More help for workers in drought-affected areas

20th November 2006The Federal Government has changed the Drought Force program to make it easier for those who have lost their jobs in Exceptional Circumstances areas to do volunteer work on private farms and receive a pay packet from the Government.

Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone, says the changes mean that people in receipt of the Newstart allowance in EC-declared areas who work more than 30 hours per week under the Drought Force program on farms will no longer have to actively search for other work.

Drought Force was first introduced by the Australian Government in 2002 to allow workers who have lost their jobs due to drought to work on drought-affected properties while they receive Newstart allowance and earn training credits.

“The loss of the rural workforce is of critical concern to rural communities,” Dr Stone said.

“It places tremendous strain on couples and families and is often the final catalyst for relationship breakdown, farm sale and, in extreme cases, the collapse of small local communities.

“As families are lost, schools may close, and the viability of sporting teams, service clubs and essential voluntary services like fire brigades is also threatened.”

Drought also places a double burden on farms with livestock, where animals have to be fed and watered in addition to the many other everyday duties of a farmer.

“Volunteers to Drought Force often work far more than the 15 hours per week required to receive their allowance, spurred on by their desire to help farm family, friends and community in their time of hardship,” Dr Stone said.

“This extra effort can make it difficult for individuals to meet the job search test of making four or more job applications each fortnight, which is why the Government has decided to remove this requirement for those working 30 hours per week or more,” Dr Stone said.

All Drought Force participants will continue to receive an additional $20.80 each fortnight above the standard Newstart allowance and will also have access to $1600.00 in Training Credits.

These credits pay for accredited training or other employment-related courses.

* Further information on Drought Force can be accessed at:

SOURCE: National agri-political news updated daily by FarmOnline.

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