A Sydney RSL donated $50,000 to the Walcha community on Tuesday night and an emotional thank you came from a grazier who says the town is facing the beginning of a financial drought.
When Walcha Rotary president Andrew Corlette received a call from Joe Bayssari of Seven Hills-Toongabbie RSL in January advising him that the club had raised $100,000 for drought relief and wanted to give $50,000 each to Walcha and Bingara, he thought it was someone trying to sell him wine.
“I was driving, and I couldn’t hear, but I reluctantly agreed to accept a call from him later in the day,” he said.
“When I did speak with him, and I understood what he was saying you could have knocked me over with a feather.
“Normally if we are trying to get any funds for projects, we have to go through a lot of paperwork and administration to apply for it. These guys, like manna from heaven, just dropped it on us and it’s a big whack of money.”
Walcha Rotary was responsible for working out how best to distribute the money as widely as possible, and Mr Corlette then worked with Debby Maddox from the Rural Financial Counselling Service to ascertain who was most in need while keeping the recipients anonymous.
They decided to distribute $500 each to 100 families in the district via Ms Maddox who checked they met the criteria agreed by the club and compiled a register of the recipients for auditing purposes – and is the only one who knows each beneficiary’s identity.
“These (RSL) boys know that $500 is not going to save someone from going into bankruptcy because they have been forking out money hand over fist to feed – but it is a significant amount to say we are concerned for you, we want to help you, and we appreciate what you are going through,” Mr Corlette said.
“I think that this sort of sentiment with the money attached to it may well be the sort of thing that keeps a finger away from the trigger of a rifle that should be locked in the cupboard – we all know about suicides associated with hard times on the land.”
Seven Hills-Toongabbie RSL financial manager Anthony Holmes said his club’s board wanted to contribute to drought and bushfire relief.
“Some of our members have personal connections to both areas, and we also discovered that Walcha and Bingara were the first two drought-declared areas in NSW, so it was a no brainer,” Mr Holmes said.
Rotarian and grazier Rob Blomfield expressed his heartfelt thanks on behalf of the community and said while it now looks green around Walcha the hard times are just beginning.
“Most of us have lost our introduced pastures and to replace that is huge,’ Mr Blomfield said. “We probably only have 25 per cent of cattle and 50 per cent of the sheep left in the district now so every farming business in this area is highly compromised and it’s going to take anything up to 10 years for this community to get back up to par.”
Mr Blomfield went on to say that the impact of the reduction in livestock is that every business in town is suffering and is going to continue to suffer.
“Every farming business in this district is only going to have 30 to 40 per cent of its gross income this year – that’s pretty scary, and that is going to flow through the community.
“So for you to come here and put $50,000 into the community via the farming community ( which will hopefully be spent in this district to boost all the local businesses ) I mean words can’t express – it’s really special.”
Seven Hills -Toongabbie RSL president Barry Wilson said it was the club’s absolute pleasure to donate.
“You hear it on the news how bad it is but you don’t get the full knowledge of what’s going on,” he said.
“We decided to do something and donate directly rather than through a charity. It’s only a small amount, but it’s the best we can do at the moment – we’re in a position to do it, and we are happy to do it.”
Above article written by Vanessa Arundale and published by Walcha News: walchanewsonline.com.au/story/6626188/50000-donation-helps-fight-financial-drought/