Picton teen lends voice to drought conversation

Speaking out: Picton's Mali Dillon is one of 11 young Aussies making a different as part of the UNICEF Australia NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought.

Speaking out: Picton's Mali Dillon is one of 11 young Aussies making a different as part of the UNICEF Australia NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought.

Mali Dillon knows she has a voice and she's not afraid to use it.

The Picton teenager is one of 11 young Aussies selected for the steering committee of UNICEF Australia's NSW Youth Summit on Living with Drought.

Growing up in rural Wollondilly, the Magdalene Catholic College student has seen the effect of the ongoing drought firsthand.

She also shows Jersey cows, which puts her in contact with struggling farmers in the state's west.

Mali told the Advertiser she wanted to be involved with the Youth Summit so she could help shine a light on farmers' plights.

Our farmers need to know that it's okay to feel depressed and it's okay to seek help.

Mali Dillon, UNICEF Australia NSW Youth Summit steering committee member

"I want to use my platform to help the people out west," the 16-year-old said.

"I've seen that farmers are struggling and we need to help them. Our farmers need to know that it's okay to feel depressed and it's okay to seek help. The drought is so bad, farmers can't afford to keep their farms.

"They're being forced to sell up and move into cities they've never known. They need the support of their government."

Mali said part of her job on the steering committee was to collaborate with summit participants to some up with solutions and recommendations on how to best handle the devastating drought.

As a member of the Wollondilly Youth Advisory Committee and the Wollondilly representative in YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, Mali is well-versed in the power of speaking out. She wants to make sure politicians and those in power understand the full scope of the drought.

"The drought has affected myself, my family, my friends and the whole of NSW," she said. "It doesn't only mean that there is no grass. You can say that we are in a 'drought' but you need to understand the entirety of the situation.

"The grass needs to be watered, the livestock need water to be able to survive.

"If there is no water, there is no grass, no crops, no money and no food."

Mali said the biggest message she wanted to get across in her role as a steering committee member was that there were people who cared, genuinely, about drought-stricken farmers.

"Farmers tend to have that 'she'll be right' attitude," she said. "But deep down they don't know what to do. I want them to know that things will be okay - we're here to help them."

The summit will be held October 9-11 in Lake Macquarie.