Tim Fairfax: how I beat the Black Dog

Tim Fairfax: how I beat the Black Dog


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Tim Fairfax, AC, is the chairman of TFFF and a director of FRRR.

Tim Fairfax, AC, is the chairman of TFFF and a director of FRRR.

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TIM Fairfax, AC knows exactly what it is like to suffer with the debilitating impact of depression.

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TIM Fairfax, AC knows exactly what it is like to suffer with the debilitating impact of depression.

Just three months after buying the Monto property Rawbelle in the early 1970s, the cattle slump hit, destroying the viability of the business.

"It was an extremely tough time for everyone," Mr Fairfax said.

"It was before I was married, and in hindsight I realise that I should have sought some sort of help or at least talked about my situation.

"I didn't talk to anyone about what was happening or how I felt. I had no option but to lay off the stationhand and try to do whatever I could to run the place.

"The situation really ground me down and I remember essentially just giving up.

"I made a conscious decision that I would maintain the waters and that was about it. I just stayed home and read books.

"It took me about six months to realise that there was no future in doing nothing.

"Fortunately I recovered and gained my sense of purpose."

Mr Fairfax, who went on to become one of the major shareholders of Rural Press, the then owner of Queensland Country Life, is drawing on his own experiences to encourage community groups in drought-hit areas of Queensland and the northern Tablelands area of NSW to access funds to help them tackle the situation that continues to unfold.

The program, which is being run by the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), is funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation (TFFF) for Queensland, while the Yulgilbar Foundation is providing funding for the northern Tablelands area of NSW.

The 'Tackling Tough Times Together' grants aim to bring community members together to do what he says is the most important thing to do at these times - talk.

"I recall my own experience of dealing with the beef crisis in the '70s - the prolonged stress and uncertainty takes its toll on you, on your family and on your children.

"It affects your income and your ability to just deal with day-to-day life," said Mr Fairfax, who is the chairman of TFFF and a director of FRRR.

"People say 'I'll be right, mate', and carry on, and while people in the bush are pretty resilient you can only cope with so much on your own for so long. So my hope is that this program will help those who are struggling by allowing them to come together and talk about it."

FRRR chief executive officer Alexandra Gartmann said grants of up to $10,000 were available for not-for-profit initiatives that helped people connect.

"We can't make it rain but we know from previous experience in supporting drought-affected communities - and helping communities recover from floods, fires and cyclones - that many people need to talk about what is happening and hear how others are coping, while others just want to get on and do something," she said.

"That's why this program will fund community-based mental health and wellbeing activities that help to relieve current stressors and symptoms and, most importantly, build capacity and resilience for the future. It can also support some of the activities that engage people in being active, exploring options and creating something that will stand the test of tough times.

"Like all our grant programs, the initiatives are driven by the community. So each application will reflect what each community needs and responds to. This could be holding a community event or stress management classes, learning yoga, or perhaps putting on a play - any initiative that facilitates social connection or creates opportunities for people to share their issues and concerns, build skills and knowledge, or reduce the potential for long-term mental health issues."

  • A small number of larger grants of up to $50,000 will be available for projects that support more than one community, or which involve a larger-scale, one-off initiative. Detailed program guidelines and an application form are available on FRRR's website - www.frrr.org.au
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