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Brianna, 20, is a student in Canberra. Her family lives on a small farm in regional NSW. Here she talks about how the drought has affected her and her family, and how she tries to deal with the stress it’s caused.

I didn't realise the full effect of the drought until I visited home

I’m studying at uni in Canberra, and my family lives on a small farm in regional NSW. I’ve found that a lot of people in Canberra aren’t even aware of the drought. It’s a strange contrast to my Facebook feed, which is full of family from the country who are lobbying hard or trying to fundraise for their own and others’ farms.

The full effect of the drought didn’t even hit me until I went home and later visited a friend from far central NSW. I saw how dry the thousands of acres were, and spoke to people who told me about the constant stress of trying to feed their cattle and sheep.

I feel guilty that I’m able to go off to university where the drought barely gets a mention and I’m more stressed about my grades. It’s another world. If it’s that easy for me to be distracted from the drought, then what about the people living in the cities? 

The drought has hit us hard

We have a small acreage with sheep, chickens and dogs. Our feed has been hit hard by the drought, and it hasn’t kept up with what our stock need. The other supplies of feed are scarce and far too expensive, so we can’t afford it.

This has meant my family has been forced to shed sheep numbers, keeping only the top breeders. The lambs were also our source of meat, so we’ve had to start buying the expensive stuff from the shops again. We’re hoping to make it to October when, if it rains, the feed might grow back. If that happens, we’ll be able to breed again. We’re not counting on it, though, as there’s been talk of another tough summer.

The community has come together to support each other

I heard the other day that 100 per cent of NSW is drought-stricken. One good thing that’s come out of how bad things are is the level of community support. Everyone has come together to support each other.

Dad talks about how important it is to share the load, because when one person in the family mainly runs the farm, it can become too much stress and too much work. I’ve been able to stay positive by helping out with work and support (financial and emotional) with both the family and the wider community.

I manage stress by sharing with others

I find that it’s helpful to take a minute to compare my problems to what other people are going through. Because I’m removed from the day-to-day stuff while I’m away at uni, my stress is related to worrying about the farm and my family. To help with this I call home often, and when I’m home I try to help out as much as possible. Also, keeping up my seven-minute workouts and going for a walk/jog helps me generally manage stress.

My advice for people who want to help

In the cities, the drought doesn’t affect a lot of us directly, but I think it should. I would call it a national issue – it actually affects the dinner plate of every Australian. If you want to show support to the people who support us, I would suggest you donate hay bales (buyabale.com). I know there are also some good organisations donating food, water and stock feed to farms that are really in need.

For anyone living through the drought, I would say: ‘Stay close and supportive of your family, and work together as much as possible.’

What can I do now?