The military ethos of mateship, sacrifice and honour was a shining light for drought-stricken farmers as a group of Townsville veterans travelled west to help their battling brothers on the land.
Eight former service personnel travelled to Goolma Station at Winton, to help the drought affected property owners with jobs around the farm.
The journey was one of mutual respect and healing for the veterans, who rose above their own struggles to help farmers battling their own unique plight.
Veteran support group, The Oasis Townsville, organised the unique program in a bid to connect veterans with farming families who also needed a hand up.
The Oasis Townsville director Floss Foster OAM said the trip was about encouraging veterans to use skills they developed through the course of their careers.
“We wanted to find programs to give the veterans something to do within the community to use the wonderful skills and knowledge they gained while serving,” Ms Foster said.
“We were talking to the owner of Goolma and he said the farmers out west have been in drought for six years and were really struggling to get basic labor jobs done.”
The veterans spent six days undertaking 14 major jobs, contributing an equivalent of 568 volunteer hours.
“That type of labor would have cost almost $24,000, which is the bit farmers can’t afford to do, so they provided the material and tools and we provided the labor,” Ms Foster said.
The crew emptied out the shearing quarters and re-sheeted walls and roofs, bogging, sanding and painting.
They installed airconditioners in two accommodation rooms, removed a rear wall and constructed a 9.5m steel walkway linking the shearing quarters to the kitchen. They also laid a 32m concrete path, replaced 23m of guttering and removed and repainted doors in the main house.
Ms Foster said the work was beneficial for both the farmers and veterans.
“It was a win for both, connecting farmers to veterans and veterans to bush communities, many said the project and journey had changed their life.
“The positive effect on emotional well-being will continue to shine through in the months to come, from that sense of belonging and social connectiveness.”
Ms Foster said funding from Operation Compass, an ex-ADF suicide prevention trial based in Townsville, had helped fund the trip, while Trifty Townsville donated three vehicles and fuel.
She said a group was heading back to help another family next month, and she hoped to send a team out every second month next year.
“We already have another four properties in desperate need and two community projects back out there.
“Next year, if we can get the funding we hope to go back every two months, the farmers are in desperate need of help and the veterans are skilled and talented.
Ms Foster said she hoped to include as many veterans as possible in the project.
“We need to reach the ones who are socially isolated.”