The financial capacity of the Australian agriculture sector to capture the benefits of the growing food and fibre demands of the burgeoning global population has been questioned, particularly in the face of a projected climate change impacts. This paper reports on the first phase of a multi-stage project that seeks to understand the causes of rural business failure, illustrated through the metaphorical voice of the farmer. It has been constructed in three parts comprising an overview of the rationale for the consideration of the rural business failure as it is understood by the operators of stressed rural businesses; description of the method and results; and thirdly, the implications of the results and direction for future research. This paper reports on the analysis of responses of approximately 33,000 clients collected as part of the Rural Financial Counselling Services (RFCS) during the period 2012–2016. A key finding of the paper is the perception that climate variation is the primary cause for the hardship experienced; that is, in the absence of the variable climate operators would not have found themselves in need of the RFCS. However, this result necessarily requires a more objective review before consideration as the basis of new policy.