Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford has announced a $25 million Drought Preparedness and Support Package with targeted support for mental health, small business planning and support for parents in farming communities to manage cost of living pressures.
Families in East and Central Gippsland will be able to access $8.45 million in support for education costs, including $2.2 million for back to school support, a further $5 million to extend the Camps, Sports and Excursion Fund, and $1.25 million for children attending kindergarten in drought-affected areas.
A further $370,000 will go towards supporting small businesses with planning workshops and mobile mentoring services in East and Central Gippsland.
Farming communities in northern Victoria will also be given support to prepare for drought, with dry conditions and extremely low rainfall already causing difficult conditions.
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This includes more than $2 million for mental health and wellbeing services, with $180,000 of this funding dedicated to the National Centre for Farmer Health to deliver health checks to farmers.
Northern Victorian farmers will also now be able to apply to the Drought Infrastructure Grant Program along with farmers in Central and East Gippsland with an $11.8 million boost to the program.
The package also includes $1 million to make sure wild pest and animal control programs are processed faster and better coordinated regionally.
In addition, farmers across Northern Victoria will be able to better prepare for drought with $1 million to provide expert technical and business support to help them make good, early decisions around farm management, including animal health, feed budgeting and land management.
“We know our farmers’ are resilient, capable and innovative, but we need to make sure the support you need is there and that no one goes it alone,” Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford said.
Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president David Jochinke welcomed the news, and also called on the government to ensure measures such as infrastructure grants available to farmers are meaningful for effective change, and added that relief from fixed-term costs such as council rates should also be addressed.
“The focus on additional support for mental health, small business planning and support for parents of school and kindergarten children, is all welcome, as is the expansion of previously announced Drought Infrastructure Grants for Central and East Gippsland to include farmers in parts of northern Victoria, Wimmera and the Mallee,” Mr Jochinke said.
“The VFF also notes funding allocated for wild pest and animal control and is eager hear how this will be used to speed up processing of cull permits.”
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