The Big Issue : Edition 571
THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 21 SEP–4 OCT 2018 25 ZARA KING’S VOICE is crackling down the phone line – it keeps dropping in and out as she travels around her family’s livestock and crop farm in rural New South Wales. She’s already put in a long day at school where, at 16, she’s the eldest of 55 students, ranging from kinder to Year 11. Now she’s in the ute with her dad, Graeme, on their way to hand-feed the cattle and sheep they have left. This farm, about 15km outside of Tullibigeal, has been in her family for 110 years. It’s in Zara’s blood. It’s why she recently returned home from boarding school to lend a hand, alongside mum Allyson and younger sister Juliet. “I guess you could say I’m back because of the drought... I came back to help Dad out a bit,” she says. Life on the land has become increasingly tough for farmers like the Kings, with 99 per cent of NSW in drought, while almost 60 per cent of Queensland is similarly drought-affected. “It’s pretty dry and bare, we’re low on feed, we’re losing stock, everything’s just starving to death... We’re losing a lot of things to drought,” says Zara. “I’ve been talking to Dad and he said he’s never really seen it this bad.” She has been documenting the “heartbreaking reality of life during drought” in photos that went viral after she posted them to Facebook group One Day Closer to Rain. “I don’t want to be up myself or anything,” she says of the attention her photos have attracted. “I see myself as someone trying to help out, trying to help educate... I want people to know that, basically, without farmers everyone would be hungry, naked and sober. “Droughts don’t just impact farmers, they impact communities. That’s the thing a lot of people don’t seem to understand. Tullibigeal has fewer than 400 people and everyone is pretty tight-knit here. There’s no hospital or police station within a 40km radius, and people have to travel hours to other towns to get things they need. City people don’t really seem to understand that.” It’s this side of life that Zara has been photographing since she received her first camera at age 11. She also captures aerial images on the drone she got last Christmas. In good years, everything out here is “green and lush, there is enough feed for everything”. She loves the peace and quiet. But right now, there’s little serenity. Or time for photography. The Kings have lost about 120 head of livestock, and they’re down to just seven bales of hay, from 500, when we speak. The family head into town for showers and do the laundry at Pop’s place. Zara plans to leave the farm after Year 12 to explore the world and follow her photography dreams. “Hopefully by the time I’m finished school, things will be a little bit better – if they’re not, I guess I could probably stay for another few years and help,” she says. “I want to get out there and travel and photograph stuff... but I don’t want to leave my dad to do everything by himself. I want to help out in any way I can.” by Amy Hetherington (@AmyHetherington), Editor — PRAYING FOR RAIN.