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Western regions rejoice as rain falls on drought-stricken farming communities

Raining hope: Floodwaters in Queens Park, Warwick, in southern Queensland, on February 9. Photo: Steven J Kasper

RAIN has brought hope to some of the country’s hardest-hit farm communities.

“It’s like a miracle. It is absolutely. Everyone is so happy,” St Mary’s Warwick parishioner Trish Seaby said after watching the Condamine River rise.

“Within two days, up came the grass. 

“It’s been absolutely life-changing, but we do need it to continue.”

On Queensland’s Southern Downs the Condamine and Balonne rivers are alive – after 18 months of the most gruelling drought.

Farmers have been forced to sell their cattle, and unable to plant sorghum, corn and feed crops. 

For many, it has meant extreme hardship.

“People have been very depressed. People on farms have had to sell their stock. It’s been a very serious time,” Mrs Seaby, 74, said.

The Church’s St Vincent de Paul Society has been vital in providing community relief and support.

The sight of the first water snaking through a dry riverbed brought tears to locals’ eyes. 

Then came a stream, and powerful flows joining waterways that have been parched for years.

Further north, flash flooding from the Myall Creek swamped Dalby, causing mud-swept damage, while flood warnings remain in place for towns across the Darling Downs.

Moods are lifted, but significant rainfall is still needed to end the drought.

Warwick, forced to resort to the tightest water restrictions, has received more than two and a half years of water supply, with rain still flowing into Leslie Dam.

Yet after years of no rain, the Southern Downs regional mayor Tracy Dobie warned “it’s going to take a year of average rain before our land becomes moist again”.

St Mary’s parish priest Fr Franco Filipetto was thankful after one of the heaviest downpours came just before parishioners arrived for Saturday-night Mass.

“It rained heavily just before the Vigil and, yes, it elevated the mood,” Fr Filipetto said.

“There’s more hope than before, but we are still facing very difficult times. It’s only temporary relief.

“The Christian message is one of hope through adversity – we discover that in life.”

Fr Filipetto arrived in Warwick in 2011, the year the Rose City was last in flood. 

Since then there have been good years, but he said the last three years of crippling drought had almost broken the community.

“Terrible. People have lost their income for a considerable amount of time. And also there has been no activity. Farmers have not been doing anything. They can’t plant, they can’t cultivate, they can’t do anything,” Fr Filipetto said.

“And it has been a great financial strain on those people who have had to buy feed, some are buying water – it’s unprecedented.

“And we don’t know what the fallout will be and whether some farmers will survive. That remains to be seen. Aid and assistance is still very much needed.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland continues to provide financial, in-kind and emotional support to people in farming communities impacted by drought.

Vinnies helps struggling families with not only the severe financial strain caused by drought, but essential items and services such as food, fuel, bills, water and feed for livestock.

You can donate by visiting the Vinnies website at http://qld.vinnies.org.au/

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