Two Quirindi High School students recently joined a panel of Young People at a significant Unicef Drought Forum.
Brad Forsyth and Sarah Hutchins - both off the land and wanting a career in Agriculture - attended the NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought organised by UNICEF Australia.
The summit was organised to give young people a voice on the hidden impact of prolonged drought on children and young people and to offer them the chance to be heard by the decision makers.
At the forum, attendees met with decision-makers and one-another to discuss the challenges they face living with drought and how responses can be improved.
"It was great to meet other young people going through the extreme challenges we are facing on farm with the drought. It was also refreshing to have a break away from the farm, feeding livestock and seeing the daily horror of drought," said 14-year-old Brad.
"The toll it takes on my heart and mind is huge, it's heartbreaking to see my family going through this and it is stressful not knowing what we will survive on once they are all gone."
The participants worked in summit circles to discuss their views on options for the future of agriculture and water management as well as other relevant topics.
"My family and farming friends would also send me questions, when I was at the Summit and I was able to ask their questions - it's sad that my Dad said he felt more heard through the Unicef Summit than he has when speaking to politicians or those making political decisions," said 15-year-old Sarah, who lives with her family at 'Wombalong' a 10,000 acre irrigation and dryland farming and livestock property.
"Points raised included that we need more water infrastructure to enable water security for the future. We want action now to get through current conditions and to prepare for the future," said Sarah.
Both students agreed the overarching message was that the young people on farms experiencing drought want action.
"We don't need sympathy, we need immediate, effective support in the form of fodder and water for our livestock and water for our homes and we need action in preparing for the future taking actual steps to drought proof the country," said Brad, who lives with his family on a 6,000 acre sheep and cattle farm.
"We called for practical action to help drought-stricken communities, and suggested a range of measures from serious and immediate investment in water infrastructure and mental health support, to proactively supporting farmers and rural communities," said Sarah.
Both students said the Summit gave them more than they had anticipated.
"We realised through-out the event, that we were not only representing our farms we were representing the Liverpool Plains region and we are humbled to be ongoing advocates for our region and the agricultural industry," said Sarah.