Farmers in drought-stricken Australia worry over the days, weeks, and months ahead, asking when rain will return to replenish the nation’s agricultural regions. But the younger generation has a somewhat different concern: whether farming will be viable in the future at all.

That was the concern raised by grazier Kate McBride on Q&A last night, who cut through political debate on the panel show to urge clear-headed support for young Australians doing it tough in regional areas – and the 21-year-old’s strong showing framed the issue as an existential threat.

After John Southon, principal of Trundle Central School, asked the panel why Australia offers so little support to young people when droughts roll around, Water Resources Minister David Littleproud asserted “There is a future in agriculture.

“The story of agriculture is just add rain. We can’t beat ourselves up. We have been through this before. We’ll be through it again.”

Discussion fell to Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, who criticised Littleproud and his Coalition counterparts for their handling of drought relief payments. Through the noise came McBride, who expressed her fears that her community’s way of life is no longer possible.

“The question was what’s the future for the kids and that’s my question as well,” McBride said.

As a young farmer, I’m 21 years old, where is my future in all this? I spoke to people this week saying there were people in their communities taking kids out of boarding school because they can’t afford it anymore. That’s destroying their future. But they get dragged back to a property where they can’t see a future themselves. What are we doing for these kids? They’re not going to be allowed in the cities. They come home and there’s nothing for them there. I don’t understand. For kids, what are we doing and how are we helping these kids?

And then there’s this heartbreaking assessment of water allocation issues for communities at the bottom of the Murray-Darling Basin:

The impacts of the drought are insanely complex, and there’s the overarching argument that climate change will only make things worse in decades to come – ask Littleproud what he thinks about that – but McBride’s statements throughout the program reframed the issue as deeply personal and very, very worrying.

You can catch the full show here.