The National Drought and Flood Agency works closely with the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), which for more than 35 years has assisted Australia’s primary producers, and related businesses who are at risk of financial hardship.
Based in Longreach, RFCS North Queensland counsellor Rachel Bock is playing a vital role for many graziers impacted by the 2019 monsoon flood event.
“After the flood event we had a lot of contact from people who’d not contacted the RFCS before,” Rachel said.
“We were straight away on the ground, working with rural producers and other agencies to get a grip on what had happened and what assistance might be suitable for people in the area.
“There was so much information out there about the different government grants and other assistance. People were not quite sure what they were eligible for and what might suit their situation. I’d walk them through what was available, and we would talk about their current situation and what might be appropriate for their needs.”
Jim and Sandra Smith graze beef cattle and merino sheep on 90,000 acres south of Winton and realised about halfway through the event that they were in serious trouble.
“Every cattle paddock we had was washed out and we were lucky our losses weren’t higher,” Jim said.
With Rachel’s assistance, Jim and Sandra accessed the joint Australian and Queensland government-funded $75,000 Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grant for Primary Producers.
“We didn’t think we’d be entitled to the $75,000 grant. We spoke to a few people and gave Rachel a ring - she said ‘go for it’.
“Together, we put in an application and with the money were able to get a fair bit of fencing material. It’s been a great help. Without the likes of Rachel we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
Rachel said she finds her role fulfilling and challenging.
“The added bonus of getting help from a rural financial counsellor is that we sit down and have a look at each situation specifically. There may be business options that people have not considered or that they hadn’t been aware of, which could lead to an increase in productivity and in turn income.”
Grants are still available for eligible primary producers, including the $75,000 Special Disaster Assistance Recovery grants and the $400,000 grant for Restocking, Replanting and On-farm Infrastructure repair, both of which are available through the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA). Also available are concessional loans from the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) and QRIDA.
If you are a rural producer or associated business, please consider getting in touch with your local rural financial counsellor. This is a free service which may help you in ways you never considered.
Find out more about flood recovery assistance for affected primary producers or find your local RFCS to discuss your financial needs.
*Note - the $75,000 Special Disaster Assistance Recovery Grant is no longer available