From dust to dances – Dancing in the Dirt gala ball gives town a break

Annual Review stories Community stories: 7 October 2021

Koreng Country

It is a narrative that we so hear often in many remote, rural, and regional communities across the country. Severe weather that can cause drought, flooding, fires, and frost decimating crops and livestock in areas that survive on the agriculture industry. Major events like drought can affect farming regions for years and in doing so cause the residents of these towns extreme stress and anxiety.

In the town Jerramungup in Western Australia, they too are familiar with this narrative. For the past four years, this farming community has endured particularly dry seasonal conditions. With little rainfall and severe wind events, frosty winters and at least four fires, the soil conditions have been left bare and exposed, meaning farmers have struggled to earn an income. To add to the stressors, due to their deteriorating financial situation, many producers were forced to sell off a large majority of their sheep and cattle flocks.

These cumulative disasters seriously affect the mental health of those trying to maintain an income through farming. This current situation has caused many families to leave the town, causing higher rates of social isolation.

With this knowledge, the Fitzgerald Biosphere Group (FBG) took it upon themselves to create an event where residents could come together and “take a night off”. Since their inception in 2002, the FBG has been active facilitators of natural resource management projects including, strategic control of priority weeds, biodiversity conservation, on-farm trials, and sustainable agriculture climate adaptation. They have often held informative and educational events, but after the success of the 2019 Dancing in the Dirt Gala Ball, they knew it was important for the community to make sure it went ahead again in 2020.

With a $5,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant jointly funded by the Bertalli Family Foundation and FRRR, the FBG was able to cover the fees for the live entertainment. The 300 guests in attendance were treated to a night of music from a live band and a much-needed laugh from a comedian.

The FBG was pleased to report the complete success of the night. It was able to bring the adults of the town together for a night of fun and connection. It was so popular they needed to hire an extra bus to transport the guests safely to and from the event. When asked what they would do differently next time, they said they would have more people working to accommodate the popularity of the event.

Dancing in the Dirt achieved everything we had hoped – and more. Our little town was buzzing with excitement in the lead up to the event, it took our minds off the past few difficult seasons and gave our town a fresh focus and outlook on the season to come.”

Jessica Bailey, FBG Administration Officer