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New podcast designed to support children through drought

By Evelyn Leckie, Wednesday August 12, 2020 - 18:04 EST
ABC licensed image
Drought has heavily impacted the Rankin family, 800 kilometres north of Adelaide. - ABC licensed

The stress and heartbreak of drought impacting Australian families, and the effect it has on children, is the subject of a new podcast designed to help parents and practitioners support kid's mental health through a changing climate.

Fifth-generation pastoralist and mum of four on the Twins Station, 800 kilometres north of Adelaide, Petie Rankin said drought- affected children more than most adults realised.

"For two straight years our four children asked for rain for Christmas, that's how much it was impacting their lives," Ms Rankin said.

The farmer said, in her experience, it was important to involve children in conversations about drought.

"We don't want to offload on them, but I think it's important they do understand when it's a really tough period - we're not going to be able to go on that family holiday and Christmas might be a bit tight this year.

"A lot of these kids are the future generations of being out here, so they can learn from these experiences.

Varied affects

Ms Rankin said the drought had affected her children in different ways.

"With my 12-year-old, there were times where she had to come out and give us a hand, she's going to take on board a different level of emotion than our five-year-old," she said.

"As hard as it sounds, it might be a bit of fun to drag that dead cow from the trough for our youngest, because emotionally, he doesn't understand the meaning behind that.

"Whereas my 12-year-old, she might have seen me in tears doing it because it might have been the eighth cow for that day — she can emotionally see that it's pretty scarring."

The Rankin family had their worst experiences of drought in 2017, that lasted for two years.

"Christmas Eve last year was heartbreaking, it was horrible, I won't mention the amount of cattle we lost on that day.

"You put all this effort into growing out these beasts and just seeing them drop like flies and there's nothing you can do about it.

Ms Rankin said it was impossible to take a break from the drought.

"Financially we couldn't leave, and we couldn't even leave the property for a day because of the cows.

"Life was on hold."

Growing up fast

Ms Rankin's eldest daughter Hayden said it was hard concentrating at school, with drought at the back of her mind.

"Sometimes we have to go out and help mum and dad, so we have to get our schoolwork done," Hayden said.

"We might have to leave at lunch to help mum and dad to feed the cows and give them this thing called molasses so it gives them a bit more energy so they can go out and find some more food."

Help available

Infant and child mental health organisation Emerging Minds recently released an eight-part podcast called, 'Supporting children through drought,' after noticing the majority of existing drought resources were aimed at adults and families.

The podcast was co-designed with parents, rural and remote practitioners, health policymakers and academics.

Emerging Minds director Brad Morgan said the organisation had been developing toolkits to help families deal with floods and fires — but identified a gap on more long-lasting disasters.

"Drought has similar effects, but we call it a creeping adversity because it's so long and so sustained," Mr Morgan said.

"The impact of this disaster on Australian children's mental health is greater than ever before."

Mr Morgan said he was passionate about making the eight-part series due to his upbringing.

"I came from a farm myself, and we had a few years of drought.

"What resonated with me [in the podcast] was that shared experience, I remember everyone in my family responded to the drought very differently."

Mr Morgan said the team members who worked on the project had all come from country areas.

"It's a different context and different experience, and I think it's been helpful in understanding the importance of this sort of work for rural communities."


© ABC 2020

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