CSU students help bring some drought relief to Grenfell

Author: Bruce Andrews
Publication Date: Monday, 22 Oct 2018

* CSU student initiative brings cheer to Grenfell farmers and community

* More than 300 people enjoyed community event staged by students

* CSU staff proud and inspired by qualities of students

A group of Charles Sturt University (CSU) students has recently helped bring some relief and joy to drought-affected farmers and the community in Grenfell.

Mr Scott Hatch, student liaison officer in the Division of Student Services at CSU in Bathurst, said, “This initiative was a brilliant idea created and run by the students to give back to a local drought-stressed community in the University’s catchment area.

“The Student Representative Council (SRC) in Bathurst decided that, being a rural and regional university and having many students from rural communities and farms, they wanted to in some way support the communities and the farmers of our region,” Mr Hatch said.

“Students are not necessarily rich in money, so the amount that they would be able to raise by conducting a charity event would not be huge.

“However, Charles Sturt University students are rich in other ways.”

Mr Hatch said CSU is about people, and is rich in social connections, rich in its desire to build communities, to support and enhance the lives of people that they come in contact with, and inspire others to make a difference regardless of their personal background.

“So the students came up with the idea to take a group of student volunteers to a local community to provide a series of events to hopefully have a positive impact within this community during such hard times,” Mr Hatch said.

“It is a way for the people in the community to escape, for just one day, the pressures and demands of the drought. The thought was, ‘let’s provide a little bit of brightness in an otherwise stressed rural environment’.

“This was also a very unique way of supporting them through such tough times other than just giving money to buy a bale of hay, and so on.

“It is highly commendable that the students decided to give up significant proportions of their time to support a community within our region, with no request or thought for personal gain.”

Mr Hatch said the idea then grew throughout the CSU community. Links were formed and support was offered through various student clubs, the CSU Division of Student Services, interaction with the CSU Faculty of Arts and Education, CSU Green, Cheers, and Residence Life, as well as support within the local community.

CSU SRC (Bathurst) President and participating student Mr Vittorio Travan said, “The Grenfell event was a wonderful opportunity for the students of Charles Sturt University to give back to the region that has been so adversely affected by the drought.

“The drought has hit home for many students since many come from farming families and backgrounds, and it was only fitting that as students we tried to contribute back into the effected communities.”

He agreed with Mr Hatch that students don’t necessarily have the finances to contribute effectively to major relief appeal efforts, so the Grenfell initiative provided them with an alternative way to give back to the farmers and the farming community.

“One of the biggest things we learnt on the trip was that when the farmers are affected by the drought, it not only influences the farmers but also influences the wider community,” Mr Travan said.

“So we thought that putting on a school sporting clinic, visiting one of the farms and staging a community barbeque and movie for the whole town to enjoy was a simple way for us to give back.”

The students selected the central west town of Grenfell, since it has a great link with the students and staff of CSU. Approximately 45 students participated and were organised into three groups:

Group One went to selected local farms and worked with farmers for several hours. This was because many farmers have had to lay off workers, so the students gave them a day of free labour. This group included students who have completed Mental Health First Aid training, so they are aware of the impacts of drought stress and what to do if the farmers are struggling.

Group Two went to Grenfell Primary School where they ran a series of activities during the afternoon for the whole school and presented prizes. These CSU students were predominantly teacher education students, who put their theoretical learnings into practice. Understanding how the pressures at home can often impact on children and their lives, the aim was to offer the school students a fun afternoon to hopefully support them and make them smile.

Group Three remained at a park in Grenfell to set up the activities for the afternoon and evening, from 4pm once all the CSU students had returned to the park.

CSU students from the SRC, Residences, Sports Council and student clubs set up games throughout the park and were involved in games or conversations with the community throughout the afternoon/evening; face painting for children, and CSU-branded giveaways; a free barbeque with items purchased from local businesses; CSU students played live music; and the Residence Life giant screen showed a movie in the early evening that proved a hit with the community

Mr Travan said, “I know the University’s students really enjoyed and relished the opportunity to give back to the community, and we hope the community will recover from the drought stronger than ever.”

Mr Hatch estimated that in addition to all the children who participated earlier at the school, he believes that more than 300 people attend the community event in the park.

He noted that the full-time CSU staff who were present and assisted in Grenfell on the day felt an overwhelming sense of pride and inspiration as they watched the CSU students be such positive, warm, caring people in the way they related to and contributed to the community.

Mrs Justine Booth from CSU Residence Life said, “This initiative had a high impact within the community, and University staff who later visited Grenfell report being asked by locals about the event and whether they were involved,”

“We have received positive feedback through social media from the members of the Grenfell community thanking the University and our students for our time and effort.

“I’d like to acknowledge and thank CSU alumni Paige and Lachlan Martens in Grenfell who put us in contact with Claire McCann from the tourism office in Grenfell and Michelle Herbert from Grenfell Public School,” Mrs Booth said.

“I also thank Chad White from the Rural Adversity and Mental Health Program, who was able to assist us to link with the local farmers, assisted on the day and provided the drinks at the community event.”


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, 0418 669 362

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Mr Scott Hatch and CSU student Mr Vittorio Travan.

The community initiative was a joint program by the CSU Division of Student Services (Mr Scott Hatch) and CSU Residence Life (Mrs Justine Booth and Mr James Kelly). It was also supported by CSU Green and Cheers (CSU Catering).