Early intervention key to minimising drought impact on farmers

Farmers accessing rural financial counselling is key to ensuring greater community resilience in the face of increased drought events – according to farmer and small business proprietor of 35 years turned rural financial counsellor Dean Bavich.

However, Mr Bavich said greater awareness of the financial support services available, combined with a more proactive approach to farm business planning were needed.

The mental health and wellbeing of farmers has received national attention in recent years, particularly following increased recognition of the impacts natural disasters like drought have on producers.

But Mr Bavich said while supporting farmers, it was important to make a distinction between “mental health problems” and “situational distress”.

 “When someone is under immense stress, their rationality is often clouded,” he said.

“It’s not that they have mental health problems, it’s the situation they find themselves in that is the problem.”

Mr Bavich said his role was typically to help clients clarify the situation they were dealing with and work through it so the client could see the potential solutions.

“The first step is often accepting there is a situation that needs dealing with,” he said.

“I’ve seen people who are right down into the trough but once we sort out a way forward and they are able to take back control of their finances, they spring back 100 per cent.”

Early intervention was critical and could ensure a looming crisis was averted.

“We encourage clients to have a business plan which takes a holistic approach and empowers them to make decisions early rather than procrastinating and potentially suffering the consequences,” he said.

Mr Bavich is one of two guest speakers at the fourth in a series of six workshops being held in several locations across the South West between February and September and organised by South West NRM.

At the June 14 workshop, the role of financial counselling services will be explored.

The second speaker is Farmanco management consultant Mike Monaghan who will also explore the business planning perspective.

Outcomes of the workshop series will inform development of a Community Resilience Network in preparation for the predicted increase in drought events and evidence of the expected associated social impacts.

South West NRM has partnered with Community Resource Centres throughout the South West to assist with delivery of the meetings.

The aim of the Community Resilience Network project is to:

  • Increase community access to suitable support services, especially early intervention tools that help to build individual and community resilience;
  • Share resources and learnings to develop partnerships across the region;
  • Develop plans to further build community resilience.

Sustainable Agriculture Manager Peter Clifton said: “The meetings are held online and at CRCs in Boyup Brook, Bridgetown, Donnybrook, Brunswick and Manjimup.”

Workshop 4, with discussion facilitated by Mr Bavich, is on 14 June, 2024 at 12pm for one hour. Participation in previous workshops is not required for joining in workshop 4.

To find out more or register your interest in the Community Resilience Network get in touch with one of the CRCs listed above or contact Peter Clifton on 0409 680 900 or [email protected]

This project is supported by FRRR, through funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund. It is one of five ‘Surviving the Dry’ projects throughout the South West.