Port Macquarie Volunteer Geoff Bond.
Port Macquarie Volunteer Geoff Bond.

Retirees volunteer to help out in the bush

GROWING up on the land during World War Two inspired Port Macquarie retiree Geoff Bond to volunteer in the bush, lending a helping hand to farmers struggling in severe drought conditions.

Geoff is among a growing number of retirees leaving their comfortable coastal homes to help those struggling in the current drought.

Frontier Services, one of Australia's oldest bush charities, runs two programs - Bush Chaplaincy and Outback Links.

The Bush Chaplains travel tens of thousands of kilometres each year visiting individuals and families on remote properties for coffee and a chat.

They are often the frontline for identifying issues and referring people to other service providers.

Meanwhile the program Geoff took part in, Outback Links, connects skilled volunteers with people in remote Australia who could use a helping hand.

These volunteers donate their skills throughout the year doing repairs and maintenance on equipment, the home and around the property - free of charge.

"I grew up on a mixed farm (dairying, fresh and dried fruit-growing), where for four years during WW2, my mother ran the property and raised four young children on her own, with no electricity, no reticulated water, no telephone and only a horse instead of a motor vehicle or a tractor, so I know a bit about difficult times on the land," Geoff said.

"Now as a retiree with quite a number of skills useful on outback properties, I figure that the least I can do is to apply these skills to help those who are struggling, and Outback Links is the perfect vehicle for me to do that, for as long as I am physically able to do so."

But even if retirees don't want to volunteer on the ground they can still help out according to Frontier Services National Director Jannine Jackson with the non-profit organisation dedicated to providing face-to-face support for farmers launching a fundraiser in recent weeks.

Jackson called on Central Coasters to buy Aussie produce and host a "Great Outback BBQ" in support of those doing it tough.

She said all funds raised would go towards supporting Frontier Services' volunteer programs, which provide practical and pastoral support to farmers across Australia suffering from severe financial strain, physical and emotional stress and social isolation while dealing with the fall-out of a relentless period of droughts, floods and fires.

"This year delivered the hottest January-to-May period in Australia's recorded weather history - and one of the driest," Jackson said.

"The price of stock feed and transport is spiralling, bottled water is being shipped into towns and for the first time in over a decade, Australia has had to import wheat after drought across the eastern states saw grain production fall 20 per cent*.

"Our farmers have endured so much for so long.

"But what's getting them through is knowing that there are people who care and people who are willing to give them a hand up.

"In this year's Great Aussie BBQ campaign, our goal is to raise $200,000 so we can send more Bush Chaplains and Outback Links volunteers to people in remote Australia that need it the most."

Anyone can host Great Outback BBQ by simply registering, go to greatoutbackbbq.com.au or phone 1300787247. Those committed to raising $500 or more will receive a premium Welcome Kit including a BBQ starter pack and branded apron.

For more information, or to find out how to support Frontier Services, go to frontierservices.org.