The NSW Waratahs have donned cowboy hats and led Sydney commuters along with staff from the Macquarie Group in a morning boot scoot in support of drought affected communities.
The Dance For The Drought fundraiser held at Sydney’s Martin Place collected $100,000 for mental health education in the bush.
As part of the morning’s festivities NSW Waratahs players gave their best rendition of the heel and toe polka.
Coonamble born Ned Hanigan was among a host of players to show support.
“The main thing is to let blokes out in the bush know that we know they are still out they’re doing it tough, we’re not forgetting about them,” Hanigan said.
“I’ve just come home from a week there and it’s a bit dry.
“This sort of stuff is just something that gets a bit of awareness out there and makes them feel as though we’re not getting lost in the riff raff,” he said.
Money raised from Dance For The Drought will support the work of the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation and youth mental health organisation batyr, which have joined together to deliver the ‘Get Talkin’ Tour’ – an initiative that provides drought affected communities with tools and skills to look out for their own wellbeing and that of their mates. Tours bring the community together to start important conversations and promote positive wellbeing.
Since 2018, batyr’s Get Talkin’ Tour has visited 22 towns and more than 3,000 people in regional locations across NSW, delivering educational mental health programs for young people and the wider community.
NSW Waratahs Player Alex Newsome said it was important people in the city acknowledge that farmers are going through a rough time.
“From a NSW Waratahs perspective we’ve got a lot of fans out in regional NSW that have been affected,” Newsome said.
“The Get Talkin’ Tour, I had a bit of involvement with it this year, is just a great medium to facilitate talking in the bush and allow our regional communities to use rugby as a vehicle to come together and talk about mental health,” he said.
Head of the Positive Rugby Foundation Greg Mumm said the Get Talkin’ Tour was providing tangible benefits to regional communities.
“Rugby clubs are a cornerstone of the community and through batyr’s Get Talkin’ Tour the NSW Positive Rugby Foundation has been able to provide mental health training and support in drought-affected communities, where it’s most needed,” he said.
“Batyr work with us as a delivery partner, but the Nick Tooth Foundation and the Macquarie Group Foundation make it possible from a fundraising point of view, they are also vital to this program.
“Today we had close to 250 people bush dancing for drought, which is an achievement in itself for a Tuesday morning and we’ve raised over $100,000 today to help deliver the program,” he said.
One in five Aussies will experience a mental health condition in any given year and the odds worsen for those living in regional areas. A person living in rural and remote NSW is twice as likely to die as a result of suicide as a person living in Sydney. Add to this the pressure of ongoing drought and loss of income on families, and it’s imperative that more needs to be done to support regional communities.
batyr CEO Nic Brown wanted country communities to know the city supports them.
“It’s a shout from the city to the country that we are thinking of them and that we know it’s tough, we just wanted to come together and raise some funds for an important cause,” Brown said.
“It’s all a bit of fun but we certainly aren’t making light of the tough situation that’s being faced out there and we want to get out there and do our bit to help where we can through these programs,” he said.
Macquarie Group’s Head of Agriculture Liz O’Leary said Dance For The Drought was a show of support to regional communities.
“We love the combination of NSW Positive Rugby Foundation and batyr coming together and using sport to access a section of the community that aren’t often spoken to about just how they’re feeling at times of stress, and it doesn’t get much more stressful than deep into a really severe drought,” O’Leary said.
The Macquarie Foundation will match dollar-for-dollar all donations made to Dance For The Drought prior to 27 October.