Southern NSW beef producers have been called upon to donate cattle to a fundraising drive aimed at raising awareness of mental health in the Riverina.
Wagga not-for-profit organisation Riverina Blue Bell and Riverina Local Land Services launched their Droving the Blues Away fundraiser at the Henty Machinery Field Days on September 21.
Donated cattle were to be driven around a 260km route over the next month, but unseasonally wet conditions has meant the mob will now be agisted and fattened for sale.
The cattle will be auctioned at the Wagga saleyards on October 24.
Fundraising functions are planned for Lockhart on September 30, Narrandera October 7, Ganmain on October 14 and Brucedale on October 21, from 4.30pm to 8pm.
Riverina Blue Bell chairman Chris Wilson said the organisation was passionate about promoting mental health awareness.
“This drive, although it is more of a drive in spirit than event, will help to create interest and awareness in the Riverina community about good mental well being,’’ Mr Wilson said.
He said the event would proceed, regardless of the weather, and was seeking more cattle.
“Unfortunately, we won’t be droving them around the community but we will be putting them on agistment for fattening and sale on October 24.
“Without the drove, we are still keeping our initiative going and heading through communities such as Lockhart, Narrandera, Ganmain and North Wagga, giving people a wonderful night out, promoting mental health awareness and airing stories.
“There is no shame in having a mental illness but it’s a bloody shame if you don’t do something about it.
“The wider community needs to understand it is an illness which can be treated, managed and is not a life sentence.
“It is not contagious and you cannot catch something if you ask RUOK – you might just catch a life.’’
Mr Wilson said the donation of spirit was perhaps more important than a monetary donation towards the cause.
“Donate a little time to ask how they are going and check on them.’’
Each year, Henty Machinery Field Days Co-operative supports a worthy cause and this year chose Riverina Blue Bell.
Black Dog Institute creative director Matthew Johnstone officially launched the Droving the Blues Away event at the field days, coinciding with Mental Health month.
Mr Johnstone said farmers were isolated by distance and culture.
“We talk a lot about looking after our physical bodies but not so much for our mental health,’’ he said.
“The most important thing around mental health is prevention – if we know what to do, how to have that conversation, we are half way there.
“We have RUOK day but we should be doing that more often, and that’s why Droving the Blues is such a great initiative – it gets people having that conversation.’’