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Local charity to train disadvantaged youths as farmers

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Aussie Helpers

Aussie Helpers is a 40-strong not-for-profit that has been operating in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania since 2002. With a goal of helping to fight poverty in the bush, it aims to build and strengthen families in the bush, farming communities, country people and country towns through counselling, visits, excursions, human food and stock feed.

Founder Brian Egan, says “The beneficiaries of Aussie Helpers activities are genuine people who are going through really tough times.

“Aussie Helpers impact on the people and places that we connect with and is fully verified by the hundreds of letters we receive each year from farming families assisted by Aussie Helpers. Once these farmers get back on their feet the flow-on will benefit the rural communities and country towns.”

Inspiration behind the program

Egan’s latest program, the Glenvale training farm, has come about as the result of a previous Aussie Helper’s initiative. In 2007, the charity assisted farmers in western Queensland who needed to run a cattle drive, yet were understaffed and could not afford drovers. Egan sourced volunteers from homeless shelters in Brisbane to train as drovers. Over twelve months, 16 homeless men and women assisted in the cattle drive, and were simultaneously trained in motor bike riding, horse riding, fencing, camp cooking and animal husbandry, amongst other things. Of the 16 people who took part in the cattle drive, over 60 per cent obtained full time work in the rural sector.

Egan comments on the success of the program, “these homeless people who had been unwanted by society found that they were capable of attaining great heights in skills and responsibility.”

“Their employment in the rural sector has given them a purpose in life,” he said.

Glenvale training farm

The current Glenvale program builds from the previous success of the 2007 program.

At Glenvale, Aussie Helpers will provide the participants with accommodation, meals, training and support. After an initial four week induction period, the participants will work with host farmers in and around the surrounding areas for five months, during which time they will be trained in rural skills and given ‘on-farm experiences’.

Aussie Helpers see many benefits from the initiative. “The training farm will of course be a win-win situation.

“The participants will be given a new chance at becoming a productive member of society,” Egan said.

“Participants will have the confidence and pride within themselves, the necessary skills, training and ability to rejoin society and gain paid full time employment in the rural sector.”

In an associated part of the program, the participants will also be involved in community service work in the local area, to assist the elderly and infirm people with gardening and lawn maintenance.

“This will teach our participants about giving back to the community. It will help them gain valuable social skills as well as giving them a sense of worth and community spirit,” Egan said.

For the farmers, they receive five months of farm-labour help from the trainees, who will be funded by the work for the dole program.

“Many farmers are in desperate need of farm labour but cannot afford it. Our program will ease the day-to-day burden on many farming families who are continually struggling to survive due to drought, poor commodity prices and the constant financial pressure of modern day farming,” Egan said.

“By helping farming families to stay on the land this will have a flow on effect which will in turn help build and strengthen the greater farming communities, the local country town’s people, local business and the rural community.

“The local community will also benefit by having our trainees volunteer their time in community projects and the local businesses will benefit from Aussie Helpers using local trade’s people here on the farm for repairs and maintenance to the farm.”

At this stage, the program is only operating at Glenvale. “Of course we would love to expand the idea to other states, however financially that is not possible at this time,” Egan said. Aussie Helpers is a not-for-profit organisation and relies on the generosity of their supporters.

The program will begin operating in January 2010, after the Christmas/ New Year season.

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