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Aust J Rural Health. 2005 Oct;13(5):315-20.

Wisdom from the drought: recommendations from a consultative conference.

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Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, University of Newcastle c/- Bloomfield Hospital, Forest Road, Orange, New South Wales 2800, Australia.



Drought is a serious and recurring problem for rural and remote Australia. This paper reports the proceedings of a consultative conference concerning the mental health effects of drought held at the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, Orange, in December 2003. The conference objective was to record the collective experience of government and non-government agencies dealing with the effects of drought in rural areas and to collate information for the development of a mental health strategy for future drought.


Participants were recruited in consultation with rural mental health organisations. Questions about mental health service strategies to minimise and respond to the mental health impact of the drought were posed to participants. Qualitative data were collected using a Nominal Group Technique.


The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, Bloomfield Hospital, Orange, New South Wales.


Twenty-three professionals participated, including representatives from New South Wales Health, Mental Health, and Agriculture; the Department of Community Services, and Rural Financial Counsellors.


Qualitative analysis of participant responses.


Three general strategies emerged as the most beneficial in minimising adverse mental health outcomes in times of drought: community-building and education about the physical, financial and mental health effects of drought; co-operation between and co-ordination of agencies in delivering mental health and other drought support; and continuity and planning of improved mental health services.


Drought has a serious effect on the mental health of communities. It is important to plan a response beyond the end of the drought, bringing together different government and non-government agencies to build community capacity to address common mental health needs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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