As the One Bucket tour continues across NSW, photographer Edwina Robertson has spoken with small business owners, graziers, farming families and a town mayor, among others.
Speaking to The Leader on Thursday morning, her mission to share stories of drought with people in the city was well under way. And while she’d heard some troubling tales, she was yet to tackle what she felt would be her most confronting stop. Ms Robertson said the most poignant story she’d heard at that point was about a Coonabarabran area family.
The six- and seven-year-olds rotate days off school to help with livestock, to minimise labour costs; the four-year-old often drives the ute so mum can feed out cottonseed. “To me, personally, that was a really hard story to cover – to see tears in these kids’ eyes talking about how much they wish it would rain,” Ms Robertson said. “And despite mum and dad trying to keep things away from kids, they can pick up on the vibes; they can pick on the stress; they know when their parents are sad.”
Ms Robertson’s next stop was Cassilis, where locals were battling drought after the devastating Sir Ivan bushfires of 2017.
“It’s tough and stock are poor and they’re feeding and you can tell they’re doing everything they can to get by, day by day,” Ms Robertson said.
She said many of the people following her campaign were country people who simply took most of this in their stride. But the purpose of her journey was to share the struggles and impact of drought with metropolitan audiences – whom, she felt, would be shocked at how different their country cousins’ lives were in drought.
“This is about getting the message to urban communities … We have to be really active in sharing the message.”
Her fundraising and awareness campaign continues in earnest:
Monday, July 9: A POULTRY producer, a boutique business owner and a smaller-scale grazier were first on the One Bucket list when photographer Edwina Robertson stopped in Tamworth yesterday.
Ms Robertson is telling the stories of people who are hurting as almost the entire state is listed in drought or at imminent risk of it. With her aim to document of a variety of perspectives, she learnt about the effects on Quast Turkeys, Magic Pudding and a grazier on the edge of town. Ms Robertson said Col Quast had told of the financial struggle of sourcing feed for the family-owned Tintinhull turkey farm, when normally it would be home-grown. Sara Winston-Smith of the Magic Pudding had shared the effect on small businesses when the money stopped flowing from farmer to town and people simply didn’t have the money for the non-essentials. And the grazier had shared the challenges of finding and feeding fodder to cattle just about to enter the hardship of the middle of winter.
“They seemed positive but, at the same time, you know they’re hurting,” Ms Robertson said.
“They’re not in dire straits yet, but it’s hard and going to get harder … It’s not just farmers and graziers affected by the drought – everyone’s feeling the pinch.”
Ms Robertson hit Queen Street Mall in Brisbane ahead of setting out, to ask city dwellers if and what they knew about the drought.
Ms Robertson’s campaign is also challenging people to spend a day using no more than one bucket of water, and to donate to those people for whom that is a reality. Almost 7000 people are already following the One Bucket journey and campaign on Facebook. Her next meetings are in Coonabarabran – on level 6 water restrictions as its dam grows dangerously low – then Cassilis and Merriwa. Ms Robertson said she’d already spoken to many people as she arranged her trip and meetings, and there were a few tales that had particularly struck her. “There are people taking their kids out of school, either because they can’t afford boarding school or because they can’t afford to pay for labour and need the help,” she said.
“There are farmers that have run out of water and they’re bathing in dirty dam water …I’m not a politician, I’m not a journalist, I’m pretty unskilled – but I do have a voice and enough of a profile to bring attention to this issue.”
“I can’t not do something.”