Western Queensland Drought Appeal receives a boost from corporate Australia at Longreach Paul Kelly concert

By Sally Cripps
Updated September 28 2015 - 8:21am, first published September 27 2015 - 8:00am
The national symbol of staunch bush resilience, the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame, lit up Longreach's night sky as music legends Paul Kelly and Troy Cassar-Daly played to a crowd of 2000 for the Western Queensland Drought Appeal.

Westpac has joined the weekend efforts of corporate Australia in flying  two planeloads of well-wishers to Longreach with drought relief on their minds, announcing a pledge of $30,000 and a campaign to support western Queensland  relief efforts for local charities and schools.

Through Australian charity GIVIT, which connects those who have with those in need via its website, Westpac has consulted with western Queensland community groups and will inject $10,000 into local schools, as well as support a 2016 drought campaign to encourage further donations.

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Westpac’s state general manager, Greg Crocombe said the team is providing funding to local schools to help meet the immediate needs of students through essential items.

“We are proud to be able to provide  funding for schools in the local region as we know the youth are the future. They need access to essential items to support education and learning and we hope this small contribution helps in doing just that,” Mr Crocombe said.

State schools at Alpha, Aramac, Barcaldine, Bedourie, Birdsville, Blackall, Boulia, Ilfracombe, Isisford, Jericho, Jundah, Longreach, Muttaburra, Stonehenge, Windorah and Winton, and Catholic schools at Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall, will receive a donation.

Westpac has pledged a further $20,000 to meet the long-term needs of the region through a new initiative of GIVIT – a drought campaign launching in 2016.

GIVIT founder and CEO, Juliette Wright said the initiative is an inter-agency response to drought calling out from one rural area at a time.

“We are incredibly grateful to have the support of Westpac while launching this initiative in 2016,” Ms Wright said. “Through it, everyday Australians will have a platform to show their admiration and support for those doing it tough in rural and remote parts of outback Queensland.

“The $20,000 from Westpac ensures the longevity of this initiative, enabling GIVIT to support drought-stricken regions through the platform for years to come. Not only that, but the platform can adapt to various locations – meaning more regions will benefit, more communities and families.”

The pain being endured by drought-stricken western Queensland was firmly imprinted on the minds of corporate Australia on the weekend through initiatives by Longreach-based Danny Sheehan and City2Bush, designed to raise awareness of the struggles being endured as money and populations dry up, and to inject cash into the region’s economy.

Australian Hotels Association national CEO Stephen Ferguson, along with his entrepreneur partner Paul O’Brien and Shea Morrison, the founders of City2Bush, had further exciting news on Monday afternoon, announcing that a grand total of $102,000 had been raised by their trip, which will go towards community groups in the drought-affected western Queensland towns of Longreach, Cunnamulla, Blackall, Tambo, Clermont, Roma, Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia, Winton and Barcaldine.

The group of 100 guests from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne raised the money through auctions, raffles and donations as well as a $50,000 contribution from UBET. The TAB operator arranged for the 125th anniversary of racing in Longreach to be the town’s first TAB meet, with all profits from betting on the raceday going towards the total fundraising figure.

On top of this is an estimated $25,000 spent on accommodation, meals and services in Longreach.

“We like to come out and hear the stories firsthand and then send cheques,” Stephen said of the City2Bush initiative.

Acting CEO of Racing Queensland, Ian Hall was one of those who flew to Longreach for the weekend of tourism, culture and direct injection to the local economy, saying that anything that could be done for rural areas was important.

“It’s not until you actually come out and see it, that the drought really hits home. You have to feel very sorry for people on the land – there’s not a lot they can do in the face of this.”

He added that Racing Queensland had spent $14 million in regional Queensland in 2014 and was very aware of the value of racing to small communities.

Manchester-born Nick Becker, representing Melbourne City Football Club, was another of the fly-in visitors, saying that he had only been in Australia for six weeks and he hadn’t expected to come face to face with severe drought so soon.

“The outback and Longreach was on my bucket list. Now I will have to return another time when it’s rained to see it when it’s green,” he said.

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