Concerns of a serious lack of financial and emotional support for drought effected Tasmanians dominated yesterdays Bothwell meeting of the national drought social issues forum.

More than 50 people attended the meeting in the small central Midlands town.

Mal Peters, a sheep and beef cattle producer from northern NSW, who chaired the meeting suggested that many of the issues raised at Bothwell were common to other drought affected regions.

“The message is pretty simple to government, these rural communities are full of people and a lot of them are hurting and a lot of the services are inadequate.”

“I think an important question needs to be asked by Australia as a nation, do we regard it as an important thing to have strong vibrant healthy rural communities because if the answer to that is yes, which I’m quite sure it will be, it needs to be re structured in government as to how we handle these issues” Mr Peters said.

Community members who spoke at the forum believed that the drought support funding application procedure needs to be reviewed to take account of individual circumstances. There were also concerns raised about depression, resulting from hardship, and the impact of a dwindling population on the livelihood of communities.

One speaker encouraged locals to talk to each other and to take part in community events as a way of building morale. As one community member pointed out, “we have to do what we can to support each other”.

“One of the issues with the drought is that the drought’s still there tomorrow so it’s not about looking for solutions to the drought, it’s about supporting people and making sure they have some skills to get through something that’s very difficult.”

In this report: Mal Peters, acting chairman drought social issues forum; vox pop of various community members.