Aussie Helpers visits Parkes Shire to lend a hand

HELPING HANDS: Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan, volunteer Paul Pitstock and Parkes Shire's Drought Response Officer Roger Kitson are doing what they can to help struggling farmers.
HELPING HANDS: Aussie Helpers founder Brian Egan, volunteer Paul Pitstock and Parkes Shire's Drought Response Officer Roger Kitson are doing what they can to help struggling farmers.

As NSW continues to experience prolonged and widespread drought conditions, our hard working farmers are doing it as tough as ever.

Volunteers from farming charity Aussie Helpers have been in the area reaching out to primary producers who need a helping hand.

Founder Brian Egan started Aussie Helpers 17 years ago.

"We started off in Queensland and now we work in every state in Australia," he said.

"All we do is help farmers, nothing else, we don't do hobby farmers or people in town, just primary producers who make their living off a farm."

The organisation can help out in a lot of ways including supplying stock feed and chemicals.

"We will be providing ongoing support, we didn't realise some of these people are so poor around here," Brian said.

"We'd like to give some prepaid visa cards to help out with fuel and shopping or whatever they need, including stuff girls like to do like get their hair and nails done."

Aussie Helpers also offers psychological counselling.

"We can arrange that for people free of charge, we pay for everything," Brian said.

Brian knows first hand the devastating effect drought can have on people on the land.

"I was a farmer, I lost my place through drought back in 1999," he said.

"We used to grow hereford but it never rained on our place for three years so we went broke.

"We couldn't survive and that's where the idea of Aussie Helpers came from.

"After going broke my head was such a mess I ended up in hospital for a year, that's how bad I was.

"A psychologist said to me one day "all these drugs they are pumping into you - they are not doing you any good, your mind is too strong. The best thing you can do in my opinion is to go out and help someone worse off than you are", and that's what I did."

Aussie Helpers have about 25 volunteers around the country who visit farms and offer help if it's needed.

The charity gets no government funding and doesn't hold fundraisers.

"Aussie Helpers was started up with 20 bucks 17 years ago and now it's a charity with $10 million worth of assets," Brian said.

"It's all from the public and the corporate world. People just give us money because they know what we do.

"We are actually out there visiting farms all the time, we have about 20 vehicles on the road that are continually calling on farmers."

Brian, who is based in Charlieville was in Parkes last week with volunteer Paul Pitstock who runs the Dubbo depot.

"Paul and I are both ex servicemen on veteran's pensions and we just enjoy giving back to the community," Brian said.

"We spend most of the days of our lives driving around calling on properties just saying g'day to people and if we find people who need help, we get it for them.

"A lot of people don't need help but they are quite open to having a talk and a cup of tea.

"If they need help in an area we can't support them, we can refer them to someone who can."

Farmers requiring assistance please phone 1300 665 232 or email admin@aussiehelpers.org.au

The current drought began in NSW in mid 2017 and, according to the Department of Primary Industries, 98.6 per cent of the state remains in one of three drought categories on the NSW Combined Drought Indicator (CDI).