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Making a difference for people in the outback

Sam and Dave Pursehouse. Photo courtesy of Sam Pursehouse

During National Volunteer Week Frontier Services is looking for more people to lend a hand in the bush through its volunteer program, Outback Links.

Each year up to 600 Outback Links volunteers travel to rural and remote parts of Australia to lighten the load and fill the gaps for people in the outback.

With farmers across the country facing worsening drought, the need for extra support in remote communities is greater than ever before.

"The helping hand of an Outback Links volunteer makes an enormous difference to people in isolated locations who cannot easily access support," said Outback Links Coordinator Davida Melksham.

"The practical help, as well as the goodwill the volunteers bring with them is invaluable."

Mrs Melksham said that Outback Links responded to the changing needs of people in the bush, filling the gaps for people in a variety of situations.

"Often, simply providing an extra set of hands helps ease the pressure and allows people to catch up on the jobs that otherwise would get pushed aside.

"With tough economic conditions on the land, at least a third of the families we support have been forced to find work off property to supplement their income.

"This leaves a big gap in the work that needs to get done on the station, and usually it is just one or two people carrying the whole workload."

"Having a volunteer come and stay and pitch in where needed helps people keep going."

The Outback Links workforce is extremely diverse. Volunteers include retired people, city professionals, young families and university students, among others.

Each volunteer placement is different but the jobs they do range from feeding animals to mustering cattle, minding children, undertaking repairs inside and outside the home, plumbing, painting and assisting with computers, right through to performing general household duties and gardening.

Louise Salmon recently had volunteers Ian and Fay Laurie assist with flood repairs on her station near Monto, QLD.

My Salmon said "we had almost given up, but the volunteers restored our hope."

Ian and Fay said it's the opportunity to share life and form new friendships that they find rewarding.

"We appreciate the opportunity to become a family friend and support them in their ongoing life."

Mrs Melksham said "It is a really different way of volunteering, allowing our participants to experience and better understand life for people in the outback.

"They come away with a whole new appreciation for life in rural and remote Australia and become advocates for the outback and its people."

"As for the families we support, just knowing that someone cares enough to come and lend a hand means so much to them."

Photo : Sam and Dave Pursehouse. Photo courtesy of Sam Pursehouse