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(Australian Associated Press)
Prince Harry has urged the people of Dubbo battling drought to seek the support they need, saying in his own darkest hours asking for help was the best thing he ever did.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived at Dubbo’s Victoria Park on Wednesday to thunderous rounds of applause as the heavens opened over the drought-stricken regional city.
In the pouring rain, as Meghan held an umbrella over him, Harry delivered a heartfelt message of hope, telling the crowd that the best thing about coming to the country was the people.
“You are the salt of the earth, honest, hardworking and as tough as they come,” he said.
“But I know that life has not been easy, you have just lived through two years of drought … it must be hard not to lose hope when you endure so many dry months end on end knowing that you are powerless to do anything about it.”
The newly-married prince told the crowd that part of being strong was having the courage to ask for help. He spoke of high suicide rates and the need for a strong community to help others who are doing it tough.
“You must not silently suffer and, if I may speak personally, we are all in this together, because asking for help was some of the best decisions I ever made.”
It was a touching break from royal protocol for Prince Harry to speak of his personal struggles with mental health.
For the 15,000 strong crowd, the visit was a desperately needed boost to morale.
Used to the often empty words of politicians, farmers in the crowd said they could tell Prince Harry’s speech came from the heart.
“I just think that it’s lovely that they got off the beaten track and came out to Dubbo to speak with people affected by the drought,” Warren farmer Audrey Weston told AAP.
“He offered to stay for two weeks so we could have some more of the rain.”
Farmer Penny Blatchford from Gurley said Prince Harry’s time jackarooing on a farm near Roma in Queensland when he was younger meant he understood country people.
Ms Blatchford was also full of praise for Meghan, who she says was impressed by one particular country approach to decoration.
“She’d never seen cotton used in flower arrangements before so when someone handed her a bouquet with cotton in it she turned to one of her minders said how beautiful it was,” she said.
The day was one that seven-year-old Sienna Blackhall will never forget, she says despite the torrential rain she felt exactly like a princess after meeting the royal couple.
“I met prince Harry and he said I really like your tiara, I think Meghan needs one like it,” she said.
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