On their Warrambone property at Gulargambone near Coonamble in NSW, Kristy and Henry Taylor are facing the worst drought in living memory.
With no harvest, little rain and the “monotony” of daily hand-feeding, it’s little wonder taking a family holiday has been the furthest thing from their minds.
But last month the decision was taken out of their hands, thanks to the generosity of ski instructors at Victoria’s Hotham Alpine Resort, namely former Wellington resident Alison Plasto.
Back in August, Alison was looking at the ski passes she is given each year and thought “you know what? I can do something more meaningful with these.”
The call went out and instructors donated everything from ski passes to snow gear to an apartment and Mt Hotham came to the party with ski hire, lessons and childcare. The Albury-Wodonga community jumped at the idea with local property Willowbank donating a box of veges and meat, while others lent ski suits and farmer Anthony Keck and other skilled volunteers offered to look after the Taylor’s property during their break.
It was the first time children George (three-and-a-half) and Caroline (two) had seen snow.
“It was just wonderful,” Kristy Taylor said.
“An active holiday really suited us down to the ground and the kids … the confidence they got from learning to ski was unreal.
“Mt Hotham is just magical and the culture of the place was so uplifting … we were just transported into another world.”
“And everything's just been really humbling [emotional] ... it's been a terrific opportunity,” Henry added.
“They've made us feel at home and made it really easy for us to take this break.”
“Alison … she was just this incredibly generous, warm person and everyone we met on our trip and their generosity … it had such a big impact on us,” Kristy said.
“We’ll just treasure it for the rest of our lives.”
Department of Primary Industries rural resilience officer Amanda Glasson was instrumental in linking Alison with the Taylors.
“They really, really, really seemed to want it and need it,” Amanda said.
“When I first got onto Kristy she just burst into tears. She couldn’t believe people were thinking of others in their situation.
“The thing with drought is it’s so long and insidious with people … it wears you down.”
“It became clear from phone conversations with Amanda just how strong the family unit is on the land,” Alison added.
“Families we approached were overcome by the offer, but couldn't get away. Their husbands wouldn't leave the place.
“When I suggested 'what about mum and the kids take a break?', there was silence. That's when I realised the underlying mental health worries. No-one wanted to leave their partner alone on the farm. Not even for a week.”
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But Kristy urges families to make the effort to get away, if at all possible.
“It just gave us clarity, and probably bolstered our resilience,” she said.
“It almost showed us that we won’t look back in this part of our lives as just bad – we can look back and remember how good people have been towards us. It has counteracted some of the negativity of the drought.”
"Everyone that's caught up in the drought at the moment – it's hard to see the end of it,” Henry said.
“It's really hard to take yourself out of it and go on a holiday like we've been given. And for that week you're away – you're able to escape from it for a bit.
“It's really helped us get in a good space for what we've got to go back to.”
Anthony Keck and the volunteers’ assistance wasn’t required in this instance, as the Taylors had people who could look after Warrambone in their absence.
Alison says “the offer still stands”; for the Taylors or any other farming families in need.
“We’re talking to Amanda Glasson about coming up to Coonamble for a week when one or more families really need the help,” she said.
“The drought and continued recovery of the drought won’t be over next year.
“My hope is that every ski resort could get behind this initiative. Imagine Thredbo, Perisher, Mt Buller, Falls Creek and Hotham all having a week for a farming family in 2019. The joy it would bring.”