101 East

Battling the dry

101 East explores the human cost of the severe drought paralysing Australia’s north.

The Australian state of Queensland is experiencing its worst drought on record.

Some regions have had as little as five percent of their usual rainfall. Others have had no rain at all while struggling through some of the hottest years on record.

Droughts have always been part of the Australian weather cycle but high temperatures linked to climate change are exacerbating problems, driving farmers to the brink of ruin. Some are left with no choice but to destroy their cattle; others have even taken their own lives.

For Debbie Smith, a farmer in the drought-ravaged north, shooting her beloved cattle has become an all-too common part of life.

With barely a blade of grass left on her property, her cattle are in a desperate struggle to survive. She is down to her last bale of hay, and fears the bank could foreclose on her $4.2m loan.

It is a heart-breaking story playing out on farms across Queensland; many in the region speak of this drought as the most severe they can remember.

Queensland is home to half the country’s 27 million cattle. The situation is creating a silent crisis in some of the nation’s most remote areas with a growing number of suicides linked to the drought.

This week, 101 East follows farmers making big decisions about their future on the land as the banks circle to foreclose, and explores the damage the drought is inflicting on rural communities.

Is #climatechange threatening Australia’s farming industry? Join the conversation at @AJ101East


101 East   airs each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2230; Friday: 0930; Saturday: 0330; Sunday: 1630.      

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