Upon us all, upon us all a little rain must fall.
...Just a little rain.
I think it's fair to say that this morning, many Australians have a spring in their step, a smile on their face, and a little more hope than they've had over the last few years. Particularly those Australians who live on the land.
The reason for this increased optimism? Something as simple as rain.
Australia is in the midst of the worst drought for 100 years, and its impact has been far reaching and severe. 100% of New South Wales and the ACT has been drought declared. The majority of Queensland, South Australia The Northern Territory are drought declared. Large parts of Victoria and Western Australia are in the same boat. There are parts of western NSW that have been drought declared for over seven years. Farmers have been hit extremely hard, with many relying on Federal Government assistance as their only means of income. For a long time, the only access to fresh drinking water has been water trucked in, to fill empty water tanks.
Yesterday, rain fell over huge portions of Australia - and this time, the rain didn't fall only near the coastal fringe, but reached deep into the country to provide some welcome relief to those who desperately need it. Even better - it was just about the perfect type of rain for these bone dry regions - falling fairly lightly, but steadily. Heavy rains could have caused severe and devastating erosion, the rain simply running off the dry soil. This rain soaked into parched land, the first moisture it has seen in years.
In October last year, a major newspaper ran a story from Brewarrina, in North Western NSW. The front page picture was of three year old Lucy Geddes, and it was one of those photos that seems just perfect. Standing near an old barbed wire fence on her parent's property, a gust of dry wind blows her red hair across her face. Yesterday, Lucy experienced rain for the first time in her life. The last rain her home saw fell when she was being born.
The drought is not yet over - yesterday's falls are certainly a step in a positive direction, however it's predicted that at least another 300mm of rain is needed before this parched land can truly be healed. Up to 88mm fell in some areas of NSW yesterday, falls of between 30 and 70mm in some areas of Victoria are the best rainfalls these regions have seen in twenty years. So our farmers keep looking to the sky, hoping that the needed follow up rains will eventuate, and that they can begin to rebuild their shattered industry. Even once this drought breaks - and with signs that the El Niño weather patterns that have impacted Australia so severely are breaking up, this is looking more hopeful - even then it will take grain producers at least a year to begin generating an income, livestock producers will likely have to wait two years for cash to begin to flow in again.
However, at least now people have been reminded, that it will rain again. Many people would have been looking at the skies, wondering just how long that was going to take. Not a day would have gone by for people in drought affected areas, when their thoughts didn't turn to the hope for rain. Now, that hope has been answered, and they can begin to look forwards.
In my home city yesterday, there wasn't a single person I spoke to who wasn't happy to talk about the rain for a while. In my office building, you'd catch people just gazing out of the windows, as though they could hardly believe that it was all real. Several people I spoke to related stories the same as mine, from the night before - waking at around 3 or 4am, and hearing the rain outside. Lying there in bed, happy not to go back to sleep straight away - just listening.
It's amazing how such a simple things as rain, can boost the spirits of just about an entire nation.