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11 September 2020
Major David Pullen (left) chats with Barry during one of his visits.
Words Lauren Martin
The Salvation Army’s continued presence alongside farmers and communities in rural and remote regions of Australia is bringing hope in hard times.
Large parts of Australia remain in prolonged drought, despite the Bureau of Meteorology issuing a La Niña watch, which could indicate an increased period of rainfall.
White Cliffs is located near Broken Hill, in the Far West region of New South Wales. Reddish-brown dirt stretches as far as the eye can see across Barry and Annette’s sheep farm, which is dotted with the occasional tree or shrub. Their shearing shed and sheep pens are eerily empty, the drought having diminished their stock.
Barry says his first experience with Salvation Army rural chaplains was in late 1994, towards the end of a severe drought. “We were sitting in the house one day and next minute there was a knock on the door,” he says. “It was a Salvation Army captain and he had a cheque for $5000 for us. And that saved our lives.”
More than 25 years later, it was Majors David and Robin Pullen who turned up at Barry and Annette’s door to see how they were coping. “We had a cup of coffee and a chat and it’s just evolved from there,” says Barry. “We’ve become very good friends and they’ve been wonderful to us, financially given us a bit of support and just been there for us when we have needed it.”
Annette says the current drought has been unrelenting. “Every day you are facing the dust and the dying animals.”
“People live in hope,” adds Barry. “The only reason you stay here during drought is that you live in hope! During the drought you just do whatever you need to do to maintain your sanity to get through the day.”
David says farmers like Annette and Barry are incredibly resilient and it’s an honour to walk alongside them. “We meet with the people on stations and also in small communities and bring a sense of hope and build a sense of community wherever we go.”