An agenda of key issues which need to be addressed in drought-stricken Western Queensland has been established and the profile of the Western Queensland Drought Appeal brought to national attention following The Sunday Mail’s Bush Forum event.
Western Queensland has been in drought for four years and with businesses in small towns struggling as a consequence, The Sunday Mail decided something had to be done.
“Our motivation was very much around making life better for our country cousins,” Sunday Mail editor Peter Gleeson said.
“There’s been a lot of talk from politicians and key stakeholders on what to try to do to help these people, but we believe no one has really come up with any tangible outcomes. So we decided to have our own Bush Forum.”
“It’s all about keeping decision makers accountable.”
Speakers at the September 26 event held in Longreach included Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, state opposition leader Lawrence Springborg, AgForce Queensland president Grant Maudsley, banking industry representatives and rural lawyers.
The main outcome of the forum was the identification of six key drought-related issues that needed to be addressed – issues upon which The Sunday Mail plans would continue to campaign.
The issues identified were mental health, rural internet access, bank foreclosures, power prices, controlling wild dogs and the “epidemic” of kangaroos eating grass for livestock.
The newly-launched Western Queensland Drought Appeal also was heavily promoted by The Sunday Mail at the forum and Deputy Premier Trad pledged a $50,000 state government contribution to the fund.
Appeal treasurer Bill Ringrose said in some respects keeping the challenges of the drought in the national conscious was just as important as raising money for the fund.
“One of the main things that we see out of the Bush Forum is the coverage that we’re getting in terms of the drought,” Mr Ringrose said.
“It’s not just a one-off story and there’s an ongoing focus on it and we know that every week there’s going to be stuff about it.”
The Sunday Mail teamed with Nine’s Today breakfast TV show, which hosted its program in Western Queensland shortly after the Bush Forum, and helped bring the drought and the appeal to national attention.
Other media also has been covering the drought include a number of ABC radio programs which will be broadcasting from Toowoomba this week.
“The combination of all these things is that we keep the problem and the terrible nature of this drought at the forefront of the minds of people in the cities.”
“The combination of all these things is that we keep the problem and the terrible nature of this drought at the forefront of the minds of people in the cities,” Mr Ringrose said.
Mr Gleeson said it was important The Sunday Mail “maintains the rage” in relation the Bush Forum campaign.
“I think campaigning for this sort of thing is something that newspapers are very much about,” he said.
“I think it’s part of our DNA that we help people when they’re in moments of need and this is certainly one of those.”