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How you can help farmers and communities affected by the drought this Christmas

Keen to help, but not sure how? Sometimes it's the simplest of gestures that make a big difference, as farmer and mother-of-four Jamee Wykes tells us.

As we head into the pointy end of the Christmas season, emotions often run high, but they're more mixed this year.
With November rainfall being the lowest on record ever, drought conditions remain relentless across rural Australia, and with enduring bushfires and smoke spread across most of New South Wales and Queensland, it's hard to fathom how farmers and local communities are maintaining their fighting spirit, let alone even thinking about festive spirit.
If it sounds bleak, it's because it has been — and still is.
"It's hot, dusty, dry; we're averaging about two dust storms a week now," says Jamee, who lives with her husband and four young girls on a livestock and cropping farm near Warrumbungle National Park, in central-west New South Wales.
The property - part of Tooraweenah village, which has a population of 150 - hasn't seen decent rainfall since August 2016. For the last three years, the area has averaged less than 20 per cent of its annual rainfall each year.
"We've got some of the records that go back to the 1960s, when my husband's grandparents were living here. This is the first year that some people have never stripped a crop. It goes to show how serious this is, and how widespread."
"Most of us that are mixed farmers have had to sell our livestock because we're not in a financial position to feed them and we don't have any growth to feed them. I know of some properties that are going on the market, or people selling part of their farm — things are getting quite desperate."
It can be even more challenging, of course, because there's no respite — work and home are one and the same.
"Everything we know and everything we have is all tied in: our life and our financial position is all one. We don't get to go to work and come home and have it different. We have all our eggs in one basket so there's quite a bit of pressure from that."
Trying to put a brave face on in a situation that doesn't have an end date is undeniably tough and takes its toll, but Jamee and her husband are committed to being positive for the kids.
"It's really important with little kids. I've always said that the first 10 minutes of an afternoon sets the tone for the rest of the evening so, when my husband comes home, we have this rule that no matter what has happened, it's all smiles and positivity. The kids feed off that so it's all happy and positive for them. They don't need to feel that pressure in their parents' mood — you're only a kid once and it's important that they get to be kids," Jamee said.
"Of course, there are down days – I call them my laundry days because I go to the laundry and cry so that the kids don't see me. And then I start again. But, there's probably not a mother in Australia who doesn't do that!"
Something else that's bolstered her spirit? The support and generosity of the wider country, especially at Christmastime.
"We just had a family from Kellyville, who don't even know us, come out to our farm and deliver food, toilet paper and dog biscuits. They also gave the 16 families in our school all food vouchers for our local community to also support our local businesses. I still have a lump in my throat thinking about it."
"It's remarkable. I thought there was a 'country and city' divide, but it's really nice. It's very humbling that people care. We have a pretty great country with amazing people in it."

How you can help drought-stricken farmers:

  • Donate to CommBank's Christmas Drought Appeal. Every dollar from this fund will directly support Rural Aid and the Australian Red Cross and the vital work they are doing to support Aussie farmers and communities impacted by drought and other disasters. You can make donations via the CommBank app until Christmas Day.
  • Spend time in rural communities. "If you feel like packing up for a weekend and going for a drive, spend a weekend in a regional town. Go to the pub for a meal, buy some petrol, meet some of the people. It makes a vast difference."
  • Take locals out of the drought bubble. "You can't turn the tap on and make it rain, but you can provide some sort of stimulus to a small country town. It's interesting for us to meet different people and take us out of the bubble so we're not talking about drought all the time."
  • Give up your time. Remember, it's not all about money. Giving your time and stopping for a chat can be just as valuable. "That's something everybody is capable of doing and it makes a massive difference [to the local community]."
  • #BuyFromTheBush. If you can't make it out to a rural community before Christmas, check out the great local produce and products for sale from bush businesses. You can find them on Instagram (@buyfromthebush) or online.

To help improve your financial wellbeing, please visit financiallyfitfemales.com.au. Proud partner, CommBank. Always consider your personal circumstances before acting on financial advice

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