Double Whammy: The Towns Struck By Both Bushfire And Drought

Tough times for farmers in the Cassilis region

In February last year, bushfire tore through the North West of New South Wales.

The Sir Ivan fire began in Leadville, and burned for almost a month, destroying 55,000 hectares of land, 35 properties and 4,535 livestock around the towns of Cassilis, Coolah and Dunedoo.

Graham Goodman, a local farmer and RFS volunteer, was out fighting the fires when his 2,200 acre property burned to the ground. He lost virtually everything and had to sell off stock to survive.

“We lost two houses and our woolshed and hayshed and 900 head of sheep, so it’s been pretty devastating and… yeah, it hasn’t got much better with these dry times.”

18 months later, the land in and around the fire zone still hasn’t recovered, and lies parched from the remorseless drought. Graham has rebuilt his home and put off retirement plans.

“We’ve got to stay positive,” Graham says. “That’s what my wife and I said when our house was burnt, well there’s not much we can do about it, you just put your head down and tail up and go again.”

But with another fire season approaching, the community remain on edge about the prospect of the tinder-dry land sparking into fire again – and whether they can last on the land.

“There are a lot of people right now who I think would be on the verge of selling off and I think that’s our last option, we never want to do that,” says Myles Martin.

The Martin family have run their property since 1890 and 40% of it was burnt in the fires. They also sold stock after the fires, but all of the money made from that has now gone as they battle through skyrocketing costs to deal with the drought.

They’re spending $25,000 on feed a week, just to keep their 6000 ewes and 1000 cows alive.

The farmers in the region say government assistance will help, but it will only cover a fraction of their costs.

If you want to help Australian farmers in need, you can donate to a registered charity. Donate online to Rural Aid's Buy a Bale, Drought Angels, Aussie Helpers or Lions' Need for Feed. You can also support farmers by buying Australian grown produce at your local supermarket.

Other ways to assist include The Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.