government rate relief and help with pay roll expenses for farming businesses to keep people in jobs for when the rain does come.”
To check if your council is a recipient of the Drought Communities Programme click here