RFCS Southern Queensland Newsletter December 2023

RFCS Southern Queensland Newsletter December 2023


Welcome to the December 2023 edition of the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) Southern Queensland newsletter.
 
In this edition:

Message from CEO
Christmas closure
Karen Tully – reflecting on 16 years RSQ service
Dan does the numbers on 2023
Jen’s tip for primary producers
What is the Queensland Drought Assistance Program?
Self-soothing skills
Regional Drought Resilience Planning website 

 
Message from CEO
It’s hard to believe that it is already time to write the Christmas edition of this newsletter! However, in reflecting on the events of the past month, the rain that has fallen across Southern Queensland has helped make the mood decidedly more festive than it was in November. Travelling throughout the Southern Queensland region, the green tinge has turned to useful growth in some areas. This has helped alleviate the pressure of supplementary feeding and/or forced sale conditions, whilst livestock markets have bounced considerably. However, not everyone has been as fortunate with some areas remaining on the edge of the storm systems. Our thoughts are with you and we hope that the next storm cloud has your name on it.

At the end of November we held our all-staff conference in Brisbane, providing a valuable opportunity for the team to connect face-to-face and hear updates from a number of our industry stakeholders. A highlight of this event was our networking function where we all appreciated the opportunity to catch up in person with many individuals who we regularly work with either over the phone or in virtual meetings. As we said on the night, the RFCS can only achieve the outcomes that it does via the collaborative network of support available across Southern Queensland. We are extremely grateful to each organisation and individual that enabled us to support over 2,000 businesses in the past year.

The end of November also saw the end of an era for our organisation with our long-term chairperson Karen Tully standing down from the Board, following 16 years of dedicated service (13 years as Board Chairperson). Under Karen’s leadership, our team has grown from a handful of Rural Financial Counsellors in South West Queensland to a multidisciplinary team across rural, regional and metropolitan areas supporting farming and small business owners with both financial counselling and early intervention wellbeing support. We are forever indebted to Karen for her commitment and wish her all the best for her next adventure.

Please note that our offices shall close from 5pm Friday 15 December 2023 and will reopen 8:30am Monday 8 January 2024, to provide our team with a well-deserved break. We look forward to continuing to provide much-needed support in 2024. Merry Christmas.

Best regards,
 
Ross Leggett
Chief Executive Officer 

  
Christmas closure
Our Financial Counsellors, Wellness Coaches and staff will be taking a well-deserved break over the Christmas period to recharge their batteries and prepare to assist with any challenges that 2024 presents across our Southern Queensland service area.

Rural Financial Counselling Service offices will close from 5pm Friday, 15 December 2023 and reopen 8:30am Monday, 8 January 2024.

Should you require urgent assistance during this period please use the contact numbers below:Lifeline: 13 11 44Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636Rural Aid: 1300 327 624National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007QRIDA: 1800 623 946Regional Investment Corporation: 1800 875 675Services Australia (FHA): 13 23 16More information on current assistance programs and support can be found at https://recovery.serviceconnect.gov.au/

We wish you and your families a safe and happy festive season and look forward to working with you in 2024.   
Karen Tully – reflecting on 16 years RSQ service
At our 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM) last month, Karen Tully resigned from her position as the Chairperson of the Rural Solutions Queensland (RSQ) Board. Karen has been a driving force behind our organisation for over 16 years, which is why it is only fitting that this month we interviewed her to find out more about her journey and the experiences, achievements, and the valuable lessons she has learned along the way.
 
What inspired you initially to take on the role of Board Chairperson?
There wasn’t really any planned inspiration – it was the circumstances of a chance meeting on 14 March 2007 which led to my 16-year involvement in governance with RSQ.   

As Principal of the Charleville School of Distance Education (SDE), I found myself welcoming a small delegation of VIPs to the school – namely The Hon Sussan Ley who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and a bunch of people who called themselves the ‘RSQ Management Committee’ members. They were in Charleville for the official opening of the Rural Financial Counselling Service office in Alfred Street.

In 2007, we were at the very hard and challenging end of the millennial super drought, which is often quoted as the worst drought recorded since European settlement. Strong drought conditions started in 2001 and the prolonged dry period did not break until 2010 and we all remember those rains!

It was whilst Sussan Ley and RSQ Committee members were peering at the large pastoral property map on the wall at the school and discussing local drought conditions, that she became rather impressed when I could share factually with her the impact of the drought on SDE enrolments and by extension, the primary producer families. 

I could quote the enrolments lost in each shire over the period of the drought – and break that down into families that had left the district or families that had one parent working at home while the other sought off-farm income e.g. the mother and children moved to a town whilst the father stayed home. Alternatively, the father sought off-farm work whilst the mother and children desperately tried to keep the primary production business functioning – and maybe, just maybe, some schooling was done in between long days on the dozer and putting out supplementary feed.

Maybe I impressed more than the Parliamentary Secretary, as it was shortly after the visit that I was approached to see if I was interested in being a member of the RSQ Board. Coincidentally, I was leaving education at the end of the 2007 academic year to pursue consultancy work and being a Board Member fitted perfectly with my future plans. It was three years after joining the Board that I became Board Chair.
 
What does a typical day look like for you?
No two days are ever the same – although I do like to think that each day does consistently commence with some form of fitness and wellness activity. Once the walk, swim, yoga, boxercise or weights session is done, anything and everything can happen. It is this variety which makes board roles so very exciting – you never know what to expect as you provide governance oversight to organisations which are made up of the ficklest of creatures – we human beings. There is never a dull moment and yes, even developing policies can be fun!
 
