A decision by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to lift the maximum amount available through the Queensland Drought Appeal will allow administrators greater flexibility when assessing requests.
QCWA state president, Joy Coulson, said raising the amount available per farming family from $5000 to $7500 meant that in exceptional circumstances, applications that warranted an amount greater than $5000 to a particular applicant would be able to be processed.
Welcoming the announcement, Ms Coulson emphasised that applicants weren’t guaranteed to receive $5000 or the higher amount.
“Say for example I get a rates bill for $5800 – this change means I can use my discretion to pay above $5000,” she said.
Aimed at farming families, Ms Coulson said the assistance took the form of paying bills presented, such as for fuel, groceries, rates, electricity accounts or mechanical repairs.
“We don’t deal with cash,” she said. “Applicants need to show us proof of who they are and the address they’re living at, and send us the bills they’d like paid.
“We are running the appeal under the same eligibility criteria as the Public Rural Crisis Fund that we’ve had for the last seven years, and are taking into account how we can help, based on the bills we see.”
While regional businesses aren’t generally able to apply, although Ms Coulson said she understood how townspeople felt, adding she had been able to help some small shops that were in danger of closing, she said taking the burden of some payments away from primary producers would have a flow-on effect around the rest of the community.
“I really wish we could help more, but it’s important to remember we’re one of about 40 such organisations doing this,” she said.
“The people we’ve been speaking with have been very grateful to have their store credit paid – it means they can feed their family and concentrate on the hard part, feeding their animals.”
So far over 900 families have received assistance and around $3.8m has been distributed from the collective pool available to the QCWA, of the Queensland Drought Appeal and money that has come in from partners such as Red Cross, NAB and others.
Ms Coulson personally assesses every application that comes in, with the help of an administrative assistant, and authorised 160 bills alone to be paid last weekend.
“People need to identify anything to be paid, that will help keep them on the land,” she said.
The change to the limit available comes as the Queensland appeal tally climbs beyond $2.8 million, boosted by last week’s Parliament House fundraiser that collected $120,000.