Wimmera Drought Crews -Birchipl
Wimmera crews met Premier Daniel Andrews, Minister for Environment and Water Lisa Neville and Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford (not pictured) at a barbecue near Birchip last week.


Wimmera Catchment Management Authority is continuing the program through to December as a result of extra Victorian Government Drought Support funding.
There are now 28 people working across the Wimmera on community and environmental projects. Nineteen have been working since before Christmas. Crew members come from a range of backgrounds and include grain growers, farm workers, agricultural business owners and cattle and sheep producers.


Wimmera CMA Chief Executive David Brennan says the program is providing regular income for farmers, farm workers and farm businesses affected by drought. At the same time it is benefiting community projects, Landcare groups and the environment.
“We are really pleased to be able to help people right through until December, with flexible work arrangements that will enable them keep things running on their farms as well,” Mr Brennan says.

“It is fantastic to hear community stories how the program is helping everyone out. This is a really positive project and everyone involved is extremely proud of what they’re doing.”
Crew members say it’s not just the paid employment they are enjoying – it’s getting together with others, working as a team and contributing towards community and environmental projects.
Jane Edwards from MacKenzie Creek says benefits of the program include seeing different parts of the country and gaining an appreciation they aren’t the only ones affected by drought.
“To see that we’re not the only ones in drought, seeing that there are far more people being affected by drought in the area, to talk about what they’re doing and how they’re dealing with it, how they’re handling it and what’s going to happen for the future. It’s really good.
“It’s also great opportunity to get out, see the countryside and earn some money,” Ms Edwards said.
Steve Sallmann, who has a cattle farm near Dimboola, says the program’s flexibility works well and he appreciates being able to earn off-farm income. But what he enjoys most is getting together with other people and contributing to community projects.
“Working with different people, doing different jobs, but mainly working with people is really good. A lot of days are highlights. We worked at the Jeparit Museum and a few jobs we did there and they (the local community) were delighted. They were jobs they thought would never get done and they were so appreciative and we felt pretty good about it. Some are doing it hard and some harder than others – but this is not all about that – it’s about getting with other people, a bit of money coming in, enjoying yourself.”
Ken Dodds from Nhill says the team aspect has been brilliant. “It’s been great working with Wimmera CMA and going to the local towns. And now here we are in this beautiful setting in the wetlands north of Lake Hindmarsh doing fencing for conservation. It’s a bit of employment plus doing great things for your area and for your district.”

The Wimmera Drought Employment Crews are working in partnership with councils, Landcare and communities. Projects include pest plant and animal control, walking track upgrades, restoring wetland and stormwater wetland areas and riparian protection fencing. They’re also helping with clean-ups around public halls, parks, flora and fauna reserves, museums and along the Wimmera River.