Victorian farmers get a 'night off' after a spike in suicides

ABC By Kirsten Veness 15 Aug 2013

A recent spike in farmer suicides in south-western Victoria has prompted hundreds of farmers to gather in Warrnambool to tackle the issue of depression.

About 600 people gathered for the "Farmer's Night Off" event 14 August 2013.  While the evening was positive and light-hearted, there was also a very serious side. Gary Smith, the organiser, who is also a member of the group Farmer Power, says there have been three farmer suicides in the past eight weeks. He contacted Beyond Blue to get some help.

"Farmers in the local region have really just had a tough 12 months. And really under trying circumstances they've all done a sensational job," he said. "We just got together and thought, what can we do? We thought what a great idea just to give the farmers a night off and get them off the farm and really try and relieve some of that stress, that financial stress."

The region has been struggling with ongoing issues facing the dairy industry as well as climate concerns, with rain falling much later this year than usual. Mr Smith works in agribusiness in Warrnambool and says farmers are telling him they are having cash-flow problems.

"With the rain coming late, what's that has meant is most farmers have had to buy in a lot of external feed. And when feed is scarce it becomes very expensive," he said. "We've had below average rainfall for the last nine months. July is the first month where the rainfall is almost back to average conditions again."

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