SPREADING KINDNESS: Darleen McAllan from the Gold Coast gives Lachlan, 3, and Patrick, 7, presents during her visit to Dumaresq.
SPREADING KINDNESS: Darleen McAllan from the Gold Coast gives Lachlan, 3, and Patrick, 7, presents during her visit to Dumaresq. Ange Thiele

REVEALED: How city sisters can help bush women in drought

LOOKING out over 40ha of "bulldust" on her property near Cecil Plains, Tammy Harrison sees the toll of the drought outside her window each day.

Meanwhile, just a few hours away on the Gold Coast, surrounded by beaches and waterways, the drought seems like a world away.

Despite the stark differences in their lifestyles, Mrs Harrison is one of hundreds of women in the bush receiving support from a "fairy godmother" in the city through Facebook page Adopt a Farmer's Wife.

Mrs Harrison lives on 40ha near Cecil Plains with her husband and four children.

In good seasons the family graze cattle and sheep but the dry has caused them to destock, with just three horses, the dogs and some chooks remaining.

"We haven't had any decent rainfall since December 2018, we have been carting in water since March 2019 and hand feeding for so long I have lost count," Mrs Harrison said.

Stumbling across the Adopt a Farmer's Wife page last year, Mrs Harrison found a community of women who understood just what she was going through and city women who wanted to help.

Gold Coast beauty therapist Anni Diamond launched the Adopt a Farmer's Wife Facebook page last year and it has grown to have more than 2000 likes and a multitude of "fairy godmothers" in the city sending help to ladies on the land.

Mrs Diamond said the group was born from an understanding of what women on the land were going through and a desire to help bridge the gap by making city women more compassionate.

"I've lived on the land myself so I've also lived through drought … so I kind of know what it's like to have to truck water in and buy feed for 300 cattle, it's a very expensive exercise," she said.

"City people, we really don't know how bad it is for some of those towns out there … We take all of it for granted, so it was about making city women more aware and thankful to what women in the land endure, particularly in remote areas."

The page has facilitated hundreds of connections between bush and city women and in just months the ladies of the page have sent out hundreds of care packages, fundraised to provide free hay bales in Cecil Plains and delivered a trailer load of goods and almost 1000 litres of drinking water to families in Tenterfield.

Mrs Harrison said despite only joining the page in November, she felt like she had known the women a lifetime.

"There are so many who want to lend an ear to listen, offer support and send out a care package to brighten up your day," she said.

"These ladies are true fairy godmothers, they want to see the magic return to the bush."

Over Christmas, the page held a fundraising campaign encouraging city women to purchase bales of hay at a Cecil Plains feed shop so farmers from the area could pick up a few extra bales for free.

"It was amazing. I'm blown away that these women have such generous hearts and want to do something like that for the people on the land," Mrs Harrison said.

"It's made me realise the city people do care and want to be educated on what's happening out here. So it's not just changing our lives, it's changing theirs because they're learning what drought really is and the impacts."

Mrs Harrison also received a care package before Christmas, filling her cupboard with special treats and adding a few extra presents under the tree.

Down the road, about 25km out of Cecil Plains, Angie Barry and her family are also doing it tough and are down to their last 105 breeders on their 1295ha property.

"We're now cutting cactus pear to feed the cattle. It's high in protein and the only thing that's saved us now," Mrs Barry said.

"All of our heavy machinery that was decent we had to sell, and all our good utes. We get around in a couple of hundred dollar vehicles now because we'd rather have the property than flash vehicles."

Mrs Barry was introduced to the Adopt a Farmer's Wife page in November by her sister and said the community had helped provide a bit of mental relief from the drought, making her feel she's not alone.

"These women out here, we just see no hope unless it rains. There's just nothing that can really improve our quality of life, but when you see a bit of help and somebody else thinking of you, it just lightens the mood and makes you feel a bit better," she said.

"That little tiny bit of help is amazing, just to know someone is there thinking about you when you take your hat off at the end of the night and wash all the dust off, that other people do care."

Mrs Barry has invited the city sisters to visit her property this year to experience the bush lifestyle to say thank you.

"I just thought I'd invite them out and put on a picnic for them after all the hard work they've been doing," she said.

"I thought I'd take them up and show them how we cut the cactus with chainsaws and how us farmers' wives aren't inside doing the cooking and cleaning, we're out there working just as hard as the men."

Last week a group of city women returned from an 800km round trip to Tenterfield to deliver 700 litres of drinking water and a trailer full of groceries to families in the area.

Ange Thiele, her daughter Charlie, 16, and Darleen McAllan jumped at the chance to help, collecting donations from their Gold Coast community and jumping in the car to deliver the goods.

"I'd been wanting to do something for quite a long time and I just didn't know how to go about doing it, so I connected with the page and all of a sudden there's country women looking for a city sister," Ms Thiele said.

"I was able to get together with my local community … and I just started collecting and I was completely inundated with donations."

The donations were met with gratitude from three families in the Tenterfield and Dumaresq areas.

"I said 'fill your pantries and concentrate on school fees and feeding the stock and let us help you this way' and they were just blown away and totally overwhelmed. There were lots of tears and lots of gratitude," Ms Thiele said.

"Just to see the relief and the joy on their faces and know that someone out there is thinking of them, to give them a little bit of hope."

Ms Thiele said the group gave city people a meaningful way to help people living on the land.

"It's just created such a big awareness. It's really opened my eyes to the real struggles of the people out there on the land," she said.

"I can make a difference. I can't save the world but I can help one family and I ended up helping three, with some to spare."

Mrs Diamond said she had an abundance of "fairy godmothers" in the city who were champing at the bit to adopt a country family and she is calling for more country women to put up their hand and be embraced by the support.

"We want to help you, we just need to know you're there," she said.

She hopes to grow the page to have enough women in a group to become a force to be reckoned with.

"Even though we have powerful stories, we need to have a lot of people on that page so we can get someone to hear us."

Get involved at www.facebook.com/adoptafarmerswife.

News Corp Australia

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