Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 15, 2023


Farmer Wellbeing

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:24): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industries on farmer wellbeing.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: It is a fact that the rate of farmers dying by suicide is twice that of the general population. It is also anticipated that due to the current challenges farmers face—whether it be lack of worker resources, the rising cost of doing business, skyrocketing electricity prices, water buybacks, or market access challenges—mental health issues will rise over the coming years.

Professor Kate Gunn, founder of the incredibly successful farming mental health program I Farm Well, along with farmer John Gladigau, co-founded Vocal Locals after receiving a grant from the federal government's Future Drought Fund. The Vocal Local program won several awards, including the 2022 Farmer of the Year Award for Agricultural Research Excellence. The group are now looking to think bigger and to ensure these critical support programs are present to help farmers in need.

The team applied for a federal grant program earlier this year to the tune of $17 million to develop a national approach to suicide prevention and wellbeing for the agricultural industry, with the support of the National Farmers' Federation. However, they were unsuccessful. They are looking to reapply in 2024. My questions to the minister are:

1. Was she aware of this initiative by the I Farm Well team here in South Australia?

2. Has she written to Minister Watt in support of the group's $17 million national approach to tackling suicide prevention in agriculture?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:25): I thank the honourable member for her question. I became aware of this particular initiative through the excellent articles in the media over the weekend, I think SA Weekend, if I recall correctly. I wonder whether that is also where the opposition became aware of them.

In terms of the application to the federal government, I am more than happy to provide a letter of support if Dr Gunn or Mr Gladigau would like to contact me about that. I can obtain some further information from them, although I must say that I thought the weekend article was very useful and informative, and the work Dr Gunn is doing and has done is certainly worthy of support and also of more widespread knowledge.

I commend The Advertiser for giving it that kind of exposure. I am more than happy to either meet with Dr Gunn and Mr Gladigau or have a conversation over the phone, given that Dr Gunn is from Eyre Peninsula, if I recall correctly. I am more than happy to do that and provide support through a letter or similar, if I am able to do so.