Rural Aid volunteers make five years’ worth of difference

Dalveen Nursery Operator, Brian Wilson, on his property during Farm Recovery Week 2024.

In October 2023, after increasingly dry conditions threatened to plunge the country into severe drought, Queensland’s Granite Belt region was swept by bushfires moving at an alarming pace.

Dalveen Nursery Operator, Brian Wilson, remembers seeing the flames move halfway across the mountain range in less than ten minutes. With the smell of smoke in the air, he knew the fire was heading is his direction.

Though Brian was able to douse his home and immediate surrounds using a water cannon, fire raged through the rest of his property, destroying everything in its path—including 95% of his nursery and critical infrastructure.

“It just took everything out. There were cars exploding, I had fuel drums up here. It sounded like a warzone,” said Brian.

In October 2023, bushfires devastated Brian’s property and infrastructure.

While Brian was able to save his home, the scale of the devastation was overwhelming—so much so he struggled to even get out of bed, and the only course of action seemed to be walking away from the industry and operation he had spent the previous 15 years establishing.

In April 2024, 32 Rural Aid volunteers travelled to Dalveen to help seven farmers with on-farm recovery efforts over a week-long period. The support of Rural Aid volunteers made a huge difference to Brian as he began the onerous challenge of rebuilding.

“First few months I just walked around in circles. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I’m so grateful to Rural Aid for the help. It would have taken me at least five years to do the work.” said Brian.

Rural Aid volunteers support seven local properties with recovery efforts.

With many Australian farmers like Brian struggling to recover from back-to-back disaster events and significant damages, the impact to their mental health can be just as challenging to overcome as the physical and financial toll.

A recent survey conducted by Rural Aid found that 70% of the farmer respondents said they had considered leaving the industry due to the ongoing challenges they were facing. That amounts to not just a huge impact to the industry, but also to the wider Australian public, whose food is largely grown and supplied by Aussie farmers.

Rural Aid CEO, John Warlters, said the support farmers receive goes beyond just the physical assistance to get necessary jobs and recovery work done.

“There’s this enormous uplift emotionally that comes with having people providing help and support. Not just to the farming families that we help, but our volunteers get so much from that as well,” said John.

A sign of better times to come: Rural Aid volunteers help Brian replace his damaged signage.

Rural Aid will continue to stand with our farmers when they need it most, offering vital financial, volunteer, resource, and counselling assistance to help them recover and get back on track. A strong farming industry means a stronger Australia for us all, and that’s an outcome worth fighting for.