A strong gust of wind saved Charles Sturt University Bushfire Scholarship recipient Ms Caitlin Hancock’s home, but her family still felt the devastating effects of Australia’s summer fires.
A random act from Mother Nature saved Ms Caitlin Hancock’s family home from being ravished in the devastating bushfires at the end of 2019 and start of 2020.
But Ms Hancock watched as her family’s property was destroyed and livestock were lost in her hometown of Yatteyattah, just outside of Milton on the NSW south coast.
Her neighbours lost their homes and property in the Currowan fire which swept through the region.
“We are surrounded by houses that have been lost,” she said.
“We were lucky, however, as a wind change pushed the fire north, saving our home but consequently claiming 89 homes just over the ridge to the north of us.
“Overall we were lucky compared to our neighbours, but we lost many kilometres of fencing as well as some stock.”
Ms Hancock is one of six recipients of a $5,000 Charles Sturt Bushfire Scholarship for students affected by the fires.
Growing up around animals on the family farm fostered a deep desire to become a veterinarian for Ms Hancock.
She is currently in her third year of studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Bachelor of Veterinary Science in Wagga Wagga.
“The veterinary degree at Charles Sturt University has an emphasis on rural practice, which attracted me to this degree over other universities,” she said.
“Since beginning my degree, I have found the camaraderie among the students to be one of my favourite aspects. I also enjoy the practical aspects and the wide variety of exposure to different situations that the degree provides us with.”
Ms Hancock read about the scholarship on the University’s website and intended to use it to cover the cost of moving away from home to study in Wagga Wagga.
But with the change to online learning due to COVID-19, Ms Hancock has used the scholarship to cover the costs of studying at home.
“The recent fires burnt our internet cable as it travelled through our property and this meant alternatives for internet had to be considered,” she said.
“The alternatives were much more expensive but were able to be funded with the grant.
“These funds were also used to purchase the necessary textbooks for my current subjects, allowing me access to all of the resources.”
Charles Sturt Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor John Germov said the University recognised the devastating effect the fires had on staff and students.
“The bushfires earlier this year affected many of our students, some were displaced and others lost everything,” he said.
“The Charles Sturt University Bushfire Scholarships were established to alleviate some of the financial pressure and provide vital support to our students who have been affected by the bushfires.”
A full list of scholarships on offer by Charles Sturt is available on the University’s website.