"Have a cuppa before we can't": Local youth to attend drought summit

Lily Wright (left) and Emma Chalker (right) will be attending the UNICEF NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought this week.

Lily Wright (left) and Emma Chalker (right) will be attending the UNICEF NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought this week.

The youth of NSW will be given their chance to form drought policy with others from across the state heading to the UNICEF NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought at Lake Macquarie this week.

Joining Canowindra's Meg Austin at the summit will Bumbaldry's Olivia Twyford.

Ms Twyford said she aimed to represent the region with the same vigour that farmers were maintaining day in and day out.

"The reality is we are kids who are prematurely forced to grow up, who are awake till midnight just trying to put food on the table and still turning up to school the next day," she said.

"Giving up is not an option, yet, because of our experience on the land and on the front-line we are as qualified as anyone to contribute solutions that affect our livelihoods.

"Currently I feel there has been a severe loss of connection between those in regional NSW and those in governments and cities.

I"t is easy to feel forgotten out here, in the middle of nowhere and so it is imperative that rural towns are prioritised as the primary producers of our country," she said.

Ms Twyford said the current government needed to declare the drought a natural disaster.

"This drought is beyond rainfall; irrigators can not irrigate, feedlots cannot feed and family's can no longer continue," she said.

"All of this threatening the food security Australians take for granted.

"Moving forward the establishment of new dams and water-management plans should be installed in an attempt to prevent a future drought.

"New campaigns should be initiated to promote supporting the Australian farmer and the towns in which they live. If that's checking a label to see the percentage of Australian produce or visiting a struggling town and spending your money there, it all contributes to the economy of our country.

"The Government can increase the likelihood of this by re-opening the existing railway lines and consequently providing a direct connection between regional and suburban Australia," she said.

The idea of supporting regional communities, not just the farms themselves, was supported by Cowra's Lily Wright, another of the summit's attendees.

"There needs to be a push for tourism in smaller communities and supporting the local businesses," she said

"You don't need to go very far to see the amount of small businesses that have had to shut shop and spend more time on the farm."

"I'm looking forward to hearing the stories of other young people across the state and how their communities have rallied during this crisis," she said.

Darbys Falls' Emma Chalker will also be representing the region at the summit and said governments need to plan for the future.

"It's important the government proactively plans for droughts during years of average to above average rainfall and invest in better water storage facilities such as dams and reservoirs," she said.

"Farming and local stores experiencing financial hardship during the drought often struggle to maintain and support their businesses. Relief payments would significantly benefit those struggling financially, and keep the businesses running.

"I also believe poor mental health is a major issue affecting farmers and their families struggling during this time."

Ms Chalker said she hoped support strategies were created and implemented not just by the government but community members as well.

All three young women said the best way for governments to understand what was going on in regional areas, was with a visit.

"If they have a chance to stop in the town's in their electorate then do so," Ms Wright said.

"Buy a cup of coffee or lunch or buy a little gift in one of the small businesses.

"Take the time to spend in the communities, and when making the moves to implement more support for the farmers ensure that the community is also getting supported."

"Talking and promising can no longer help our survival on the land because the agricultural sector plays a substantial role in the resilience of our country," Ms Twyford said.

"Regional towns are closing, generations of farmers are selling up and breeding stock are increasingly scarce. This directly affects the main productions of our businesses.

"At the end of the day I can appreciate how difficult it must be to sit in parliament being criticised left, right and centre but it is near impossible for those in Canberra to empathise with the extremity of our circumstances unless they come and experience a day in our shoes.

"The kettle is always on for a chat as long as we can fill it up," she said.

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