Family and Business Support Program timely for farm businesses

Rural Business Support (RBS) has welcomed the appointment of eight Family and Business (FaB) Support mentors announced by the State Government to assist South Australian farmers and communities impacted by drought.

Under the initiative, experienced mentors will be based in the regions most affected – the Upper Eyre Peninsula, Murray-Mallee, Mid and Upper North and the Pastoral district.

In a media release announcing the appointments, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone said the FaB Support mentors had a variety of regional business and agricultural backgrounds – and would provide a confidential, independent and understanding ear to those wanting to talk through problems.

The program will work closely with RBS through the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) in South Australia, other related service providers and local health networks. The mentors can connect people to these services as required.

“We welcome the appointments because it’ll ensure there are more resources on the ground in our rural communities to help people who are feeling the impacts of extended dry conditions,” said RBS Chief Executive Officer Brett Smith.

“It’s not just the farmers who have been affected by drought, it’s also impacting on small businesses and families in rural communities.”

The announcement is the latest in a string of measures which will ensure access to RFCS for farmers and small related rural businesses, following the recent State Budget announcement of $260,000 in funding, along with the provision of additional Federal Government funding.

The FaB Support initiative will be modelled on the successful FaB Scout program, which was rolled out during the Millennium Drought.

Mr Smith said RBS had worked with FaB scouts in the past, with a collaborative approach ensuring people received referrals to the appropriate services.

“We have worked with FaB Scouts in past adverse events and they are generally community leaders and go-to people,” he said.

“If they receive inquiries which relate to farmers who require RBS services they can make referrals to us. If we receive inquiries that aren’t necessarily RBS-related, we can make referrals to them.

“The idea of these appointments is to have more boots on the ground to encourage these discussions in rural communities, so those in need can be helped and referred to the appropriate services.”

RBS has also welcomed other measures designed to tackle the challenging conditions, which include a fodder register to help livestock producers in need of feed; a donation register for the public wanting to support farmers in need; industry workshops on planning, managing soil erosion and animal health and nutrition; and coordination between SA Health and support services in affected regions.

A full list of drought support services is at: www.pir.sa.gov.au/grants_and_assistance/drought_support

The implementation of such initiatives is timely, with demand for RBS services increasing significantly in the past six weeks.

Funding from the Australian Government announced in August has allowed the immediate deployment of two rural financial counsellors to areas of high demand in South Australia. Grant Crettenden and Charlie Goode commenced providing support in September to the Robertstown/Eudunda, Eastern Eyre Peninsula and Upper North regions. These experienced counsellors are supporting eligible clients initially to access Farm Household Allowance (FHA) before referral to other core RFCs who can work with families for up to three years.

Recruitment of a full time RFC Support Officer is in its final stages and they will commence support to farmers in early November.

“We want to ensure we maintain the level of service and support that we deliver to SA farmers,” Mr Smith said.

“We have to be mindful of those continuing challenges to our primary industries and also be aware that drought causes numerous knock-on effects to a range of different sectors.”

To connect with a Rural Financial Counsellor please call 1800 836 211 or tap here for more information on how we can support farming families in need.

ENDS

Media inquiries: Brett Smith, Rural Business Support, CEO, on 08 8364 2577, 0412 630 015 or email b.smith@ruralbusinesssupport.org.au