One of the biggest challenges with government drought assistance packages is that they take forever to actually implement. They are also tied up in miles of red tape and require those who really need assistance to spend considerable time and money filling in the reams of paperwork required to apply for help.
The Rotary Club of Hall Community Committee, headed by Phil Robson, decided to tackle the problem in the most practical way possible.
The aim was to implement something that would provide immediate financial relief where it was needed.
The committee was on to it with a passion. What they came up with was implemented as a trial within two weeks of the initial discussion. This proved to be extremely well received and appears to be working brilliantly.
Initially, the committee decided on gift cards. A key objective was to encourage the money to be spent in the local community. This immediately cut out the use of gift cards from stores like Woolworths, Coles or other multinationals.
The club decided to give farmers Australia Post Visa gift cards loaded with $500. The gift cards look like ordinary Visa cards and so farmers can spend the money freely without fear of it looking like a handout.
The next challenge was in evaluating who needed support and who didn’t. To solve this, the club reached out to the Rural Financial Counselling Service, a not for profit, government-funded organisation that provides financial counselling to farmers throughout the country.
They offer first-hand financial services and are be in a perfect position to be able to evaluate whether or not a particular family was deserving of this kind of support. Using this organisation as the evaluation and distribution method enabled the club and its members to remain at arms-length.
In addition to the thousands donated by the club, we also did bucket collections for a couple of weeks at our market which netted $6,500 from community donations.
The RFCS in is regular contact with the club and reports back on where the cards have been distributed and what the circumstances of the families that are being helped. The club remains at arms-length and all recipients are known only to the counselling service.