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  • James Howey

Regional Inclusion: The Farmer and Madam Butterfly

Last month I made the trek out to the Darling Downs with my family to attend Opera at Jimbour, a biennial spectacular presented by Opera Queensland as part of the Queensland Music Festival and in partnership with Western Downs Regional Council.

The festival, held on the historic Jimbour Homestead and attracting up to 8000 guests, is an experience to say the least. The grandeur of Jimbour house and the droves of music lovers, dressed to impress, sampling the finest of food and wine from the region, the divine vocals ringing out across the expansive rural landscape. It truly was a sight to behold and very nearly enough to detract from the harsh reality in my peripheral, the unmistakable dryness of drought stricken Western Queensland.

My family (hailing from Dalby where my extended family still reside) are no strangers to the arid state of the land and the hardship that comes with the big dry.

Though my family may not be farmers, it is impossible to bear daily witness to the climate in regional Australia and not understand the flow on effects of drought, from farm to your average town worker, business owner or family.

A standout moment of our trip would have to be my 10 year old daughter asking about the drought and my Aunt gently explaining to her the butterfly effect in drought speak. Effectively, no rain = severe financial struggle for those who live off the land. In turn meaning less spending in the town, staff cuts due to low sales with local businesses, some businesses shutting up shop, unemployment rates increasing. As my Aunt said, ‘it’s just not very good, is it’.

With a vast percentage of Viridis clients being regional councils, this is an issue very close to our hearts and one that humbles us city folk with every trip we take.

The day after Opera at Jimbour, as a family we attended a local café in Dalby and the town was completely abuzz. Accommodation was booked out through the town, eateries were jam packed and it made me think how very important these sorts of events are for the tourism of small towns.

The economic relief brought to regional communities by travellers, eating, drinking, shopping, sampling fresh and delicious local produce - brings so much financial reward as well as renewed community spirit in this state of climatic uncertainty affecting the livelihoods of those on the land.

So how do we keep these events happening? We can start by thinking of supply and demand. We can’t make it rain, but we can vote with our feet. Supporting events such as Opera at Jimbour will keep the arts scene in motion, bringing money to the towns of those who need it so badly – and that to me, is music to my ears.

I left with treasured memories, a relaxed mind and clear eyes to just how much my actions can have an effect on others. I encourage you to hit the road from time to time. I promise there are wonderful experiences to be had in towns that drastically need our help, just over the horizon.

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