Fire up the barbie for Aussie farmers

With 2020 having already delivered the worst bushfire season on record, floods, a pandemic, and little relief from a nine-year drought, Frontier Services, Australia’s oldest bush charity, is calling on Aussies far and wide to re-unite with family and friends and host a Great Outback BBQ this September to December, in support of our farmers doing it tougher than ever.

From September, Frontier Services, a Uniting Church non-profit organisation dedicated to providing critical face to face support for farmers and grazers in rural communities, is once again encouraging the public to demonstrate a show of mateship and solidarity for our hardworking farmers by gathering a few mates together, buying Aussie produce and hosting a Great Outback BBQ.

All funds raised will go towards supporting Frontier Services’ programs, which provide practical and pastoral support to farmers across Australia suffering from severe financial strain, physical and emotional stress and social isolation, while dealing with the fall-out of a relentless period of droughts, fires, floods and now the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After months of isolation, we hardly need an excuse to catch up with family and friends, but this is a really good one, allowing you to play a critical part in helping our Aussie farmers in need,” says Jannine Jackson, CEO of Frontier Services. “Gathering around the barbie and sizzling up some snags while raising funds is a fun and easy way to show our Aussie brothers and sisters in the bush that we are with them.”

For the past two years, Steve Binnie has helped organise a Great Outback BBQ at Trinity North Uniting Church. Each year, Rev Mitch Fialkowski, Bush Chaplain for Remote Area Ministry Meekatharra, has attended the event to share stories and challenges facing both the people living in the bush, and the Bush Chaplains themselves.

One year the congregation held an outback themed worship service, encouraging those present to give financially on the day.

“Simple things we did were encouraging everyone to wear an outdoor hat and chequered shirt,” Steve said. “We set up the worship area to bring the outdoors inside. We had with a fake fire and cuttings from gum trees and at the start of the service brought in all the parts of ‘camping out’ camp table, chairs and billy with a short reflection on what each item could mean in a Christian context.

“Our main focus was an ‘interview around the camp fire’ style Q and A based on Mitch’s experiences of supporting the communities he has served in.

“We then held the BBQ after the service, a great opportunity for sharing stories and of course collecting the much needed funds.”

The next year, Trinity North Uniting Church held a talent night alongside their Great Outback BBQ.

“As it was a BBQ dinner we combined the traditional sausage sizzle with roast lamb rolls, ice creams and soft drinks all served up during intermission. Everyone was dressed in their bush gear and brought their outdoor chairs or blankets.

“It was a great opportunity to invite a wider group of family and friends to an entertainment event where they discovered the a little bit about Frontier Services. We mixed in a short slide show before intermission about Frontier Services’ latest updates and Mitch was able to give a short overview of his recent community work.

“Whether it’s a small BBQ with family and friends or a simple sausage sizzle after a church service, the Great Outback BBQ is a wonderful way to reflect on both the history and ongoing essential service that Frontier Services and their Bush Chaplains bring to our families and communities in the bush.

“I have found that the Frontier Services team are very forth coming in offering support, so make yourself known to the Frontier Services team and they will be able to support you in any way they can,” Steve said.

Jannine believes there has never been a more challenging period in history for Australian farmers and their rural communities.

“It has been only six months since worst bushfire season on record and we are still living through the worst drought in history. Rains in some areas brought devastating floods, while in others, there has been hardly a drop,” she said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the ‘triple whammy’ for farmers, stopping many from selling their stock due to the closure of overseas markets and the entire hospitality industry being at a standstill.

“These disasters have not been separated by a year, they’ve happened back to back and the hits just keep on coming,” said Jannine.

“The financial, emotional and mental health repercussions have been devastating and the pandemic has made providing the support and services so sorely needed by our farmers and their communities even more difficult.”

Frontier Services runs two programs: Bush Chaplaincy and Outback Links. The Bush Chaplains travel tens of thousands of kilometres each year visiting individuals and families on remote properties for coffee and a chat. They are often at the frontline identifying issues and referring people to other service providers and help save countless lives each year.

Meanwhile, Outback Links connects skilled volunteers with people in remote Australia who could use a helping hand. These volunteers donate their skills throughout the year doing repairs and maintenance on equipment, the home and around the property – free of charge. Group trips of volunteers are also organised to carry out larger tasks that individual volunteers might struggle to do on their own.

Last year’s Great Outback BBQ campaign raised $235 000 and Frontier Services hopes to raise even more in 2020.

“Our farmers have endured so much for so long. The reality is, it’s going to take years for them to get back to even half of where they were before the drought hit, let alone the more recent natural disasters including COVID-19 and the bush fires,” said Jannine.

“We’re in it for the long haul and the more Outback BBQs are held this year, the more we can do to help.”

Anyone can host a Great Outback BBQ by registering at www.greatoutbackbbq.com.au or calling 1300 787 247.

Simply invite friends, family or colleagues to your barbie (making sure to abide by any gathering restrictions in your state), and ask them to make a donation. Then hit the shops to stock up on some fresh, local produce and get ready to throw a bonza outback barbie that will tangibly help our mates in the bush.

For more information, or to find out how you can support Frontier Services, visit www.frontierservices.org

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