A crisis for rural and regional communities – a personal message from Bp COO Craig Hodges

You may be aware that much of rural Australia is now experiencing one of the worst droughts on record. Rainfalls have been very low – if at all – during 2017/18, and the dry forecast ahead for states including New South Wales and Queensland is very concerning. Recent analysis shows this may be the worst drought in more than a century (or on record) and is estimated to impact hundreds of rural communities – and thousands of very decent people – before it breaks. The effect from this drought flows through our community. Farmers have no crop, or food/water for their herd; farming families lose their income; local businesses face significant downturn because trade decreases; charity and community groups are inundated with requests for assistance, some of them quite dire; and those people living on, or supported by, the land are faced with enormous personal anxiety or depression due to debt, helplessness, despair, uncertainty or loneliness. This leaves a huge personal and human “cost” in communities that we may never fully realise, but the stories emanating from the despair are truly heartbreaking. Some of the people working in local communities to help pick up the pieces of shattered lives are Best Practice customers – the community-spirited doctors, nurses, public health, counselling, and allied health practitioners that make up the heart and pulse of rural and regional Australia. There is throughout our country – which I know extends to New Zealanders as well – a sense of care and spirit that means many people are searching for some way to help, no matter how small. If you would like more information on how you can assist, please feel free to visit one of these great services, where your contribution would be most gratefully received: https://www.ruralaid.org.au/ https://www.buyabale.com.au/ https://aussiehelpers.org.au/ https://www.droughtangels.org.au/ http://www.needforfeed.org/ Let’s hope for good rain soon, but, in the meantime, let’s hope that our support today is felt by those who need it most.