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180 trucks and 500 volunteers — it's the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners to the rescue


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ABC News  /  January 27, 2019

Volunteer truck drivers have spent the weekend delivering donated hay to drought-stricken farmers in south-west Queensland.

The Burrumbuttock Hay Runners loaded 180 trucks with donated hay, pet food, toys and first aid kits.

A convoy of volunteers set off from Darlington Point in New South Wales to Quilpie in Queensland, arriving on Australia Day.

Burrumbuttock Hay Runners founder Brendan Farrell said delivering the hay to farmers on Australia Day was fitting.

"You can't be more Australian than helping someone you don't know," Mr Farrell said.

Farmers in Quilpie, Thargomindah and Eulo were able to collect hay and fodder before attending a special Australia Day concert on Saturday night.

The Burrumbuttock Hay Runners have been collecting donations of hay for 14 years and delivering it to the driest farming communities around NSW and Queensland.

Mr Farrell said he was pleased that the convoy had a good, straight run to Quilpie.

"We had a great day yesterday. A lot of trucks went out and there were a few going out this morning."

"[The farmers] were over the moon, they were rapt," Mr Farrell said.

More than 500 volunteers joined the Burrumbuttock Hay Runners convoy this year.

Sandy Jones, from Leeton south-west NSW, uses her week of holidays from work to join the Hay Runners convoy. Mrs Jones and her husband have been involved for six years, donating a truck from their own business.

"It's very addictive, once you do one you're in it forever," Mrs Jones said.

Delivering hope as well as hay

For volunteers of the Hay Run, the journey is not just about delivering supplies, but about looking after the mental health of struggling farmers.

Mr Farrell said helping people that are in a lot of trouble is a very important part of the yearly hay run.

"When [the truck drivers] came back last night there were a few teary-eyed truck drivers, it was very emotional for them," Mr Farrell said.

Sandy Jones said volunteers keep in touch with struggling farmers that they have delivered supplies to.

"Once you get home you drop them a call in a couple of weeks, or a letter or a postcard, to check that they're still doing ok," Mrs Jones said.

"It's letting [farmers] know that someone is thinking about them."

Mr Farrell said forming relationships between drought-stricken farmers and truck drivers could make a big difference to farmers' wellbeing.

"It lifts them up for a long time. They can ring a truck driver in Bundaberg and have a chat to him and talk to somebody that's not in drought. Sometimes that's better than talking to your next-door neighbour that is in drought," Mr Farrell said.

Mrs Jones said although the hay run could be emotional for volunteers and farmers, it was the small things that made it a happy journey.

"You'll be out the back of Bourke and there will be little kids with homemade signs and balloons and they'll be waving. They've been sitting out there a couple of hours in the hot sun waiting for us to go past. It's fantastic," Mrs Jones said.

'We went to the moon'

Volunteers on the convoy were confronted by endless stretches of dry farmland on their journey.

"It's bad," Mrs Jones said of the conditions.

"[Farmers] have been knocking over dead mulga trees for a few years now just so cattle can eat the tops of them."

Mr Farrell described the farms as "barren dirt''.

"I was talking to a truck driver last night and he said 'mate, we went to the moon'. There wasn't even a tree within two hours of the bloke's house in the middle of no-where."

Mr Farrell said that the farmers were resilient, but they were doing it tough in hard conditions.

"We've just got to remember that they're still out here, and not forget them."

Hay from WA also reaches NSW on Australia Day

Farmers in the Cobar region of central west NSW also received a hay delivery on Australia day.

Forty-eight road trains, carrying more than 3,000 bales of hay and fodder set off from Western Australia earlier this week, organised by the not for profit group Farmers Across Borders, Hay From WA".

The convoy hit a snag on day one when, as temperatures neared 50 degrees, a trailer full of hay and fodder caught alight and burnt to the ground near Madura on the Eyre Highway.

Convoy organiser Sam Starcevich said the fire was a devastating loss, but she was determined to get the remainder of the stock feed to farmers who needed it.

"If this does something to ease a little bit of pain for someone, then we've done what we wanted to achieve," she said.

"I think we're going to help between 300 and 400 farmers once we get to Cobar."

This is the second convoy of feed the group of volunteers and farmers have organised in recent years, many having experienced drought first-hand.

"Emotionally, drought is something you never get over, personally," Mrs Starcevich said.

"As soon as it doesn't rain you think 'oh my god is it going to happen again, is it not going to rain' so it's always something there in your mind."


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