By Kyra Gillespie
The country’s arterial disaster relief project started right here in Pakenham.
Pakenham Lions Club member Graham Cockerell, after seeing the devastation of the 2006 east Gippsland fires, founded Need for Feed – delivering emergency fodder and transport to farmers in drought, fire and flood affected areas.
Hundreds of truckloads of hay and thousands of covered kilometres later, and Mr Cockerell has been named the Gazette’s Person of the Year for 2018.
When he found out about the accolade, the humble helper was quick to acknowledge the volunteers that make ‘Need for Feed’ possible.
“I don’t mind accepting it on behalf of Need for Feed, but it’s not a one-person effort,” he said modestly.
“For example, we did a big run for Father’s Day this year and we probably had about 400 volunteers that weekend – we had 100 trucks on the road and a support crew of about 150, and we had other Lions Clubs catering for us along the way.”
Over $3.5 million dollars-worth of fodder – which equates to around 19,000 large rounds of hay – was donated and delivered to farming families in need in 2018 alone.
A personal tragedy sparked Mr Cockerell’s interest in helping the farmers back in 2006.
“It was probably a little bit personal for me,” he explained. “There was a lot of talk back then of three farmers per week around Australia taking their own life, and others walking off the land.
“I lost my father to farm-related suicide when I was a boy, and I didn’t deal with it at the time… I just didn’t.
“And then the 2006 fires came along; I was watching it all on the news and it was very close to the 40th anniversary of my father’s death, and I suppose things just came home to me really.”
For more about the inspiring work of Need for Feed read Personal tragedy drives the need for feed.