Drought commissioners announced

Vaughan Johnson, Mark O'Brien new drought commissioners

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing Vaughan Johnson and Mark O'Brien as wild dog commissioners in 2015. They are now working as drought commissioners for the Palaszczuk government. Picture by Sally Cripps.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing Vaughan Johnson and Mark O'Brien as wild dog commissioners in 2015. They are now working as drought commissioners for the Palaszczuk government. Picture by Sally Cripps.

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The Palaszczuk government will appoint two drought commissioners and inject $9 million into programs to deal with the social and financial impacts of the drought on regional Queensland communities and families.

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The Palaszczuk government will appoint two drought commissioners and inject $9 million into programs to deal with the social and financial impacts of the drought on regional Queensland communities and families.

The investment is in addition to more than $670 million provided by successive Queensland governments on drought relief over more than five years.

The Premier said drought commissioners Vaughan Johnson and Mark O’Brien had agreed to work without remuneration to personally provide her with firsthand information about the effectiveness of drought assistance across affected areas of Queensland.

“This work will build on the success Mark and Vaughan have had as wild dog commissioners across western Queensland, and their own experience in working with welfare and community groups throughout our regions.

“Mark has over a decade of experience working with St Vincent De Paul throughout south west Queensland and on the organisation’s state board, and Vaughan Johnson was a member of the Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal Fund Distribution Committee through the devastating 2011 floods.

“They’ll advise Minister for Agricultural Industry Development, Mark Furner and I about what is working best, and how things can be improved to deliver support to the farmers, families and small business who are doing it so tough in drought affected communities.”

The Premier also outlined an additional $8 million in funding to support mental health and financial counselling services.

“Unlike other natural disasters, the effects of drought are felt over the long-term, so $4 million will go to the Wellbeing Service provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service over the next four years,” the Premier said.

“There’ll be more mental health assistance through another $2 million over two years for the Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care program in drought-affected communities.

“And we will also allocate $2 million over two years to an expanded Small Business Financial Counselling Service to help drought affected farmers navigate these extremely stressful situations.

That’s $8 million in total over four years to help people keep going and to help their farms and businesses keep going through this devastating drought.”

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development, Mark Furner said an additional $1 million would put towards helping farmers access all-important fodder for their stock.

“We can’t make it rain, but we can ease the burden of keeping stock alive,” Minister Furner said.

“We will inject another $1 million to increase to 2000km the maximum distance that fodder can be transported at a subsidised rate.

“To put that in some perspective – the longest distance from corner to corner in New South Wales is about 1300km.

“This allows fodder to be transported to the most northerly drought affected area in Queensland, just south of Normanton, from the Mallee in Victoria, where fodder is available – at the subsidised rate.

“For farmers for whom every cent is vital, this provides the potential to keep getting feed to stock.”

The Premier called on all Queenslanders to get behind the Queensland Drought Appeal at qlddroughtappeal.com.au or by texting DROUGHT to 0484 200 200.

“You can also support funding efforts being undertaken by everyone from major corporations to community groups and schools to help all drought affected farmers across Australia,” the Premier said.

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