As the drought continues to hit eastern Australia pretty hard, commonwealth and state governments are continuing to respond with additional measures to assist our farmers.
Over the weekend, further measures were announced by the Prime Minister, The Nationals leader and the Agriculture Minister to assist farming families with immediate additional financial support.
The federal Coalition government has announced two lump sum supplementary payments to the Farm Household Allowance. Farming families will now receive up to a total of $28,000 a year in assistance following a boost of up to $12,000 per annum to FHA for eligible households.
Thousands more farming families will be able to access the FHA as the Coalition increases the net asset threshold cap from $2.6 million to $5 million.
Last weekend’s announcements bring the total support provided by our government to households and communities in drought to $576 million, with more to come.
The $190 million package of immediate relief, including support for mental health services, has been welcomed by many rural organisations.
We’re in this for the long haul and we will stand with our farmers every step of the way.
I want to make sure farming families and communities get all the support they need to get through the drought, recover and get back on their feet.
These extra FHA payments will help get cash in the door so families can pay their bills and get their kids to school. This will flow through to small businesses in areas severely impacted.
Owning expensive farm equipment doesn't pay the bills, and so raising the net assets cap for access to the FHA to $5 million will help farmers who have little cash flow.
These threshold changes mean an additional 8000 farmers could become eligible for FHA support.
Additional measures announced at the weekend include:
- 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.
- $15 million to help the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal with small grants for not-for-profit community groups for locally driven targeted support.
$11.4 million in mental health support initiatives including:
- Additional funding for Primary Health Networks in drought affected areas to cope with increased demand.
- Those accessing counselling via Skype will no longer have their first appointment in person. This recognises the long distances and the cost of travel in money and time for rural people.
- 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.
- Funding will be provided to ReachOUT to go out into drought affected communities and raise awareness of their youth and children’s counselling services group.
Another phase of the government’s drought support will be announced in coming weeks as we continue to work with farmers, stakeholders and agencies through this crippling drought.