Federal budget anxiety for Hamilton’s National Centre for Farmer Health

THE clock is ticking for Hamilton’s National Centre for Farmer Health,  with just months before the state and federal budgets decide on the future of the fledgling service. 

The state government has set aside $250,000 for the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) but will only provide the money once the Commonwealth has pitched in $750,000. 

“It’s a pretty hollow offer because it’s $250,000 we can’t do anything with,” Western District Health Service (WDHS) chief executive officer Jim Fletcher said. 

“It’s not money that WDHS has received.” 

The centre’s remaining health and wellbeing programs are being employed in drought-affected Queensland — but funding for them will dry up after June.

“The last two programs are in Kingaroy and Charleville in May. Both have been subjected to drought,” Mr Fletcher said. 

The chief executive said that  Canberra was only likely to fund the centre on a “one-for-one” offer, requiring Spring Street to lift its funding to $500,000 for the million-dollar centre.

“We’ve had no indication yet from either governments about contributions in their budgets,” Mr Fletcher said.

Earlier this week Western Victoria upper house MP Gayle Tierney told Parliament she was disappointed the federal government’s newly-announced $320 million farmer assistance package wouldn’t include the centre. 

The assistance package also included money for mental health programs aimed at farmers facing drought in New South Wales and Queensland. 

“The National Centre for Farmer Health in Hamilton was categorically ignored once again,” she said. 

“The centre will not see one red cent of the money to continue its international award-winning Sustainable Farming Families program, which deals directly with mental health issues for farmers.” 

Mr Fletcher said Wannon MP Dan Tehan had been supportive of the campaign. 

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