It’s calving season on Alkane’s Toongi farm, which for station hand Christian Munge means watching and hand feeding the calving cows. Then there’s the task of helping contractors with fencing work, and building a loading ramp for the sheep yards.
There’s always something different happening on the 3500-hectare property, Munge says. The farm is currently home to 200 cows and opportunistic cropping. “It’s a bit of everything,” Munge says. “You might be fixing a fence today or a water pipe, or you’re on the tractor. There’s a fair array of different roles and different activities involved.”
Munge lives with his family a couple of kilometres north of Toongi, and has a background in the rural fire service. A couple of years ago, he was approached to join a group that would become the Goobang Community Resilience Network.
The idea to was to keep an eye out for the local community. “We’re farmers, we’re teachers, nurses,” Munge says. “We’ve got a lady that’s tied up with pastoral care, we’re got people tied up with aged care. We’re a really broad group.” The network kicked off with funding to build resilience in the community, initially focused on bushfire and natural disaster preparedness.
Munge says one of the biggest issues at the moment is mental health. “It’s a huge, huge problem,” he says. “A lot of, especially older farmers, are just starting to get their backs against the wall with this drought.”
To support the community, the network started ‘Beer and Chips’ get-togethers in the local hall. Thirty people showed up to the first event. “It was just people coming together and having a chat,” Munge says.
At one event, a woman approached the organisers and said it was the first time her husband had been off the farm in months. “People just get so bogged down with drought and feeding stock and trying to survive, they don’t realise sometimes what a hole they digging themselves into,” Munge says. “So this was just a simple way of getting people out and about.”
In September, the network took out the community category of the NSW Disaster Resilience Awards at a ceremony at Parliament House in Sydney. “The was very exciting,” Munge says. “It was something I’ve never experienced before.” Munge met ministers and commissioners at the event. “It was great,” he says. “A little bit of recognition for something that’s pretty simple.”
Meanwhile, the Toongi farm is busy year-round. Last financial year, Munge estimates 25 kilometres of fencing was installed on the property. And when he started two years ago, one of the first projects was laying 32 kilometres of poly pipe for stock water.
Munge likes the variety. And he enjoys being outdoors, usually with a couple of working dogs by his side that are used with the stock. “You never get stuck with just one task,” Munge says. “There’s always something going on.”