Media release

Health cuts fail drought affected Australians

MEDIA RELEASE, 13 May 2016: The decision to cut mental health counselling in drought–affected areas of Australia is being described as “short sighted” and “appalling”.

The day after the 2016-17 Budget was announced rural counselling service providers were notified that drought funding for mental health counselling will cease from June 30 2016.

The budget had allocated $7.1 million for financial counsellors for farmers in drought-affected areas, but no provision for mental health.

New South Wales farmer Peter Holding said it was terrible decision that was out of touch with the difficulties that rural and isolated Australians faced.

“It is absolutely appalling and goes to the lack of understanding of what the situation is in these rural areas. Further, I think the funds cut from state hospital budgets will bite deeply in isolated areas that are without alternative services.”

Psychology for a Safe Climate convenor Carol Ride said providing someone with financial counselling with no consideration of their mental wellbeing was short sighted.

“It assumes all that is lost is financial, rather than acknowledging the emotional impact of the loss of livelihood, their life’s work, being unable to provide for family, loss of independence and a long history of farmers’ resilience” she said.

“To focus on money alone plays into the tendency for farmers to deny their feelings with a stiff upper lip.”

Ms Ride said demand for mental health services would only increase as extreme weather events – such as bushfires, heatwaves and drought – worsened under climate change.

“With climate change we can expect the need for emotional support to grow exponentially, as more and more communities have to deal with the loss that occurs in a bushfire, heatwave or flood.

“A government that is only focused on financial issues is failing these farmers, and is also demonstrating an inability to fathom the size and complexity of climate change as a global public health issue.”

ENDS 

Media contact: Sarah Thompson on 0420 892 450 or [email protected]