The first crews have started work as part of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Drought Employment Program.
The program is part of the Victorian Government’s drought response package and is being delivered by the Goulburn Broken and North Central catchment management authorities.
Program co-ordinator Brett McFarlane said there had been plenty of interest in the program, especially from dairy and orchard farmers and workers.
“They still have to maintain a farm regardless of what happens with the weather and their incomes drop dramatically, but they can’t leave the farm and get a full-time job because they’re still farmers,” Mr McFarlane said.
He said he was enjoying working with the participants and was impressed with their appetite for hard work.
“This program is about local people working on local projects for the local good.”
Shepparton orchardist Sophie Sfetcopoulos is part of one of the first crews to start work.
The mother of five said she applied for the program because a need to sell their family farm’s water meant she and her husband had to generate off-farm income.
“We needed money to survive and we weren’t able to make a living from leasing the farm,” she said.
“So far this has been a great experience for me, just getting a job gave me hope straight away.
“It’s very stressful thinking I need to buy something but I’ve got no income.”
Ms Sfetcopoulos said the program included training in first aid and chemical handling.
Nathalia dairy farmer Alastair Whittington said the program came at the right time for him.
“This will help us get through these hard times,” he said.
“It provides people with dignity, a capacity to earn a wage, pay our bills and put food on the table.
“The dollar that has been given to the GBCMA to employ us will be spent many times over in our communities, which in turn helps the economies in small towns keep ticking over.”
There are still spaces available in the program.
For more information, phone Chandler Macleod Group on 5825 6000 or visit: http://bit.ly/GBCMADEP