Farmer Army Tackles Drought

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WorkPac Gunnedah has partnered with Gunnedah Shire Council to create the Drought Employment Program Initiative. 

The drought has had a significant impact on our local community, so when WorkPac Gunnedah was approached by Gunnedah Shire Council to partner with them for the Drought Employment Program initiative, the team jumped at the opportunity.

Headed up by Business Centre Manager Ingrid Kaineder, WorkPac Gunnedah is a local business that specialises in employment services for a diverse range of industries such as Construction, Health Care, Mining, Agriculture, Manufacturing and Engineering. 

“To be able to assist local farmers with temporary off-farm employment, not only ensures that individuals stay in the area, but also provides an income stream and a sense of purpose during this drought – it was a no brainer!” said Ingrid.

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“The team here at WorkPac are proud to be supporting such a great initiative. As a business working locally, for locals, it’s great to be able to help out our community in such a time of need.”

Gunnedah Shire Council has sought proposals for community projects that would stimulate local spending, provide employment and use local businesses and suppliers while delivering a long-lasting public benefit. The Council’s Community Resilience Program is funding the approved projects that will stimulate the economy and help build Gunnedah Shire’s strength and resilience during adverse events like this drought. 

Some of these projects include the upgrade to Stock Road, a Eucalyptus Plantation for the proposed Wildlife Park/Koala Hospital, upgrades to Porcupine Lookout and a number of park and garden projects around the region. 

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In December 2019, Gunnedah Shire Council announced it was forming a temporary workforce of people whose primary income had been impacted by the drought, offering flexible work arrangements to help keep money coming in. 

The Council’s Drought Employment Program was opened to farmers, farm workers, contractors, business owners, supplier and employees in related industries, and attracted interest from about 20 people. 

Not only does the program provide a supplementary income to help lessen the financial impacts of the drought on individuals and families but also provides temporary, flexible work conditions designed to fit within their needs and availability, diverse work opportunities across a range of locations, and an opportunity to gain new skills and build on existing skills to expand peoples’ future opportunities.

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“The type of work and rosters are varied. This allows flexibility so that our Farmers are able to maintain commitments with the land. The Council works around them!” said Ingrid.

The Farmer Army is at work around the Shire, helping build a more sustainable future. 

Gunnedah Shire Mayor Jamie Chaffey said the recent rain had meant many of those people had been kept busy on farm, but six people were already at work on a number of projects. “This is proving to be a wonderful initiative,” Cr Chaffey said. 

“There are many people with valuable skills who are willing and able to work, but need a flexible option that will allow them to fulfil their on farm obligations. We are keen to keep our hard-working residents and families here, and this provides an option to help the Shire and to supplement their incomes. “

“It’s also a great resource for Council to have temporary workers who can assist with some of the many important community projects that are under way.”

Cr Chaffey said Council planned to again recruit more people to the Farmer Army later this month. 

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“There is plenty of work out there, and we want to offer it to as many people as we can,” he said. 

“While the Shire is benefitting from the Farmer Army members’ experience, we are also offering the chance to learn new skills and build on existing skills so that people are even more employable.” 

The success of the Program will hopefully mean that similar projects will happen all over Australia to assist our farming communities. 

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