Community Care provides support to people in remote, rural and regional communities who have been badly affected by droughts, bushfires, floods and general economic downturn. Sister Anne Mayberry manages services in New South Wales, while Sister Christine Henry is responsible for Downs & West Community Support in southern Queensland.
Sister Anne Mayberry: Remote & Rural, NSW
Q: What’s something you would like people to understand about the struggles of living in the country?
Sister Anne: Many people don’t know about farmers and a lot of them may not care unfortunately. They realise our veggies have gone up in price – but think about the farmers. All their lettuce crops totally destroyed because of the floodwater and the mud sitting in the middle of the lettuce leaves.
We might not be able to get the stuff we need at the supermarket – but what about the farming communities? What expense is it going to cost them, how long is it going to be before they get back on their feet? Who’s going to help them, who’s going to worry about their family and if they can put food on the table?
Q: Why are you drawn toward helping people in remote and rural NSW?
Sister Anne: It’s a spiritual journey going out to the bush and often when I come back I write poetry or reflections on the places I’ve been. That’s where you get solitude. What you see out there is amazing. Once I get to Katoomba and see all the concrete jungles I want to do a U-turn and go back!
You go out there and see how grateful these people are and they just hug you to death, because someone cares about them… If that doesn’t spur you on I don’t know what does. People often say that you get more out of it than the people you help.
Sister Christine Henry: Downs & West Community Support, Queensland
Q: Tell us about someone special you’ve helped.
Sister Christine: Nine-year-old Patrick* was out baling hay with his dad. As he walked beside the hay baler he fell and his long hair got caught by the blades and he was instantly partially de-scalped. Before getting into the Care-Flight helicopter, he told his dad he wanted Prince Harry to be at the hospital.
His distressed mother called us, we responded without hesitation and were at the hospital where we spent time with a very frightened and sick Patrick before he went to theatre. We stayed on with the parents until he was in recovery and the parents were able to be with him. Patrick has recovered from surgery and is having counselling. Two things for sure, he wants short hair from now on and a dog just like Harry.
Q: What are the critical issues facing farmers and people in rural/remote southern Queensland?
Sister Christine: High incidence of depression, suicide, financial debts spiralling out of control, increased isolation of people and family break-up. Increased work hours and unemployment meaning less time for extended family.
Increased health issues. Increased cost for fodder, forced selling off of stock at low prices, fear of losing their farms through re-possession by the bank. Equine influenza and wild dog attacks. Weather events like drought, bushfires, flash floods and severe frosts.
How the Foundation and Community Care will work together
“Our Foundation will act as a backbone, providing additional support and strengthening services where we can,” says Foundation CEO Louise Burton. “By joining together we will be able to positively impact more lives.”
The Sisters visit struggling families and communities in person, racking up hundreds of kilometres on their solitary drives through the outback. Through our Community Grants Program we’ve long funded small charities and programs that help people in rural and regional Australia. The Sisters are uniquely placed to listen to and observe what these communities need – in the future their expertise will influence how we can offer our support.
The Foundation also offers university or TAFE scholarships for disadvantaged young people who have grown up in out-of-home care. It is our hope that the Sisters may discover young people deserving of a scholarship during their travels, and refer them to us.
“We’re inspired by Sister Anne and Sister Christine,” says Louise. “Their commitment to farming families and communities devastated by events outside their control is incredible. They’ve had an enormous impact so far.”
*Name changed for privacy.
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