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Rural Resilience Program

Exploring the crucial relationship between the personal, business and productive aspects of farming is central to the work of the recently established Rural Resilience Program (RRP).

Officially launched within the NSW Department of Primary Industries in February this year, the new program builds on previous Rural Support Programs operating since the early 2000s. The RRP represents the evolution of a service originally advising farmers on assistance measures during drought, to providing the skills and support structures to build preparedness at all times.

Importantly, the new program employs five full-time staff in on-going positions, allowing the development of longer-term strategic planning to address the ever-present challenges facing farm enterprises. It strongly emphasises the often under-stated importance of personal and community wellbeing that underpins a healthy and viable farming sector, in good times and in bad.

The on-going RRP positions are complemented by four additional temporarily contracted rural support workers currently supporting drought-impacted communities in the north and west of NSW.

The RRP sees resilience as a 'process' for farmers and their families rather than an outcome or a personality trait. It also recognizes that the deep well of resilience farmers typically possess can be severely tested by adverse events. Specifically, the RRP team works in partnership with farming communities and service providers across NSW to strengthen networks, exchange information and deliver initiatives that build personal and business resilience.

'Farmers often find discussing personal and social issues challenging – especially things such as health, depression and retirement or transition planning….'

The South East of NSW is serviced from Goulburn, incorporating the region stretching from the Illawarra to the Far South Coast and west to Young, Wagga and Albury.

While current livestock prices and seasonal conditions are providing some welcome optimism for primary producers, history shows the next challenge is always around the corner. Structural issues such as declining terms of trade, an ageing population and rapid technology changes, along with the ever present risk from climate variability, dictate that farmers are constantly under pressure to adapt and up-skill to remain in a viable business.

While farmers typically focus primarily on production issues, it is clear that aspects such as mental and physical health, education, business skills and farm transition are also fundamental to developing personal and business resilience within individual enterprises and the wider farming community. Understandably, they often find discussing the personal and social issues challenging , especially things such as health, depression and retirement or transition planning. But things are changing and farmers are identifying these as key issues that the agricultural sector needs to address.

Starting conversations about the difficult issues and removing stigma is an important step in finding solutions to what can be major impediments to healthy relationships and viable farm businesses. Finding and accessing the right professional services can also be an issue for farming families.

One part of the solution to this problem is the development by the RRP of Tablelands Rural Services Network (TRSN) in the Goulburn and Crookwell region. The TRSN provides members with a contact list of key providers and what they can deliver to farming communities. The network will allow services as diverse as police, stock and station agents, farm consultants, producer groups, LLS officers and health workers to quickly reference other providers when they need to identify support for their farmer clients or colleagues.

The RRP is keen to work with farmers to develop and support new and existing groups and networks, particularly in the areas of preparedness and business risk management. The program can assist with guest speakers, business skill development, workshops, training and other ways to support personal and business resilience.

Rural resilience Program:

  • Supporting individuals and farmer networks
  • Encouraging personal and business resilience to build strong farming communities
  • Linking and connecting service providers to each other and their rural clients
  • Developing training programs and building business skills
  • Promoting mental health and wellbeing programs.
  • Facilitating the difficult discussions about farm transition and retirement
  • Building a bank of information resources

Further information:

Ted O'Kane
Rural Resilience Program
NSW Department of Primary Industries
GOULBURN NSW 2580
02 48243733
0427 781 514
ted.o'kane@dpi.nsw.gov.au