Local communities will receive some much-needed comic relief in the face of the ongoing drought, and fires which have devastated the region.
Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor on Friday announced a free dose of much-needed comic relief, along with access to health and rural financial advice, will be on offer via the extended What a Relief! tour.
Multi-award-winning comedian, actor, screenwriter and storyteller, Damian Callinan, will tour his one-man show to 15 small towns and villages across the New England North West.
The Comic Relief Drought Tour will kick off in Warialda on February 19 and conclude in Walcha on March 8.
In the Moree Plains Shire, communities can enjoy the event in Boomi on February 22, Garah on February 28, and Mungindi on February 29.
Damian will also be travelling to Upper Horton, Yetman, Deepwater, Tenterfield, Bonshaw, Wollombi, Uralla, Ben Lomond, Bundarra and Delungra.
Organiser Sandy McNaughton is with Regional NSW's drought team in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
"It's about time Damian got here to give us something to laugh about!" she said.
The free community event will include Damian's brilliant stand-up comedy performance followed by a barbecue.
"Armed with a keenly observant comedic eye, Damian will incorporate his local observations to lift What A Relief! to a level beyond a man and a microphone," Ms McNaughton said.
Damian is best known to television and film audiences for his roles on Skithouse, Before the Game and Backyard Ashes. He has made regular appearances on Spicks and Specks, The Project and the Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala.
"It is his love for working in rural Australia and his unique ability to capture the eccentricities of individual communities, that brings Damian on this tour," Ms McNaughton said.
His most recent country caper, The Hall Committee, beautifully captured the idiosyncrasies of small-town committees and halls, where the chairs are stacked in fives, the cutlery is in bundles of 10, the smell of passionfruit sponge lingers long in the air and 21sts have been banned after too many incidents with sheep dip.
Damian is perhaps best known for his award-winning feature film The Merger which screened at the North West Film Festival in Inverell in 2018. Set against the backdrop of a small rural town grappling with drought and the closure of its mill, the film has screened across the globe and has won accolades and hearts both in Australia and internationally.
Mrs Taylor said counsellors from NSW Rural and Remote Mental Health, primary healthcare nurses from Healthwise, rural financial counsellors from the Rural Financial Counselling Service and Local Land Services will be on hand at every stop of the tour.
"Our counsellors continue to work closely with people in both drought and fire affected regional communities around the State, helping them remain focused on getting through these times and I encourage anyone doing it tough to take up these services," Mrs Taylor said.
The event is funded by the Primary Health Network Hunter New England Central Coast and proudly sponsored by the NSW Government.
"This is an incredibly rare opportunity to experience a comedian of Damian's calibre as he shines a light on the local landscape with his unique form of stand-up," Ms McNaughton said.
"We look forward to communities coming out to support the tour. Come to one show, or all 15!"
For further information regarding the tour contact Sandy McNaughton on 0439 565 505 or e-mail email@example.com.