This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index
BBC Learning English Launch BBC Media Player
  • Help
  • Text only
You are in:Learning English > News English > Words in the News
Learning English - Words in the News
20 May, 2005 - Published 12:24 GMT
No rain in Australia
Map of Australia

The Australian government is considering giving extra help to farmers fighting the worst drought in living memory. Almost half of the country's farmland is in drought and weather forecasters have warned that it's likely to get worse. This report from Phil Mercer:

Listen to the story

Australia's Big Dry continues to tighten its grip. Much of the land is dying of thirst and has been reduced to dust. Many areas haven't had decent rainfall in months.

The prime minister, John Howard, has travelled to one parched corner of New South Wales where 90% of the state is in drought to see the struggles endured by one farming community. Mr Howard's government has spent more than half-a-billion dollars on drought relief and expects that figure to rise much further.

Some farmers have said the system is unfair because many families are ineligible for help if a wife or son, for example, has taken up work in a nearby town to try to make ends meet.

The cabinet will gather early next week to discuss possible changes and the prime minister appears to be sympathetic. "I admire Australian farmers," he said. "They're not whingers, they're doers," he added. Concerns have also been raised about an increase in depression among farming families, not to mention rising debt.

Weather forecasters have said there are early signs that this arid continent risks entering another El Nino episode in the months ahead, which is associated with drought in Australia.

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Sydney

Listen to the words

tighten its grip
here, get worse. {Usually, ‘tighten its grip’ means to keep a strong hold (on something), so, for example, the Big Dry continues to keep a strong hold on the land, making it very dry}

dying of thirst
there isn’t enough rain or water for people to grow crops

has been reduced to dust
here, the earth is now completely dry

decent rainfall
a lot of rain

the struggles endured by
the problems that people are trying to manage

drought relief
food, money, medicine etc. (given to help people because there is no water)

to make ends meet
to earn just enough money to pay bills and buy food

people who complain about everything, rather than trying to make a problem better

people who act or react to a difficult situation, rather than complain it (doers are the opposite to whingers)

another El Nino episode
a repeat of El Nino (a major warming of the waters in the Pacific Ocean which causes major changes to the weather in that area)

Other Stories