A Burrell Creek farmer was astounded - and very angry - to find financial hardship employees at her bank did not know there was a drought.
Karen Gilbert has been a loyal customer of the same bank for 21 years. She and her husband run a hobby farm and took out a home loan to purchase it two years ago. All their accounts are with this one bank.
Karen runs a horse agistment business and they have 20 cows and three horses.
"Things were going okay at first, but the drought has really started to affect us," she said.
"After the dry winter our paddocks have not recovered and the creek water we use for livestock has all but run dry. We are now having to hand feed our 20 cows and three horses daily plus we now have to buy water for the horses agisting on our property."
The cost of feed has doubled every month since July.
"Whereas before winter we were managing to pay all our bills, we are now faced with the fact that we may not be able to pay our mortgage in a months' time," Karen said.
"We simply cannot feed our livestock, run our business and manage our finances. So, we decided to approach the bank for some financial help just to get us through until Christmas."
Their request for a loan was denied.
"Devastated, we asked what we should do," Karen said.
They were told to call the bank's financial hardship line and get their monthly mortgage payments suspended until January.
Karen provides the following transcript of what took place...
Bank employee (in a Melbourne office): "Why is it that you cannot meet your financial obligations?"
Karen: "It's because of the drought"
Bank employee: "And when do you think that situation will resolve itself?"
Karen: "Errr, when it rains."
Bank employee: "And when do you think that will happen?"
Karen (starting to lose the plot): "Are you joking? Do you not realise there is a drought in rural Australia?"
Bank employee: "No."
Karen (totally lost it now): "OMG are you serious, I can't believe they've put me through to a hardship department and you don't even know what's going on out here? Please put me on to someone who does."
And after five minutes of being on hold Karen was put through to another employee who "apologised for his colleague but said they live in Melbourne so don't know about the drought".
"I don't live in Syria, but I know there's a bloody war on!" Karen said.
No happy ending
There is no happy ending to this story.
When Karen was put in touch with "the boss" of the financial hardship division, he told her he needed to go through all her finances and did she have a spare half an hour?
"It was 4pm, I had cows to feed and I was ropeable. I don't see why they couldn't get this info from the bank branch who took all our details in the first place. So I told them to forget it.
"I have been so upset by all of this."