Weather News

'Rain guilt': When outback rain becomes a touchy subject to discuss with your neighbours

By Craig Fitzsimmons, Saturday February 22, 2020 - 10:11 EDT
ABC image
Jenny Gordon inspecting the rain gauge on El Kantara Station. - ABC

"Did you get any rain? How much did you get? Much rain up your way?" These questions are part of any conversation in rural Australia.

But when you got rain and your neighbours missed out, it can be a delicate topic.

'Rain guilt' can shut down any discussion before it has started, as some rejoice after a good start to the year knowing neighbours may have missed out.

from the big dry across the country and falls in western Queensland , leaving mixed emotions.

Jenny Gordon is a grazier at El Kantara station in the central west, and the ups and downs brought on by rain — or lack of — led to the creation of popular Facebook group 'Who Got the Rain?'.

"It strikes at your heart when you're not getting it. It's an emotional thing," Ms Gordon said.

"You become very mindful of what you say and what you do."

Who got the rain?

In 2013, at the height of drought, dams on El Kantara were dry and the outlook was dire until cyclone Alessia formed in the Gulf.

Back then, it brought much-needed rain to the station, located west of Longreach.

In her excitement, Ms Gordon posted on Facebook about the water captured in her rain gauge.

"Here I was in my lovely little bubble, 42mm, [but] it didn't go far." Ms Gordon said.

The realisation that not everybody around her got under the rain left Jenny feeling terrible.

Ms Gordon's joy turned to guilt until she spoke to a good friend Donna Paynter the next day about how she was feeling.

Ms Paynter, a fellow grazier from Wando Station in Winton, thought there should be somewhere for people to go and report their rain.

The idea for the Who Got the Rain? Facebook group was conceived.

With help from Donna's daughter the Facebook group was launched as a safe place for people to celebrate the rain.

From humble beginnings connecting people around neighbouring districts, the group's membership is approaching 60,000.

Staying connected in the outback

Experts say social connection is paramount for general wellbeing but it is not the only issue people face in the vast outback.

The mental health impact from weather forecasts and reports of rain has been recognised by health services who say rates of depression, anxiety and suicide spike during years of drought.

Jos Middleton is on the front line as the Clinical Team Leader, Mental Health and Wellbeing Team, with the Royal Flying Doctors Queensland Sector.

"People go through a rollercoaster of emotions," Ms Middleton said.

"People will experience some joy — their spirts are lifted, there is that glimmer of hope that's brought back into people's lives, but that's coupled with guilt.

"One of the lovely things about rural and remote Australia is the mateship — we can all empathise, especially one grazier to another, because they've all done it tough.

"To actually pick up the phone and say 'I don't know what to say, but I'm thinking of you,' goes a really long way."

Mental health and leather

Local health services are using leather workshops as a novel approach to get people talking.

The program weaves a mental health literacy in the morning with a leather workshop after lunch.

Leather plaited reins, dog leads, hat bands, belts, even handbags are fashioned as functional long-lasting items.

"We hope the products themselves will be associated with learnings, skills and the tips transferred in the morning session," the program's Cameron Dare said.

Mr Dare, from the Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care (TRAIC) program, is excited by what people are taking away from the sessions.

"The training in the morning is about giving a number people within the community the skills and the confidence to approach the topic [mental health and wellbeing] and to approach people that they think might be having a hard time," Mr Dare said.

"It's good to be able to rely on our natural supports and those natural supports are friends, family and colleagues."

The sentiments were echoed by grazier Jenny Gordon.

"What seems to be a major problem for you in this situation, someone else might see it another way and just talking about it can help you," Ms Gordon said

"They need to talk, we all need to talk."


© ABC 2020

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