National Farmers Federation, Rotary Australia and Channel 9 appeal help the Guyra community

Hans Heitbrink - Rotary Guyra president
Hans Heitbrink - Rotary Guyra president

The four Rotary Clubs in Armidale have begun distributing their share of the millions of dollars raised across Australia to help communities suffering from the current drought – however Guyra Rotary is still to decide the best approach to take.

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF)  in partnership with  Channel 9 and Rotary Australia has raised more than $10 million for drought-affected farmers through the 2018 Drought Relief Appeal.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Australians,” NFF president Fiona Simson said.

“We are committed to seeing that every single dollar is translated into the help that our farmers need.”

Reginald Pierce Chair of Rotary Australia World Community Services for District 9650

Reginald Pierce Chair of Rotary Australia World Community Services for District 9650

The  appeal closed on September 30 and  $4.5million has already being distributed directly to farming families through Rotary and other organisations.

More than 200 Rotary Clubs and their local members across seven Rotary Districts are working hand-in-hand with farming families needing assistance through the Rotary Drought Relief Projects Network in the areas impacted, from far North Queensland to Victoria.

The Armidale region falls within Rotary District 9650.  Reginald Pierce is the  District Chair for Rotary Australia World Community Services(RAWCS)  – the branch of the registered charity which is in charge of distributing the funds. He says Rotary District 9650 contains 54 clubs in total and 27 of those are in drought affected areas.

“We were allocated $250,000 to share amongst those 27 clubs and we are giving out about $10,000 per club,” he said.

“The whole approach to this was to leave it to the clubs  because they are on the ground, they know the area and they know the people. Some clubs will use vouchers while others will do it another way. Every club will do it in a way that suits their area’s particular needs.”

Every club will do it in a way that suits their area’s particular needs

Reginald Pierce - Rotary District 9650 RAWC chair

Joyce Durey is the secretary of the Armidale North Rotary Club and she said each of the town’s four clubs had been told they will receive $10,000.

Armidale North Rotary will give its money to the local Salvation Army to distribute; Armidale AM Rotary and Armidale Rotary will both distribute the money in the form of agricultural supplies, petrol and food vouchers through the Rural Financial Counselling Service local office; and Armidale Central Rotary will use the money to help with school fees for the children of  those impacted by the drought.

Mr Pierce said there are no restrictions on when or how the money is spent, only that detailed expenditure records are kept.

“The only criteria we have is that they must supply receipts or invoices for accountability,” he said. 

“We have also made it clear that we want any goods purchased to be purchased within the local area wherever possible. I've kept at an arm’s length from it because I don’t want to interfere with how the clubs are doing it.

there are people overseas who are suffering just as much – if not more

Reginald Pierce - Rotary District 9650 RAWC chair

“Let’s face it – this is an organisation who has been doing this for 115 years. A lot of these Rotarians have been in Rotary for a very, very long time and have done humanitarian work not only in Australia but overseas to the tune of many thousands of dollars .

“Across Australia the RAWC budget we handle is between 13 and 15 million dollars each year so we’re used to distributing large amounts of money – it is not new to us, in fact it’s our core business.”

However Mr Pierce said  none of that RAWC budget will be diverted into the Drought Relief Fund.

“Money has already been allocated to projects and it is not fair to take from one to give to another. Even though the farmers are close to home and are suffering, there are people overseas who are suffering just as much – if not more.”

The Rotary Club of Uralla has also received $10,000 and they will be distributing it via their local Rural Financial Counselling Service in the form of vouchers for use at local businesses such as the supermarket and butcher.

“We are relying on the skill, expertise and firmly established networks we have on the ground,” said Mr Pierce. 

Also in the District is the Rotary Club of Guyra and president Hans Heitbrink said the club is still to decide how best to distribute the $10,000.

“Rest assured the money will end up in the hands of those who need it most,” he said.