UniSA study checks-in on farmers’ wellbeing post flood disaster

Port Lincoln experienced flash flooding in June 2023 following heavy rain. 344210_02

Farmers rely on good weather to grow crops and sustain livestock, so when the Bureau of Meteorology issues an El Niño warning, it’s a bitter pill to swallow given that so many farmers and rural communities across Australia are still reeling from recent floods.

Now, researchers at the University of South Australia are hoping to connect with farmers who have been affected by the 2022-23 floods to better understand their first-hand experiences and how they would like to be supported to regain optimal wellbeing.

Rural health expert, clinical psychologist and founder of farmer-designed ifarmwell, UniSA’s Associate Professor Kate Gunn says the research will explore how farmers have coped during and in the aftermath of the floods and how they would like to be supported in the future.

“Life on the land always has its ups and downs, but in the past 12 months, farmers who have been hit by floods have been dealt a particularly tough hand,” Assoc Prof Gunn says.

“Due to the floods, primary producers have lost crops, livestock and important infrastructure. Of course, this also has significant implications for farmers’ identities and livelihoods.

“When such devastation occurs, it affects everyone. However, farmers are believed to be at increased risk of adverse psychological outcomes, and to face unique challenges, compared to general flood-affected populations.

“This is largely because farmers generally live and work in the same place – to have both your home and business affected in one hit is extra challenging.

“Our research hopes to better understand these experiences from the perspectives of current primary producers, and importantly, how they would like to be supported to improve their wellbeing in their unique settings and situations, so that we can design support strategies that build upon their existing strengths, and coping strategies and fit with their preferences and needs.”

The 2022-23 floods destroyed mass areas across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory, causing losses of $9.6 billion. It is considered the fourth most-expensive natural disaster in the world last year.

UniSA’s research team, which includes Dr Chloe Fletcher, is now looking to connect with farmers who have been affected by the 2022/23 floods and are willing to confidentially talk about their experiences.

“Talking with farmers and asking how they would like to be supported with their wellbeing is crucial to helping them navigate their flood recovery in the best way possible,” Dr Fletcher says.

“The voice of those affected by the floods should be at the heart of any response initiatives designed to support Australian farmers’ wellbeing.”

This study, led by UniSA, is being conducted in partnership with Regional Development Australia Murraylands and Riverland SA and the National Centre for Farmer Health.