Prince Harry and his expectant wife Meghan visited a drought-stricken region of Australia Wednesday, bringing a rare and welcome rainstorm with them.
The prince commended resilient farmers for persisting through years-long dry spells as he and the Duchess of Sussex received an enthusiastic welcome and one heart-warming hug on day two of their tour Down Under.
“The rain was a gift,” the prince quipped while addressing farmers in one of the country’s hardest-hit drought regions.
Throngs of locals brandishing cardboard cut-outs of the royals gathered in the outback town of Dubbo to get a glimpse of the pair, while others wore royal fancy dress and a local bar even specially brewed a beer dubbed “Dubbo Royale”.
“You are the salt of the earth. Honest, hard-working, and as tough as they come,” the prince told the Dubbo community gathered in a park as heavy rain fell.
“That resilience, sense of humour, and commitment to the land, are the qualities that make you unique, you are the backbone of this country,” he added, as Meghan held an umbrella over the pair.
Eastern Australia has been suffering through record-breaking dry periods, with some regions in and around Dubbo experiencing several years of drought.
Only in the past few weeks have some areas begun to see rain — although the downpours remain patchy.
Harry, who has spoken about his own mental health issues following the death of his mother, called on those affected by drought to ask for help.
“All you need to do is ask for it — your neighbour, your peer, your fellow farmer is literally right around the corner,” he said, noting higher suicide rates in rural Australia.
The royal couple are in Dubbo — a town six hours’ drive from Sydney — to unveil a new aircraft for the country’s Royal Flying Doctor Service at the local airport, enjoy a picnic with the farming community and tour a school that works with young indigenous Australians.
But the pair also stopped for a heart-warming cuddle with five-year-old Luke Vincent, who was wearing his Buninyong Public School uniform and a blue-and-white cap as he nuzzled the duchess and affectionately rubbed the duke’s thinning ginger hair and stroked his beard.
– Meghan’s banana bread –
The Duke and Duchess swatted away flies as they met with local farmers on an outback property, where they were told of the impact of the drought and helped out with buckets of feed for livestock.
They sat down with a family for tea, with the duchess bringing her own homemade banana bread she had reportedly baked the night before.
Harry and Meghan are following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth who visited Dubbo in 1954 and 1992.
In the town, shops and pubs were decorated with banners, bunting and royal portraits.