Two Stories

I am a very lucky man.

I acknowledge that. I live in Australia. I have a wife I adore and who, mystery that it might seem to myself & many, adores me. I have six wonderful children…and the other one. You know who you are.

I have an income.

I have food in the pantry and, if I can get my hands on my wife’s purse while she’s busy chasing kids, coin in my pocket.

I have choices.

I’m also able to receive medical help quickly and in most cases freely when I need it.

I have a good life.

I am a very lucky man, and this was cemented for me this holiday season.

As the calendar flipped from November to December I found myself in a two vehicle ‘convoy’ on a three day mission delivering groceries & a little hope to some drought affected farmers from Biloela to Longreach.

This wasn’t something I’d planned. I was just a tag along. In fact, you might say I’d bought my way in.

A turn in a conversation with Gympie’s local Citizen of the Year (she hates it when I say that so obviously I tacked it onto her name for most of the three days), Marlene Owen, had Tracey and I suddenly & shockingly aware of the plight of our outback farmers living in drought affected areas.

I mean, we knew there were areas drought affected areas. We’d seen the news with convoys of trucks loaded with hay heading out, and we’d heard farmers were begging the government for help which has seemed slow coming & universally acknowledged as being inadequate, but we didn’t know the problem went beyond the life of death of livestock & family properties.

I’d assumed, from the odd local conversation in Gympie, the inclusion of farm machinery as assets when applying for assistance, banks cutting their loses & foreclosing on Mum & Dad farms, and the Chinese then buying up those farms at an assumed fraction of the cost was the big fall out from years of poor rainfall.

“You wouldn’t know how big the problem is on the coast,” a lady in Longreach assured us. “They hide the truth behind terms like ‘single vehicle accident’ and ‘death by misadventure’.”

The drought & subsequent financial woes of our drought affected farmers is literally killing them by pushing the numbers of suicides in the bush to epidemic proportions.

And while a token response from the government is in place, it isn’t working. They can’t expect farmers deep into a cycle of depression to acknowledge they need help and drive in to the townships for a referral and then subsequent weekly appointments. They need the help to go to them. It’s that or the coroner.

And of course it reaches further.

This is an intergenerational problem now, as anyone who has lived with someone suffering deep depression will be able to confirm. More-so because often these kids have little other outside influence or support available.

After Marlene left us, Tracey and I sat on our balcony sipping tea while our kids swam in our pool and a roast cooked itself in the oven.

“I want to do something,” Tracey said. “But what?”

I was silent for a bit. I was having an idea and on a cuppa tea instead of coffee these things take slightly longer.

“What about…,” I started.

This isn’t Tracey’s first rodeo. She took a sip of her tea, set the cup down, snapped at one of the kids to stop dive-bombing off the pool steps, checked her phone for messages and then looked back at me.

“…if I approach Woolworths about doing a video?” I finished.

We nutted it out and I sent off a message to our blog’s agent, David Drinkall. He does the blog stuff I don’t like to do, like chatting with companies about money. I have offered for him to do my taxes as well but I think he thought I was joking.

I suggested since it was the Christmas season it might be really nice of them to let me give some of the families Marlene was visiting on her next run some Christmas hams and a few other things to brighten up the 25th, but also to stock their pantries with some essentials. I would, I said, forego any payment for the video or post to cover most of the cost of this exercise as bringing a spotlight to this issued was something I desperately wanted to do.

Incredibly, David said he’d throw his commission into the mix as well.

Also incredibly, Woolworths said they were in.

I know they cop some flak as a company but I have to say the people I’ve met and worked with in Woolworths over the years, since they have been a long time supporter of our blog, are genuinely beautiful & decent people. They didn’t have to do this. It wasn’t in the draft or plan or even budget for this financial year, but they didn’t hesitate. I think it’s easy to forget these sorts of companies have real people with the same emotional reactions as the rest of us running them.

Probably because we see so many bank executives on the telly 😉

So I joined Marlene and two other ladies, Ruth Tramacchi & Tina Raffin, who drove a second vehicle & trailer alternatively ahead or behind us. The runners who do these trips pay their own way for the privilege of delivering hope: fuel, food and accommodation. And, in my case, beer. They take goods donated by locals which are usually done up into hampers, and also fists full of cash to spend at local bakeries and grocers.

These peeps were good value for the trip. Love when people know how to laugh properly

In my case, we arrived at the closest Woolworths store to our final destination, Emerald mid afternoon on the first day. The staff were waiting with preordered hams ready and we spent a good hour loading up trolley after trolley. Staff even helped us move everything to the carpark and load the trailer.

Genuinely, I think we all like to be a part of something meaningful with our own two hands, even if it’s something as simple as loading hams into eskies.

While at Longreach we dropped in the Longreach School of Distance Education for a look around, and discovered their numbers have dropped in recent years to the point they’re picking up nomad families like we were (families taking a year or two to do a Big Lap of Australia, for example) to keep numbers up to a point they don’t have to close shop. Even Longreach’s school has been downgraded because of student numbers dropping.

