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It’s About People: Changing Perspectives on Dryness, A Report to Government by an Expert Social Panel

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DAFFThe Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Hon. Tony Burke MP, appointed an Expert Panel to examine the social impacts of drought on farm families and rural communities as part of its national review of drought policy. The seven-member panel, chaired by Mr Peter Kenny, completed its assessment in September 2008.

The Minister has released the Expert Social Panel’s report on its assessment of the social impacts of drought on farm families and rural communities.

» Full report

The Executive Summary (p.3) refers to the reports findings on impacts on community:

In the Community section, the agriculture sectors are identified as remaining important to many rural and regional towns. When family farms are struggling with events such as dryness, the communities in which people normally spend their money and participate also suffer. Dryness negatively impacts on the ability of members of a rural community to work together for the benefit of the whole community, eroding the capacity of people to engage in community projects or do the voluntary work that keeps rural communities alive. In some places there appears to be a wide range of non-government organisations, volunteers, welfare agencies, community and church-based organisations seeking to help drought affected families. This help can come through distributing food parcels, clothing, pamper packs, and helping with the payment of household bills. This intervention typifies a short-term crisis-framed response, and is not a model that should be employed during periods of prolonged dryness. There are also a variety of community development initiatives being held, such as community socialising events. These events should be supported by government only where they link rural communities to various human service providers and/or facilitate clear referral pathways. Overall, however, they also fall within a crisis-framed response and fail in the long term to address people’s ongoing needs.


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