Drought Employment Program a win: win

Friday 8 January, 2021
Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) has boosted maintenance crews with more hands on deck thanks to the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Drought Employment Program (DEP).
GMW has worked alongside the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority to employ a crew of farmers in a win, win for the organisation, its customers and the new staff.
GMW field services co-ordinator east Clinton Burkitt said the program, which began in late 2019, funded by the Victorian Government’s drought response package, was designed to help farmers boost income and skills when climatic conditions posed uncertainty on the farm.
“The program is similar to others run during earlier drought conditions to assist fruit growers and dairy farmers looking to diversify their income through short term contracts off-farm,” Mr Burkitt said.
“The temporary roles grow our capacity to undertake general maintenance along the channels and waterways like spraying weeds and trimming trees to improve system efficiency.
“One of the best outcomes is that several of our program staff have ended up in ongoing positions with GMW such as field officer roles.”
Rachel Kealey (Tamleugh) and Sophie Sfetcopoulos (Shepparton) are members of the DEP crew undertaking a range of tasks including weed spraying, trimming small Ash Trees, Boxthorn and Briar Rose along channels and drains as well as erecting and fixing fences.
“This is about supporting irrigators when things get really tough on the farm. It allows them to keep producing but also tides them over with extra income,” GMW Managing Director Charmaine Quick said.
“Under the program, we always find those who apply are highly skilled and keen to work.
“Last year, the DEP has allowed GMW to provide employment for women in roles that may be considered traditionally male and it is our hope that our workforce will continue to diversify in all areas, not just through the DEP but across all areas of our business.”
The GMID Drought Employment Program was coordinated by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.