HELP IS HERE: Registered Counsellor Zoe Cox has already helped 350 people in the Central West since her appointment by Rural Aid. Photo: SUPPLIED 021119zoe1
HEARTACHE, tears and more than just a few cuppas have featured during the first five months of Rural Aid counsellor Zoe Cox’s work in helping farmers across the Central West.
Despite good recent rainfall, the entire region is still in drought and farmers are facing ongoing failing crops and starving stock.
Ms Cox is a registered counsellor and her role includes: support via phone, farm visits, hay drops, as well as financial support, counselling, and helping farmers access government subsidies and vouchers.
“It’s turned out to be even more satisfying than I thought because I have seen it making a difference,” she said of her appointment to the role.
Ms Cox said some farmers have only needed help filling in a form for government subsidies, others she has helped have been contemplating suicide.
There is reason to go on and they can lean on us and can rely on us to get them through.Rural Aid counsellor Zoe Cox
“There is reason to go on and they can lean on us and can rely on us to get them through,” she said.
Ms Cox said the long-running drought had created a dire situation for many people.
“It’s enduring, it’s not necessarily worse or better because [these days], they’re getting used to the situation,” she said.
HERE TO HELP: Rural Aid counsellor Zoe Cox with Mitchell, 4, Emily, 15, and Brodie, 13, Gartner from Bogan Gate. She has been providing support to the Gartner family for a period of time. Photo: SUPPLIED 021119zoe3
“The hardest part is the unknown and the weather.”
Since she started in September Ms Cox has assisted 350 farmers across her region which includes: Lithgow, Mudgee, Gulgong, Orange, Bathurst, Oberon, Blayney, Parkes, Forbes and Cowra.
Farmers can self-register with Rural Aid for support or the public can nominate someone who they think needs assistance.
“Some of the nominated farmers are a little shy to ask for help,” Ms Cox said.
“We’re talking about some of the most resilient people in the country.”
We’re talking about some of the most resilient people in the country.Rural Aid counsellor Zoe Cox
Often the help Ms Cox provides can start with a phone call or a cuppa at the farmer’s property and this helps her determine what situation the family is in and what help they might need.
“There’s no pressure, it’s a check in and if it doesn’t sit well it’s up to them,” she said.
Ms Cox is from a farming family herself and grew up on a beef cattle property in the Kanimbla Valley east of Bathurst.
“I’ve always had a passion for the land,” she said.
Ms Cox urged farmers not to feel helpless or not entitled and to seek out support where needed.
“If you know anyone in that situation, please encourage them to apply or nominate them,” she said.
“I’m really busy so if you’re a farmer who I haven’t got to yet please don’t hesitate to call me on 0428 445 831.”
DRY TIMES: The widespread drought across the Central West and NSW. Image: NSW DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES
Rural counsellor is thanks to the community’s support
The fact a dedicated rural counsellor even exists in the Central West at all is due to the generosity of the community in supporting its farmers.
In mid last year, Rural Aid organised a Black Tie and Boots Ball to raise $150,000 so they could appoint a dedicated counsellor to the region to help drought-affected farmers.
The funds were raised in one night and Ms Cox was appointed to the role shortly after.
Check out all the photos from the Black Tie and Boots Ball.
Source: Forbes Advocate