This month, 50 Australian Army Cadets (AAC) gave up a weekend to lend a hand to flood-affected farmers in the North Grampians Shire.
The cadets from Stawell, Ballarat, Bendigo, Broadford and Surrey Hills descended on the community of Joel Joel, east of Stawell.
AAC staff members including the Commander of the Victoria AAC Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel (AAC) Don Shearman, assisted local farmers with tasks including removing damaged fencing and clearing flood debris from lucerne paddocks.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney, said that cadets are a key youth development organisation.
“Exercises like this exemplify the commitment of the Army’s Cadets to the community and serving others”, said Senator Feeney.
Lieutenant Colonel (AAC) Shearman said ‘Exercise Big Hand’ was an example of army cadets wanting to help a local community recover from a natural disaster.
“This weekend has been driven by the cadets themselves, wanting to do their bit for communities that have been hit hard,” LTCOL (AAC) Shearman said.
“This attitude is a great example of the Australian Army Cadets adopting the Australian Army’s core values of courage, initiative and teamwork.”
“The response we have received from the local community has been gratifying, but the cadets themselves are getting plenty out of the weekend too,” He said.
North Grampians Shire recovery manager Greg Little said such tasks might seem small, but they were vitally important to the farmers.
“They’ve been trying to get their crops in and fencing gets left behind,” Mr Little said.
Farmer Phil Hall said he had noticed the difference after just one morning’s work in just one of his paddocks.
“Ten cadets in an hour have done something that two of us might get done in a day so what 50 will do in a weekend is morale-boosting,” Mr Hall said.
The region was hit hard by four major floods between September 2010 and December 2011. At least 99 farms, 64 homes and 16 community assets in the upper Wimmera catchment were affected on December 18 last year when around 125mm of rain fell in just one hour. Many farmers lost fencing that had only just been replaced after the January 2011 floods.
The cadets were thanked for their efforts with a community barbecue at the Joel Joel Hall after they performed a ceremonial parade.
An image of the cadets at work is available at the following link: