Farmers and Rural Aid Rally for Recovery

Farmer Airlie Landale takes stock of the record-breaking floods

The unprecedented flood crisis of late 2022 devastated rural communities across Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. As floodwaters surged, farms were submerged, crops were destroyed, and livestock perished. The destructive power of the floods caught many by surprise, leaving farmers and their communities grappling with the overwhelming aftermath.

Deniliquin farmers Airlie and Hugh Landale found their property severely impacted, with more than 90% of their country submerged in the days and weeks following the inundation. Their dry-land crops were damaged, and they suffered significant losses in their Merino sheep population. Airlie recalls the eerie atmosphere that grew in town as the impending deluge inched closer.

Sheep wade through floodwaters in search of dry feed

“The last few months have been really tough. The anxiety of not knowing how high the river will reach, how much of the farm will go under, your friends, your family, other rural communities. We are all in it together and everyone was sick and worried,” said Airlie.

Even so, Airlie says, Deniliquin was one of the lucky ones. With some warning of the impending flood, residents were able to take action to mitigate the damage. Many smaller towns were not so lucky, caught off guard and facing devastation without any time to prepare.

“My heart really goes out to the smaller towns in Victoria and New South Wales, ones that have suffered from the start of the year. They were taken out by force without any notice at all,” said Airlie.

Airlie says while farming communities are no strangers to disaster events, floods are particularly challenging.

“It’s messy, it’s dirty, it brings disease, and the clean-up is heartbreaking and long. From infrastructure, fences, stock loss—all uninsurable—it’ll take years to rebuild,” she said.

Airlie’s husband Hugh paints an even bleaker picture of the catastrophic events. The Landales faced the daunting task of salvaging what they could from their crops and mitigating the effects on livestock, without the aid of flood insurance which remains inaccessible. The flooding not only disrupted their shearing operations but also had a profound impact on the wellbeing of their sheep.

Floodwaters claim a house, yard and shed in Moama

“The number of people affected was incredible. We were fairly fortunate, we can move livestock and we can still harvest a crop, but some people had 100% losses—total wipeout— and it’ll affect them not only this year but going on,” said Hugh.

The flood crisis has had a far-reaching impact. The financial toll is immense, with losses likely to reach millions of dollars for many farmers. The clean-up process is arduous, involving the repair of fences, removal of livestock carcasses, and battling disease-carrying mosquitos. The long-term consequences of this disaster are far-reaching, with repercussions expected to extend well beyond the current year.

Rural Aid on the ground for the long term

Amid the devastation, organisations like Rural Aid have emerged as a lifeline for farmers and rural communities. A Director of Rural Aid, Airlie highlights the pivotal role the charity plays in assisting those in need.

The majority of the Landale’s Deniliquin property went under in the late 2022 flood

“Rural Aid is the nation’s largest rural charity. We’re the charity that gets on the ground and helps out where it’s needed, and we’re there when everyone packs up and goes,” said Airlie.

Through their Farm Army of dedicated volunteers, Rural Aid lends a helping hand to rebuild farms and restore rural communities. Airlie recalls the success of the Buy a Bale campaign during the drought, which provided crucial support to farmers. The campaign has been reintroduced to assist farmers and rural communities facing a long and expensive recovery again.

“We’re calling upon businesses, companies, and government to really step up this time and help rural Australia get through this immense disaster. Every dollar counts,” said Airlie.