All this indicates we have a problem. Families are, for one reason or another, leaving the outback. It might not always be drought or depression or suicide related, but they most definitely factor heavily into the equation.

It is worse than I thought. Not least because I didn’t really think about it until it was brought to my attention.

So I’m bringing it to your attention.

If a problem shared is a problem halved I reckon if the whole of Australia gets involved we can easily carry these farmers & their families until they can stand on their own feet again.

After all, we’re a very lucky nation, and doesn’t everyone here deserve food in the pantry, access to free medical care and the opportunity of a good life?

It’s the season of giving so I’ve started a GoFundMe for the next run Marlene & Co are doing before Christmas to the St George region if anyone would like to contribute. Or, if you’d rather, you could send Woolworths gift cards either at your local store of online and send them care of myself at 1 Parsons Rd , Gympie QLD 4570 and I’ll ensure they get to her before she leaves. Again, they’ll shop at locally where they can and at the nearest Woolworths to help these outback areas. Every cent will go where it’s needed. Thank you.

Important discussions about things like, how far until the next barista qualified coffee?
We played highway leap frog with this road train for hundreds of kilometers.
When this sort of thing suddenly happens it slows you down. For the rest of the trip.
One wrong turn and you realise you’re not in Kansas anymore
Staff at Woolworths Emerald flocked to help, which was lovely.
Although, looking back at these photos….
…I do wonder if they just wanted to get rid of us because we were messing up the joint
This man knew what he was doing.
This man, not so much.
$2999.40 of hope & supplies
Patches of brown in a sea of green turned to patches of green in a sea of brown and finally patches of brown in a sea of dirt and rocks
My mission started out to gift my fashion sense to the outback, but it was so hot I quickly changed to thongs and shorts
Marlene has known this family for three years. They’re beautiful people.
Riley let us watch as she practiced carols with other school kids online through Longreach School Of The Air. Hilarious to see them all singing into the screen from their rooms all over the state. And very wonderful.
7ml of rain this year and these guys were hesitant to take any help. Only wet they had three years ago when Marlene first came to them was whatever was coming out of their faces. A thimble full of rain and they’ve gone from their last, struggling 100 head to 350 and they’re one step closer to making it all work again.
Hard to believe after handing so much stuff out there was still this much left and STILL not enough to give everyone struggling in even this one region everything they need. But it’s not just about the pantry. It’s about hope and letting them know people care enough to come
Plenty of room in the cold room to store the remaining hams until they find a new home over the coming week. I did offer to take some of the wine out so they could be spread out more but they didn’t think it necessary. No matter who I asked.
Had to put this up. Jason and Belinda (Tracey’s sister) donated a box of assorted products the young girl in my second story will be pleased to see. Thank you, guys. Hearts of gold.
I was planning on looking nice in the photos but I’d just have been sweatier in jeans

Thank you to Woolworths for this opportunity to turn a spotlight to the declining state of outback mental health

Not much time for sightseeing, but there was a cafe across the road. This is an amazing bit of art and history. Well done to whoever the artist was. Genuinely looks like a real dead tree.
Road train….ish. After the Tree of Knowledge I think this was my favourite bit of art.
Black and beautiful
I think this is the scale one of my daughters sees all ants
Marlene and I shared a room each night. The first night my bed seemed to have been making its way over to her
So the next night she started taking precautions. Also, that’s the last I saw of my favourite stripped pillow. Left it in Tambo. They’re holding it for me.
After watching the carol’s rehearsal we were invited to check out the Longreach School of Distance Education when we arrived in town. We had an hour to kick about so….
The old radio rooms have been converted to keep up with modern tech
The library. Students are encouraged to come in whenever they can, even if just passing through
The mail room. Was surprised how many staff there were and how big it was. Not sure why because of course it would have to be. The aircon was especially nice.
Students are encouraged to work with their parents to create permanent art for the school. This is a tea tree. Because of course it is 😀 There were some really good pieces scattered about
The French teacher’s office.
The old fashioned map on the wall with pins. Excellent.
Bonnet was up no more than two minutes before this bloke stopped to see if he could help. Outback people are everything you hear they are.And it’s not like this guy isn’t suffering himself. His local pub burnt down a month ago and now he has to travel 40km for a beer!
WOOHOO! If you’re wondering why I’m excited it’s because we broke down in a town and not between a couple of them. An extra night on the road. Stayed put in Roma for the night.
We get to sit up front with the truck driver? Awesome. Blokes really are children at heart. I did offer to drive because, you know, I have a HR license and have only ever been nicked the one time for 35km/hr over the limit, but he said he was right.

Donate to GoFundMe or Woolworths Gift Cards to 1 Parsons Rd Gympie Q 4570 if you feel like giving a little hope to the outback

Raising a family on little more than laughs


  • I have tears for the men, for the wives, the kids, the cattle, the generational traditions down the gurgler, so sad! In a country where we are so lucky & so giving to other countries, maybe we need to look around a bit more and do more to support this hardworking mob. Well done to you all for the wonderful assistance and hope you have facilitated. I’ll be over with a gift card tomorrow Bruce.
    Wishing everyone the merriest Christmas possible and hope the rains come soon!!

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