CWA offers local drought aid

Ann RawlingsCountryman
Cattle in heavily grazed and burnt riparian woodland of the Hann River at the end of the dry season. Marion Downs Wildlife Sanctuary, northern Western Australia. (Photo by Auscape/UIG via Getty Images)
Camera IconCattle in heavily grazed and burnt riparian woodland of the Hann River at the end of the dry season. Marion Downs Wildlife Sanctuary, northern Western Australia. (Photo by Auscape/UIG via Getty Images) Credit: UIG via Getty Images

While many West Australians have been tuning in to the stories behind the drought in the east, one local effort has been offering help closer to home.

The Country Women’s Association of WA has been offering grants of up to $5000 to farmers and pastoralists in drought-affected areas of the State to meet household expenses.

This assistance extends to farming-dependent contractors and families, and rural householders, with food, schooling expenses and dental and medical costs just some of the items covered.

CWA of WA State president Heather Allen said help was also available to cover the cost of travel for medical treatment or for people to access their closest Centrelink office.

“One thing we are very mindful of with the drought, as with any other natural disasters, is the stress and mental health of all out there dealing with the problems,” she said.

Ms Allen said a generous fundraising effort co-ordinated by Coles late last year resulted in nearly $460,000 being allocated to the WA chapter for distribution around the State.

This figure has since been topped up by other donations, with about half of the resulting funds being allocated so far.

Ms Allen said the money from Coles had been raised in WA supermarkets during a two-month period from August 1 last year.

“Money raised in that period from customers at Coles supermarkets was matched by Coles,” she said.

“No administration costs are to be taken from this money — 100 per cent of the funding must be used for what it was raised for.”

To qualify for assistance, applicants must demonstrate they are in an area identified as being drought affected and they have a reliance on farming or farming-related activities for the majority of their income.

They must also provide evidence their primary source of income has suffered as a direct result of drought.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, rainfall deficiencies in the past three months have been recorded in a number of areas in the State, with some experiencing the lowest rainfall on record for this period.

Areas affected include parts of the Pilbara and the Kimberley as well as an area on the State’s south coast.

However, BoM’s website states that declaring an area in drought can at times be difficult, because people use water in different ways.

While the bureau measures rainfall deficiencies, agriculturalists rate the impact of dry conditions on primary industries, hydrologists compare ground water levels and sociologists define drought by social expectations and perceptions.

Ms Allen said a dedicated board of CWA of WA members had been tasked with assessing each application for assistance individually and based on the information presented.

“We maintain strict confidentiality at all times with each application,” she said.

Ms Allen said the association also distributed aid via its Sir James Mitchell Education and Welfare Fund, which was open to all people living in WA.

“The purpose of this fund is to assist with the implementation of the aim of the association, with emphasis on the health, education and wellbeing of individuals,” Ms Allen said.

“Our aim is to improve the wellbeing of all people, especially those in country areas, by promoting courtesy, co-operation, community effort, ethical standards and the wise use of resources.”

To apply for assistance via the drought relief fund or the SJMEWF, go to cwaofwa.asn.au or phone 9321 6041.

Forms can be accessed online or can be mailed or emailed.

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