Shepparton drought leader brings community together

Sarah Hardwick – who is participating in the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program – has received a $4,000 Community Engagement Grant to support the “End of Harvest Ball” which will be held on 11 February at The Woolshed in Shepparton. 

The End of Harvest Ball brings local farming families together for an evening of networking, discussion around mental health and to have some fun. With mental health advocate and Founder of Are you bogged mate? Mary O’Brien as Guest Speaker, the evening will include live music and a three-course dinner. The night is an opportunity to network, learn new skills around mental health and spend time with family and friends off-farm. 

Through Sarah Hardwick’s community consultation about building drought resilience and what has worked for local farming families in the past, the grant recipient identified that social gatherings or gala events provided people with the opportunity to connect, share stories and support each other during challenging times.  

“While a ‘Break the Drought’ event was held in 2021 I realised from my conversations with primary producers, about what helps to build resilience, that this type of gathering is something we need every year. It needs to be an event for all – horticulture, dairy, cropping and livestock,” Ms Hardwick said. 

“It’s about creating a reason to get off-farm and connect with others who are in the same boat, so that they know they are not alone during drought. So, while this year’s ‘End of Harvest Ball’ will be a great night out for all, the focus is very much on mental health and social connectedness. My goal in relation to this grant was to make the 2022 celebration a free or low cost event. The $4,000 grant received as part of the Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program will go a long way towards reimbursing the $20.00 ticket price paid by farmers and their partners to attend the event.”  

With COVID-19 and lockdowns impacting session dates and formats, participants in the Goulburn Valley’s local Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program are yet to meet face to face, with the third and final development session recently postponed. The final 3-day “face to face” session is scheduled to take place in March.  

Grants are available in rounds, which means other Goulburn Valley Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program participants will have the opportunity to apply for funding in April 2022. 

Commenting on the announcement of Round 1 Grants, Australia Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) Chief Executing Matt Linnegar said, “The Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program is not just about sharing a learning experience with people outside your industry and network, it an opportunity to proactively help our rural communities in managing the future impacts of drought. But the Community Engagement Grants are really what brings this program to life. It’s when we get to see how participants are collectively applying new ways of thinking and adopting new approaches to address current and future challenges. I would like to congratulate Sarah and encourage others participating in the Goulburn Valley program to identify initiatives and submit grant applications for consideration in April.” 

Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program participants are offered the opportunity to support resilience action by applying for a Community Engagement Grants of $4,000. Projects need to focus on the following outcomes: 

  • Building long-term drought resilience and enhanced public good in agriculture dependent communities. 
  • Benefitting a large number of people from a diverse range of social groups. 
  • Encouraging inclusion and participation of under-represented or marginalised groups. 

Applications also needed to demonstrate co-contributions, either in-kind or from other funding sources and broad community support. Initiatives need to be delivered within three months of receiving the grant and participants can pool their funding into one project.  

Despite the challenges created by the pandemic, the Goulburn Valley was the first region in Australia to commence the Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program and will be the second location, after Central West Queensland, to complete the Program. 

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