Can you share some of the highlights and challenges of your time as Board Chairperson?
The biggest challenge facing many not-for-profit organisations which rely on external grant funding is the short-term aspect of funds provided. Some of the very best and most beneficial community programs are often only funded for 1-2 years. These short funding cycles do not lend themselves to maximum outcomes in meeting needs. It can be hard to attract and retain staff when there is little funding security and sadly, often it is the vulnerable or marginalised (people, animals, environment etc) who may miss out. RSQ has faced this situation with some of its programs.

The highlight (as a Board Chair) is the reverse of this – when great people (governance and operational teams) come together and deliver amazing outcomes which makes a real difference to some aspect of society or the environment.  For me, that is what RSQ has done and continues to do, as it delivers trusted and valued sustainability support to primary producers, small businesses and their communities in Queensland. It has been an honour to have served as Chair of the Board. 
  
Dan does the numbers on 2023
When attending a recent outreach event, one of the presenter’s slides caught our attention as something that was worth sharing! Dan Elder from QRIDA has kindly allowed us to reproduce the information from his slide explaining the cumulative effect of falling commodity prices and rising interest rates on farm cash flow. Please note this information is illustrative only.

Commodity Prices over the past year
Market prices dropped by two-thirds (i.e. $1,000 weaner dropped to $330).You now must sell 3 times as many weaners to meet your costs.This means that $100,000 of operating expenses that was previously covered by 100 weaners now requires 300 weaners.Rising Interest CostsInterest rates have doubled or tripled for most producers.The cost of $1 million in borrowings has risen from $25,000 to $60,000 p.a.At $330/hd, this has risen from 75 weaners to 180 weaners required to meet the interest on $1 million of debt.A producer needs to sell 2.4 times as many weaners to meet the interest cost.What does this mean for your business?Interest rate and commodity price changes have a cumulative effect and need to be multiplied (i.e. 3 x 2.4 = 7.2).Notionally, in 2022 it required 175 weaners to meet $100,000 in operating expenses and the interest on $1 million of debt.
In 2023, it required 480 weaners to meet the same expenses.
If you are experiencing or at risk of experiencing financial hardship as a result of the current economic and trading conditions reach out to one of our Rural Financial Counsellors today. 
Find your Financial Counsellor  

 
Being proactive means being reactive ahead of time
They say hindsight is a wonderful thing, but what if you could go into the next natural disaster knowing that you had planned for it and your farming business was as prepared and as ready as possible?

We live in a country where floods, fires and droughts are increasingly common. Therefore, it is imperative to have a well-thought-out business plan of how you are going to manage your farming enterprise successfully through both the favourable and the not so desirable seasons.

A proactive approach to farm management both before and during any natural disaster may be the key to minimising the significant financial impacts often felt by the business as a result. If you need help with business planning and preparing, reach out to a Rural Financial Counsellor near you.

Jen Turner
Rural Financial Counsellor
Toowoomba Office 
 
What is the Queensland Drought Assistance Program?
The Queensland Drought Assistance Program focuses on preparedness and business planning to manage drought risk and does not require a drought declaration to be in place to access assistance. A requirement of accessing assistance is that primary producers need to have a Farm Business Resilience Plan or an existing farm business plan that covers the same details.

Assistance is broken down into three different categories. 


Preparing for Drought
Drought Preparedness Grants of up to $50,000 for on-farm capital improvements identified in a Farm Business Resilience Plan aimed at improving drought resilience.
Drought Ready and Recovery Finance Loans of up to $250,000 for preparedness measures in line with the Farm Business Resilience Plan.
Farm Management Grants providing up to 50% rebate, maximum of $2,500 on the cost of eligible professional advice to produce a Farm Business Resilience Plan.

During Drought
Emergency Drought Assistance Loans interest-free up to $50,000.
Drought Carry-On Finance Loans up to $250,000 at a concessional interest rate if the Emergency Drought Assistance Loan is insufficient to manage drought conditions.
Land rent rebates and water licence waivers.
Drought Relief from Electricity Charges Scheme.

Recovery from Drought
Drought Ready and Recovery Finance Loans up to $250,000 to be utilised for drought recovery activities such as restocking and replanting.

Talk to your local Rural Financial Counsellor or Livestock Business Planning Officer about preparing your Farm Business Resilience Plan today. 
  
Self-Soothing skills
As the end-of-year is fast approaching we find ourselves busier than ever so it makes sense that we may feel a little overwhelmed and stressed at times. To improve our ability to cope we can use self-soothing skills to help us tolerate difficult situations without making them worse by using our six senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and movement.

Self-soothing may seem like a self-indulgent thing to do but it is actually a very effective way to help calm us down, find balance and feel more in control. This helps us to then face the tasks/challenges ahead, problem solve and take the right next steps forward. It can also be used as a reward for us when we have got the job done or dealt with the challenging situation.

Some examples of how we can put this into practice are as follows:Vision: noticing the colours in a landscape or a sunset, artwork, photos, even watching a movie.Hearing: listening to your favourite music, guided meditation or listening to the sounds of nature around you.Smell: smelling freshly brewed coffee, the earthy smells of fresh cut grass, or our favorite essential oils.Taste: tasting a warm beverage or eating our favourite foods.Touch: taking a warm shower, feeling the grass beneath our feet or stroking our pets.Movement: Walking, stretching, swimming, dancing or going to the gym.I invite you to explore, discover and practice the self-soothing skills that work best for you. Remember taking care of you, means taking care of your business. Wishing you all a wonderful festive period. 
 
Katherine Watson
Program Coordinator and Business Wellness Coach  Regional Drought Resilience Planning websiteIntroducing the new Regional Drought Resilience Planning website. Need assistance with Drought Resilience Planning?

Visit the website to find detailed information about the steps required in planning and specific details about your region. Plan ahead and ensure your farm business is prepared for the challenges of drought. Explore website  Don’t keep us a secret
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