Mark Coulton, Member for Parkes, on the road in Moree

I have been on the road again travelling throughout my electorate, this time with my colleague Dr John McVeigh, Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government.

Last week Dr McVeigh and I met with Moree Plains Shire Council to discuss further opportunities to build upon the economic and social benefits of Inland Rail. The development of Inland Rail is an exciting time for regional Australia and I look forward to seeing its far-reaching advantages benefit communities across the Parkes electorate.

On Thursday Dr McVeigh and I visited Dan and Rebecca Reardon, mixed cropping and sheep producers near Moree, to see how tough the dry times are for them on their farm. Dan and Rebecca are a good example of farmers in my electorate pushing through with their farming business, despite what the drought has thrown at them. I was pleased to host Dr McVeigh in my electorate as he brings with him a wealth of understanding and agricultural knowledge, which is especially welcome during the ongoing drought.

I spoke with many more farmers and government agency representatives at the drought forum held at the Services Club in Moree last Thursday. It is clear to me that events like the drought forum are critical at the moment to connect farmers in need with government and other support that is on offer. I further encourage farmers not to self-assess. Rather, farmers should contact the Rural Financial Counselling Service, as counsellors will be able to provide vital guidance and support. It was great to also catch up with some of the valuable representatives of the government support services at this event, including Rural Financial Counsellors.

Senator Jim Molan, who is a former major general in the Australian Army, also attended the forum and spoke about reducing mental health and suicide in the veteran community. I believe Senator Molan’s work in this space provides a valuable insight into how we can work to reduce mental health issues in the farming community as well.

On Friday I attended a farmers’ breakfast in Mullaley, and the full room was an excellent show of community togetherness and support. I spoke with a number of farmers about the biggest issues they are facing, and about some of the things that the Federal Government may be able to do to further support them during the drought. While it’s clear many have been suffering from the extended dry period, I was reminded that their local communities have also been under pressure. One of the areas I would like to explore with my Federal Government colleagues include supporting small business.

This drought means that farmers are doing it tough, but Australian farmers are the most resilient, entrepreneurial and technologically-advanced in the world. Having 30 years of farming experience myself, I know the challenges many of our farmers are facing and I will continue to work on the issues that are pertinent to these communities at the moment.

Grants to get seniors online

I’m calling on community organisations in the Parkes electorate to apply for a share of up to $20 million in funding to help get seniors online.

The Coalition Government is providing grants of up to $50,000 to local organisations to deliver free digital skills training to people over 50 as part of the Be Connected program.

By joining the Be Connected Network, organisations help seniors to maintain their independence and keep connected with family and friends.

Participants in the program get free, personalised face-to-face coaching and access to interactive tutorials and resources.

There are local organisations in my electorate already delivering this program, but more are needed.

I encourage local organisations to join the network of partners and offer digital skills and social support to seniors in our community.

More than 1,500 organisations have already joined the Be Connected Network across Australia, including libraries, community centres, clubs and aged care facilities.

To find out more information about Be Connected or to join the network, go to or call 1300 795 897.