Rural counsellor under threat

By Country News

The uncertain future for a Benalla-based rural outreach worker has been taken up by State Member for Euroa and Victorian Nationals deputy leader Steph Ryan.

Ms Ryan’s first act after being sworn in for a second term was to highlight Ivan Lister’s role as the outreach worker to the other MPs.

Ms Ryan submitted a notice of motion, moving that parliament pay tribute to Mr Lister for his efforts to support farmers and rural communities through difficult seasonal and economic circumstances.

The motion called on the Andrews Government to fund Mr Lister’s work on an ongoing basis before his funding runs out at the end of this month.

‘‘I have made representations to ministers, state and federal, in recent weeks to highlight the wonderful work that Ivan does in our local community,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘The need for funding is now urgent, which is why I used my first speech in parliament to draw attention to Ivan’s role as our local rural outreach worker.

‘‘Ivan’s role was initially funded to help drought-affected families but over the years he has become a critical link for people facing other natural disasters including bushfires, floods and even tornadoes.

‘‘He has helped people through the dairy crisis and supported people who have been suffering from depression, anxiety, the breakdown of their family and financial difficulties.’’

Ms Ryan said Mr Lister worked closely with local GPs and other health professionals and had built a relationship of trust between farmers and other support services.

‘‘In the last financial year alone, Ivan made contact with 329 people locally, including 191 men and 138 women.

‘‘About half of those were return visits, and half were new referrals.’’