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Communities give first-hand accounts of the social impact of drought.

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The Hon. Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Communities give first-hand accounts of the social impact of drought 5 August 2008 DAFF08/0985B

More than 200 people have talked about the drought’s impacts on families, friends and communities to an expert panel as part of the Rudd Government’s national review of drought policy.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke today thanked people in rural and regional communities for sharing their experiences and attending the first two weeks of public forums.

“I want to urge other communities to take part in the meetings. Reviewing drought policy goes beyond considering the economic and productivity challenges involved,” Mr Burke said.

“The social panel is a vital part of the three stage review of drought policy. We need to know how it is affecting individuals and communities.

“We face a likely future of longer, deeper and more frequent droughts. It’s essential that we get the policy settings right. People who can’t make the forums can still contribute to the review through written submissions — they close this Friday.”

The expert panel, headed by Queensland’s AgForce President Peter Kenny, was appointed in June to ensure the social component of drought was considered as part of the review.

During July it held public forums in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and parts of New South Wales. During August, the panel will travel to Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and back to New South Wales.

Issues raised at the forums include:

• the impact of drought on mental and physical health

• the flow-on effect of farmers under pressure to other local businesses

• stress on families and particularly children

• the impact on local volunteering as people seek more work off-farm, and

• the difficulty in attracting qualified professionals and young people back to drought affected communities after school and university.

Participants have included farming families, counsellors, representatives of farm organisations, churches, banks, local business people, health organisations and state and local governments.

The feedback from participants will be considered by the panel together with written submissions, before the panel reports in September.

Written submissions can be made until 8 August. Details of how to make a submission and the location of forums are available at or by calling 1800 200 876.

The national drought policy review includes two other investigations - an economic assessment by the Productivity Commission and a climatic report on future drought events conducted by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.