• Hannah Phillips

The McCormack and Turnbull Government Drought Relief Program

The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud and Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism, Investment, Mark Coulton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited Strathmore Farm in Trangie to announce their $576 drought relief package.

They said “Thousands of farming families will receive immediate additional financial support to help them and their communities fight one of the worst droughts of the past century”.

On 19 June the Commonwealth Government extended the availability of the Farm Household Allowance scheme from three to four years, effective from 1 August.

They announced further changes to the existing Farm Household Allowance scheme that will provide two lump sum supplementary payments worth $12,000 for eligible households.

A $190 million package of immediate relief measures - including additional support for mental health services and community organisations.

Another phase of the Government’s drought support will be announced in coming weeks.

The announcement brings the total support provided by the Commonwealth Government to households and communities during the current drought to more than $576 million.

This figure is in addition to the concessional drought loans available to farm businesses through the Government’s Regional Investment Corporation.

Under the changes, households eligible for the Farm Household Allowance - a fortnightly payment totalling around $16,000 a year to help farming families in tough times - will receive two additional lump sum payments on 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019.

Couples in a household will receive up to an additional $12,000 and single households will receive up to $7,200.

The Government will also make it easier to qualify for the FHA by increasing the net asset threshold cap from $2.6 million to $5 million, which means farmers who have up to $5 million in net assets locked up in their farms will now be able to access the FHA payment.

This will help farmers who may be notionally asset rich but cash poor access additional support without having to jeopardise the income-producing capacity of their farm by selling farm equipment.

It is estimated an additional 8000 farmers could become eligible for FHA support.

The change - which was specifically raised by farmers on the listening tour in June - will apply for the remainder of the current financial year, with the review of FHA due back early in 2019 to provide further guidance.

The Government will invest an extra $5 million in the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which will provide additional support for farmers - particularly those applying for the FHA for the first time.

The Government will invest $11.4 million in mental health support initiatives:

An Empowering Communities program that allows local communities to tailor local mental health responses to their needs. Eligible communities can apply for funds up to $1 million for community-led initiatives that improve mental health and community resilience. It is expected that allocations will be between $200K and $300k per community.

The Government will provide $15 million to help the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal with small grants for not-for-profit community groups. This investment will support drought-affected communities with locally driven support.

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If you are in need of support during the drought, or would like to offer help, the following websites and phone lines are all available at anytime.

  • Need For Feed

  • Buy a Bale

  • Rural Aid

  • Drought Angels

  • Aussie Helpers

  • Thirsty Cow

  • Red Cross

  • Farm Household Allowance: Department of Human Services – 13 23 16

  • Social support: Department of Social Services – 1300 653 227

  • Farm Management Deposits: Australian Taxation Office – 13 28 66

  • Rural Financial Counselling Service – 1800 686 175

  • Climate updates and forecasts: Bureau of Meteorology

  • Lifeline available for 24/7 support - 13 11 14

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