Soon after the hail storm of November 11, Riverland Wine approached the State Government and offered to fund one full-time equivalent Family and Business Scout (FaBS) for up to six months to liaise between growers and support agencies. Many will recall the great work undertaken by FaBS in response to the drought. The system worked well and connected many who were ‘suffering in silence’ to pick up the pieces and press on. Minister Bignell welcomed the initiative and matched the offer.
Riverland Wine identified several potential ‘scouts’ from within the community and this week the first induction session was convened at Loxton. Former FaBS Mentor Judy Wilkinson, a broadacre farmer from the mid-north, spent several hours with the ‘interested’ new FaBS explaining the nature of the Scouts role. She described it as ‘the conduit’ between the growers who’ve suffered losses but don’t know which way to turn for support and agencies that can assist in a multitude of ways. Understanding which institutions can provide guidance and support can be confusing and even intimidating; not just financial support but wellbeing in every sense. There’s nothing worse than lying awake worrying and not knowing who to approach; even just to talk through the worries.
Concerns about confidentiality are often an impediment. It’s human nature to want to be successful. When circumstances beyond anyone’s control, like hailstorms, single out selected families for a harsh lesson in farming risk, it’s common for some to feel as if they have failed in some way. The Scout’s role is a challenging one but one that Riverland Wine and PIRSA think is a vital part of the recovery effort; not just for wine growers but for all those whose livelihoods have been impacted by the ‘once in a lifetime’ storm. In the coming weeks, further training and preparation will be undertaken and then the Scouts will be made known. It’s likely that their real work will begin as soon as the income streams that would normally enable budgets to balance run dry. For some this will be very soon. For winegrowers it’s likely to be later in the year but whatever the case, the Scouts will be ready.
Thankfully many of the damaged trees and vines are well into recovery. This can give the impression that all’s well when in fact the impact on families and businesses is just beginning to emerge. Don’t wait for the Scouts; take the time to ask RUOK and listen actively. Sometimes, that’s all it takes to encourage a friend or neighbour to feel better.