MUCH-needed rain has fallen on parched regions of Queensland and New South Wales – bringing temporary relief and lifting spirits.
Battling farm families celebrated as the heavens opened, just as the Church entered a month of prayer for rain, and for those touched by the crippling drought.
Some rural kids witnessed their first major downpour, splashing in puddles and playing in the mud, while farmers posted videos on Facebook dancing in the rain.
However the drought is not over, with Nationals leader Michael McCormack, who was acting Prime Minister last week, warning that it would take years for drought-ravaged Australia to recover.
“It has settled the dust,” he said.
“It’s going to top-up some dams. (There’s) a bit of a green sheet across those very dry areas but it’s not going to solve the drought. “
The St Vincent de Paul Society and Salvation Army are the new partners in a drought support program to distribute aid to rural families for accessing financial counselling, and to pay for groceries, fuel, power bills and school fees.
Families will be eligible to claim up to $3000 under the program announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison when he visited Dalby and the Western Downs in September.
“People are in a desperate state,” the St Vincent de Paul Society’s drought committee chair Matt Nunan said.
With about two-thirds of Queensland drought-affected, Mr Nunan said Vinnies expected “there will be a lot of people seeking to access assistance”.
“It will be centrally administered online by St Vincent de Paul through our national organisation with on-the-ground support in each of the states,” he said.
While support funding would go to individuals, Mr Nunan said it benefitted entire towns.
“There is a knock-on effect. People run-up credit with the local supermarket,” he said.
“If there is no money going into the economy then people aren’t repairing their cars, the mechanic isn’t getting paid, they’re not buying tyres … it just has a devastating effect on those communities.”
Vinnies has a strong record in responding to people in need.
“We’ve got about 9000 members in Queensland so that’s a pretty wide distribution,” Mr Nunan said.
“In a lot of towns all over Queensland, you’ll find there’s a Vinnies shop.
“Members are really dedicated and out in the community and working to make a difference.”
In recent days, far western NSW was one of the major beneficiaries of the rainfall, with Bourke receiving over 90mm and reports of more than 100mm in areas around the Darling River town.
Further north, thunderstorms brought much-needed rain to some of Queensland’s driest western regions.
Blackall, about 214km south-east of Longreach, received a drenching, while rain also fell in a dry border band from Stanthorpe and across the Downs.
“The last good rain in Blackall was in March, and for some regions there hasn’t been decent rain for seven years,” Mr Nunan said.