Former regional SES controller Bryan Robins
Former regional SES controller Bryan Robins Adam Hourigan

DROUGHT RELIEF: Couple help out again

SUPPORTING drought-stricken farmers is a no-brainer for Clarence Valley residents Bryan and Kerry Robins.

Twenty-four years ago the pictures and stories from the drought-affected areas around Walgett, Bourke and Collarenebri distressed the couple so much they began a public campaign to collect cash and goods for the farmers.

On Wednesday, 24 years to the day after they decided to "get off our bums and do something to help farming families", the couple have decided to reprise Operation Bush Christmas in 2018 as Operation Bush Christmas II.

The rest of the Clarence Valley must have thought similarly, as between December 2 and 4, 1994, the Robinses were able to despatch 102 $100 cheques and 600 hand-wrapped Christmas presents to Collarenebri and 50 $100 cheques to farmers around Bourke.

In return, the couple received dozens of cards and letters from grateful farmers and their families for the generosity of Clarence Valley residents.

"We were blown away by the response," Mr Robins said. "People were doing it so tough, they were grateful to have some presents under the tree and a cheque to cash to buy some goodies for Christmas."

Mr Robins said one letter from a farmer near Bourke, which arrived the week before Christmas 1994, still touched him.

"We are in our fifties and have never before experienced the help and support of so many groups of people - and we sure need it!" the letter said.

"We are physically, financially and emotionally drained - our three children have left and the thought of another long, dry summer is one of despair.

"The dust is blowing, the animals are dying; we carry two rifles on the bikes these days to give weak and bogged stock a merciful death.

"... But we hope for rain and are boosted greatly by your donation.

"We will cash the cheque locally and buy a Christmas hamper and a carton of stubbies."

Mr Robins said he had already engaged Grafton's Village Green and its group to back the campaign.

"The four pubs in the group, the Village Green, the Moonee Beach Tavern, the Hoey Moey and Coffs Harbour Hotel will all be collection points for the campaign."

Mr Robins said there were still be some details to be finalised, but he hoped the campaign could be officially under way by Wednesday.

"I know there are other groups in the Valley looking to support the farmers, but basically the way I see it, the more the merrier," he said.

One of those people is Farrell McCrohon Stock and Station Agent's JoJo Newby, who has put a call out to local people to contribute what they can for drought-affected farmers.

"We have put out a call to people to buy a bag of feed for farmers," she said.

"Basically it can be anything from a bag of dried dog food, to feedstock pellets to salt lick blocks for cattle and sheep.

Ms Newby said people could drop off donations to the office at 85 Fitzroy St, Grafton.

"We've also got donation tins going our around the Valley right now," she said.

"There's already been some fairly sizeable donations in those.

"We just want people to donate their change from a cup of coffee or a beer to help the farmers."

She said donations of other goods were also welcome.

"I would like to remind people that many of these farmers have spent everything they have on looking after their animals so personal items are really welcome," she said.

Ms Newby said she and a number of helpers would take the money goods over the range to distribute to farmers.

Ms Newby said the worth to farmers of these gifts went way beyond their monetary value.

"We've got farmers doing it really tough mentally, who get so much relief from knowing there are people out there wanting to help them.

"Just easing their burden by that little bit gives them that bit more strength to keep going."

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