A new range of beer is aiming to provide 'relief' for drought hit communities in more ways than just the obvious.
Hughies, a new brand of beer slated for release onto shelves in bottle shops soon, has pledged to donate $2 from every case of the beverage sold to GIVIT, a charity who aims to provide support and equipment to those living in drought hit communities.
GIVIT has invested heavily in the drought support sector since 2018, with over $600,000 raised and spent in service of aiding farmers and other rural and remote communities suffering under the drought.
The new drop is being made in Goulburn, itself a town that has struggled due to the drought, and while rainfall has been steady this year for many parts of regional NSW, GIVIT's NSW manager Scott Barrett says real recovery is still a long way off and help is still needed.
"Being able to replace a water tank, mend a fence or purchase a week's supply of groceries at the local store can make a significant positive contribution to a family dealing with drought," Mr Barrett said.
"Drought affects everyone in regional communities; farmers, their businesses and their families."
"Whole communities are impacted: local businesses dry-up because of reduced spending and the effects run deep across generations, economically, socially and emotionally."
While the partnerships goals are pure, the idea of a drought-support alcohol might raise some eyebrows among frontline support services, many of whom have seen firsthand farmers struggling with substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Rural and regional areas, even prior to the summer bushfires and the outbreak of COVID-19, drank in excess significantly more than people in metropolitan areas, according to analysis conducted by the Australian government's institute of health and welfare.
Stephanie Robinson, Lifeline Central West's CEO, declined to comment on specifics, but did note that drug and alcohol usage as a form of self-medication was a common response to the bushfires, drought and COVID-19.
"It certainly has come up that sometimes people do turn to alcohol to try and cope with what's going on," Ms Robinson said.
"If misused, alcohol can make things worse."
"Often in rural areas like ours, you get a carton of beer and you see it used to commiserate, celebrate or de-stress and other things, sometimes that can feed back into these issues."
Ms Robinson and many members of the Lifeline Central West team saw firsthand the effects the recent summer bushfires had on parts of NSW outside the Central West, and the crippling effects the drought has had.
"We've done some workshops holding covert conversations around drug and alcohol usage, whether it be COVID-19 or drought or fire or whatever, drugs and alcohol are something people will self-medicate with," Ms Robinson said.
"But the fact is, alcohol is a legal substance, it's not an illicit thing, but it's misuse can absolutely cause problems."
Some among Lifeline have even pointed out concerns in the past over how easily accessible alcohol is, and how inaccessible support can be in rural environments.
"One of our workers who is a drug and alcohol worker often says that we live in a beer economy, for people who might be struggling with their consumption, as a society, we sometimes make that very difficult for people," Ms Robinson said.