As this issue went to press I made a quick trip to central-western Queensland for family reasons. The flight from Brisbane to Longreach turned out to be a bit of a reality check as the view from the plane was a sobering reminder about the sorry circumstances the country I love so dearly is suffering. The fact is that all but the coastal fringe Queensland is in severe drought and many areas are in their third consecutive year of drastically impaired rainfall. The story is repeated across vast swathes of Australia, in particular in northern NSW, western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia, and the reality is, that even if it bucketed down tomorrow in every place that needs it, it will be many years before farmers recover from the impact of these bad seasons. It takes time for the land to restore, for herds to be rebuilt and for the loans taken to cover the costs of getting by to be repaid. And the longer the drought lasts, the longer it will take until people living in the drought-affected parts get back on track.
As a city dweller, it’s easy to feel helpless in the face of such natural disasters. While organisations such as Baked Relief (bakedrelief.org) and Buy a Bale (buyabale.com.au) do wonderful work and offer much-appreciated moral support to drought-affected farmers, the fact remains that it’s not just the farms that are suffering, it’s all the businesses in the towns and communities that support them as well. Shopkeeper, farmer, he main thing they need is money order to survive and eventually rebuild. And that’s where city dwellers can make a real difference, by taking holidays in remote and regional Australia, shopping in their shops, visiting their produce and farmers’ markets, staying in their accommodation venues and dining in their cafes and restaurants. Along the way you’ll be guaranteed a rich and rewarding experience, see some spectacularly beautiful countryside (not to mention amazing night skies, sunrises and sunsets), and have the chance to see firsthand how our country cousins live and gain a better understanding of where our food and fibre comes from.
In each issue of Australian Country we endeavour to provide a snapshot of our diverse land and the people who call it home. This issue is no exception as we travel from a retreat in the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and an artist’s hideaway in South Australia to a lighthouse keeper’s cottage on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road and the stylishly Boho home of a homewares importer in Western Australia. Our travel feature ventures across the ditch to New Zealand’s Central Otago district and we also take in a garden in the Victorian Goldfields, which is open in Spring. So I urge you please, to take these pages as your inspiration and start planning that short break or grand tour in the Australian countryside. I hope you enjoy this issue as much as we have preparing it and I look forward to seeing you in Australian Country 18.8, which goes on sale October 29.