This thesis will argue that the mere removal of drought from the Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements and directing the management of drought onto the individual farmer in the National Drought Policy (NDP), failed to 'normalise' drought as regular feature of Australia's variable climate for the rural community. The NDP was ineffective partly because at both federal and state levels, the delivery of drought programs continued to contradict the NDP directives and thereby create a climate of confusion for farmers about the role of government during drought periods. This was able to happen because the development of the NDP focused solely on a neo-liberal, actuarial rationale. It failed to address the historical and mythological narratives that contributed to the way farmers identified themselves and how Australia, as a nation, identified itself with the iconic farmer. Hence fourteen years after the introduction of the NDP, farmers and rural communities still believed that government had a responsibility to help them during droughts and the call from government for greater self-reliance and preparedness for drought failed to be adopted (Stayner & Barclay 2002, p. 58).
The two case studies developed take a close look at the Shepparton and the Moira drought meeting minutes. Through the eyes of the drought workers and community people who attended the drought meetings, these minutes demonstrate that farmers were perceived to experience drought as an unforseen crisis and to be dependent on government intervention to provide support. It will also demonstrate that Exceptional Circumstance funding from both federal and state government initiated programs were short term, reactive responses that generate much confusion about the government's commitment to the NDP. The study will also show that while the appointment of the drought recovery officers was about the coordination of events and functions to boost community morale, their role could have been better utilised if the Victorian State Government and local government had better understood the long term outcomes these workers have achieved working with their rural communities.
The conclusion will consider the findings of each chapter and analyse the effectiveness of drought policy in Australia. In the process it will identify some of the strategies that worked positively towards enabling rural communities to better recognise their capacity to comply with the NDP. Then, in terms of climate change predictions that suggest that drought will become a more frequent and drier event in the future, rural communities will be better positioned to address self-reliant practices and plan for more sustainable outcomes that will enhance their environment.