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Western Queensland's 'drought babies' have puddles to splash in after 10-year dry spell


Some farm children are hearing rain on the roof for the first time in their lives, and now can’t get enough of mucking about in muddy puddles as western Queensland gets a good drenching.

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For some people, seeing rainfall doesn’t usually leave an indelible impression.

But for “drought babies” growing up in drought-ravaged western Queensland, the recent rain has been life changing.

Lucy, Fletcher and Clancy Hawkins have seen the odd light shower here or there on their family property at Taree, south-east of Aramac.

But last month marked the start of their first genuine wet season in 10 years.

The siblings, aged nine, seven and five respectively, have woken almost every day for the past month to the unusual sight of water in the creeks and puddles in the paddocks.

Their mum, Genevieve Hawkins, said it had been wonderful to watch the kids experience flowing creeks and rivers for the first time.

“The kids are drought babies, so they’ve never seen a wet season, they’ve never seen this much water and they are having the best time playing in the mud,” she said.

“It’s all day, every day — they just want to be out in the mud. We’ve got little gullies that are running, so taking them out to be able to jump in muddy puddles and play in the creek is a real novelty for them.

“It’s just marvellous.”

While the kids have a blast in the water, their parents don’t know who is more excited — the kids or them.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling that comes from this much rain,” Hawkins said.

“I know how it feels to wait, to be the one that misses out on the rain and that’s been hard.

“So mentally, just to have this rain and to see the water lying around, to see the creeks running is just amazing. It’s such a weight lifted off our shoulders.”

Since December 18, 288 millimetres has fallen on the Hawkins’ property in central-west Queensland.

In less than a month, more rain has fallen there than in the years 2017, 2018 or 2019.

“In 2017, we had a total rainfall of 143mm, which is actually, I think, the lowest on record,” father Bryson Hawkins said.

“In 2018 we had a total annual rainfall of 230mm, and in 2019 we had 216mm. They were pretty dry years, given our average is about 470mm.”

At Taree, seven of the past 10 years have recorded below-average rainfall, forcing the Hawkins family to live through severe drought conditions.

So this well-timed rain has made a world of difference.

Genevieve Hawkins said her region had rainfall records dating back 41 years that showed the past decade had been the driest on record.

“I’m feeling very grateful that we were able to get under this rain,” she said.

“I know it’s not as widespread as we’d hoped, but I’m hoping that everyone has had a bit now and the gaps are starting to fill in.

“We were certainly one of those places that seemed to be in the gaps that always missed out, so I’m feeling quite positive about this.

“I feel like if we can get rain, anyone can get rain.”

– ABC / Maddelin McCosker

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