“Aussie Helpers was started with a raffle in a Queensland pub with 20 bucks,” - Brian Egan. With much of Australia deep in the clutches of drought, heroes like Brian Egan from Aussie Helpers are saving farms and saving lives. We chatted to him a few weeks back on Regional Voices – and what an inspiration he is.
You’ve probably heard of Aussie Helpers, the organisation that arranges convoys of hay for farmers who are hand feeding stock as the drought refuses to let up. But the organisation does so much more, under the guidance of its founder Brian Egan, who started Aussie Helpers after he lost his own farm.
“After I lost my farm to drought I got very sick with depression and ended up in hospital,” Brian told the program. While he was there, a psychologist told him the best advice he could give was to ‘go and find someone worse off than you are and help them’.
Sixteen years later, Brian and his wife Nerida still live in their rented house, devoting all their energy to running Aussie Helpers, including its latest initiative, a virtual psychologist program.
The Aussie Helpers program has always offered emotional and mental health support. Its volunteers have mental health training and a check in is part of every farm visit. Now, there’s another option.
“I’ve been unfortunate enough to have found people hanging in sheds and gassed in cars and that sort of thing,” Brian said.
“Farmers won’t drive a thousand miles to go and see someone. They won’t drive around the block, really. Then we found out about a texting service that was working in America and no one had tried it in Australia so we just developed this thing.”
The SMS service connects users directly with a psychologist, anonymously if they prefer. Right now, the service takes about 50 calls a week.
Want to hear more of Brian’s story? Click here to listen to the Regional Voices podcast or here to see who else we’ve been talking to.
Regional Voices explores a different theme each month – July was Mental Health, sponsored by the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.
In August we’re talking Health, sponsored by Commonwealth Bank.