They’re proud Australians, just as I am. The back bone of the country type. Never in a million years would they ask for help. They are the people who help others.
They live on a property in far North West New South Wales. They’re in their early 50s. 3 generations of the same family have produced cattle and sheep on this property to help feed the country I am from.
Every day, EVERY day, they work hard. 365 days every year. Work. Work and more work. They’ve always done it. They raised their 3 boys on the property. Lived an honest life. Helped others. Did it the Aussie way.
They’re tough; one day he was mustering cattle, came off his horse, dislocated his thumb, but kept riding and mustering for 3 more days. Can you imagine the pain of riding a horse with a dislocated thumb? He has soem 500 stories like that. Occasionally he tells you one, in as few words as possible, and in his laconic self- effacing way.
She’s warm and loving, always helping others. In recent years she’s had both breast cancer and open-heart surgery. To get to the GP it’s a 3 hour drive. To get to a specialist it’s 7 hours drive. That’s just the way it is.
Their boys live away. They don’t want them to take over the property – they say ‘you wouldn’t wish this on your worst enemy, let alone your kid’.
4 years ago there were making a living, not much of a living, but a living. They’ve not had significant rain since then. 4 years ago there were 2500 head of cattle. 90% are gone now – 250 remain. There are no sheep left at all. The remaining cattle are starving. There is no feed for the cattle. They can’t afford to buy feed for them any more. They can’t afford to transport them off the property. Pretty soon the remaining cattle will be dead.
The property is now just acres and acres of dirt. Just dirt. As far as you can see. Dirt. And a few skinny cows. Dirt and nearly dead cows. That’s it.
The temperatures reach 40 degrees during the day; they’ve got an airconditioner but can’t afford to run it – electricity costs are too high.
They can’t leave the property for more than a day because they have to look after the remaining cattle. They haven’t seen any other people in weeks. They can’t afford to pay anyone to mind the property so that they can go together and see their boys or their parents who are in their 80s.
They subsist on $200 per week between the 2 of them, which, to their shame is a government payment. They’ve never been on welfare before. To feed the cattle it costs $500 per week.
They’ll never ask for help. Never. When asked how anyone can help, they say ‘send rain’, ‘pray for rain’. But what they need is hope. All of which they’ve lost. What they need is to know that people care. But they won’t tell anyone about their plight because they don’t want to be ‘whingers’. They always knew the land was hard. But nothing compares to this drought.
They’re relatives of mine. They’re my cousins. They will never ask for help. But I am. They’d kill me if they knew. But if this can help them, it will be worth it. They truly don’t think anyone cares.
I won’t tell you their names. Because they need to hold on to their dignity. It’s all they’ve got. But they really do need a hand. And they need hope. They need to know that people care. And they need money to buy feed for the cattle.
They need to know that people care. Please care. I know it’s a tough time of year – just a few dollars would be wonderful To feed the cattle, to keep the cattle alive. But more importantly to give them hope.