The heartwarming Jack of the Drought campaign, which saw $3998 raised by Central Lane Hotel patrons and sent to the tiny western Queensland community, was the brainchild of publican, Rick Adams.
Himself off a property in Far North Queensland, Rick was mulling over how to expand the popular Parma for a Farmer campaign earlier this year when the idea to adopt a sister pub in a drought-stricken area came to mind.
“It’s enough that these hard-working families are up against it, so we wanted to do something to help the locals take their mind off the drought for just a night,” he said.
To help Yaraka, a small community of 16, plus the rural people that fight to keep it alive, Rick set up a keg in his Gladstone pub with a deposit slot.
For every parmy sold, the Central Lane Hotel deposited a dollar, and for every keg of Iron Jack beer tapped, they put in $10.
”We ran it for two-and-a-half months and were taking the money out of the till and putting it into the keg right in front of customers, so people then followed suit with their small change,” Rick said. “It really got people talking. People who come in once a week for a drink would always ask how it was going.”
The night they opened the keg and counted the money was especially charged with emotion.
The bar was full with around 100 people, the Jeff Horn-Tony Mundine boxing match was scheduled, and Lion Nathan had donated an esky for the person who guessed closest to the amount raised.
“Everyone was cheering, it was a great atmosphere and a great feeling for the people in drought,” said Rick.
The Jack of the Drought gesture was very well received in Yaraka on Saturday night, when the community’s annual Christmas Tree party was held.
“It meant that some of the financial pressure was taken off people,” Yaraka publican, Chris Gimblett said. “Everyone is very anxious about what sort of decisions to make, it’s a sort of hope for the best but prepare for the worst situation, and they’ve been doing it for so long.”
The idea also supported local businesses – the alcohol for the night was bought from the hotel and the softdrink was purchased at the local store, the only two shops in the town.
The Gimbletts have become well known for putting their faith in the small remote town and investing in the local hotel, and for helping build the nature tourism potential for the region.
They jumped at the chance to work closely with Rick and the Central Lane Hotel for the cause.
“It was a wonderful concept – it touches everyone in the community where bales of hay might not,” Chris explained.
Rick hoped the sister pub concept would be taken up by other urban hotels in Queensland and NSW.
“People are working like drovers’ dogs and need a break without feeling guilty. From a social point of view, coming together and sharing over a drink is really helpful,” he said.
Funds left over from the initiative will go towards the Yaraka Progress Association