Parkes Shire Drought Response Officer role extended to end of year

There is no sign of what some are touting as the worst drought in a century - even centuries - breaking any time soon.

One consolation for our farming community is that the position of Parkes Shire Drought Response Officer has been extended to the end of the year.

Roger Kitson started in the role, which was originally created under the Federal Government's Drought Communities Program, in February.

Roger, who is contracted jointly by Parkes Shire Council and Neighbourhood Central, said he is relieved to have his position extended as he still has plenty more to do.

"In many ways I feel like we are just starting to get the ball rolling," he said.

"The feedback we've been getting is that we are just starting to fit into the community and the community is starting to get some sort of faith in what we are doing."

Roger has an impressive list of positive outcomes he has achieved in his first six months on the job.

"The drought information pack was a big one," he said.

"The main purpose of my role initially was to gather the appropriate information and distribute it to the people who needed it.

"We made it into a hard copy and mailed it to every single farmer in the shire.

"They all have the exact same information, they all know who to call and they all know about me and my role."

Roger said the response was really positive.

"There was a dramatic increase in client enquiries after it went out," he said.

Roger said community meetings throughout the shire have also been really well received.

"We've held pub chats in Parkes, Bogan Gate, Peak Hill, Trundle and Tullamore," he said.

"What everybody acknowledges is that the disconnect within the community is getting worse and the drought has really compounded that.

"What I'm aiming for is a collaborative approach to supporting each other, not just through the drought but afterwards so we can remain a resilient community.

"Charity hay drops are great, government support is fantastic but as an agricultural sector we can't rely on that to be successful or sustainable."

Roger Kitson, Parkes Shire's Drought Response Officer

"Charity hay drops are great, government support is fantastic but as an agricultural sector we can't rely on that to be successful or sustainable."

A facebook page specifically for farmers to come together has been set up called 'Farmers Central'.

"We recognised the need for a central point of communication between local farmers and it's gaining momentum," Roger said.

"We have around 80 members now and there has been some really good ideas and events shared."

Roger said a lot of the clients he deals with are of the generation who are used to picking up the phone and calling someone.

"We are now working on computer literacy courses," he said.

"They will be free and will give farmers the basic skills they need to use the internet, how to search efficiently and we can put together a facebook profile for them and link them up to Farmers Central if they like."

Roger feels basic computer skills are important, not just in relation to the drought, but for running a farming business.

"There is a wealth of information online right through the whole drought spectrum from funding and loans, through to mental health and we want to help them navigate that better," he said.

Roger said from now until the end of the year he is focusing on long term solutions for drought and other climatic events, and helping make communities more resilient.