- Charles Sturt University establishes Regional Impact Fund to help regional students impacted by drought, bushfires, COVID-19, floods and future regional challenges
- Fund was only established last year and has already received close to $50,000 in donations and helped dozens of students
- Students who received support from the fund are now sharing their stories to encourage members of the public to donate
From drought and bushfires to COVID-19 and floods, many regional students across Australia have been hit hard in recent times and a new initiative by Charles Sturt University is hoping to provide some relief.
The University has established the Regional Impact Scholarship Fund to ensure these recent events do not prevent regional students from achieving their higher education goals.
The Fund is set up to adapt and respond to uniquely regional challenges and makes an immediate impact to those that need it most.
It has already received close to $50,000 in donations and has provided much-needed financial support to dozens of students.
CEO of the Charles Sturt Foundation Ms Sarah Ansell said although recent events prompted the University to establish a more agile fund to support regional students, these students have always faced greater barriers when pursuing high education.
“Even before these tragic events, regional students faced greater financial barriers to undertaking and completing their degree and were twice as likely to defer their studies,” Ms Ansell said.
“One in five regional students regularly went without food. Since COVID-19 these statistics are amplified as many have lost jobs and struggled with living costs.
“Our Regional Impact Fund aims to not only address the longstanding and new barriers facing regional students, but to also support the community by continuing to help address vital skills shortages in local communities.”
Members of the public who want to help regional students in need are encouraged to donate to the fund.
Ms Georgia Papworth is one student who is sharing her story in the hope to raise awareness of the fund and the positive impact it has made on her life..
The Jindabyne-local and Bachelor of Medical Radiation Science (Diagnostic Radiography) student had just turned 18 when she and her family lost everything in the 2020-21 bushfires.
“I thought I'll just throw myself in the deep end and just deal with it (the bushfires),” she said.
“So, I moved out of home and moved onto campus. But with that came the guilt of leaving my family behind during a very intense time of need. I did feel a bit selfish.”
“…Then COVID hit and campuses closed, and we all had to go back home.
“With that I lost my employment, and also as a farm kid, I am not eligible for any government support, mainly because we own too much land and that’s considered assets.
“So when the fires happened, the land is income, but you lose the land, so there’s no income, but yet it’s still an asset.”
Krystle Mears from the NSW South Coast town of Catalina, which took the full brunt of the Clyde Mountain Fire on New Year’s Eve 2020, remembers the bushfires vividly.
The Bachelor of Social Science (Social Welfare) student said the support from the University’s new scholarship fund to help her after the fires was ‘indescribable’.
“The instant relief the scholarship gave me is indescribable,” she said. “It helped us with our mortgage and our bills. It helped us catch up. I have never been more thankful in my life.”
The stories of students and the impact of living remotely is not uncommon at Charles Sturt, and the Regional Impact Fund is making a real difference.
Mr Stephen Collis from Gogeldrie in the NSW Riverina who is studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science said, “Our water allocation has been reduced to an amount that will not sustain our family farm. This scholarship gives a huge amount of relief.”
Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student Ms Sarah Knight from Grenfell in NSW said, “Receiving this assistance means that, despite ongoing impacts of natural disaster, I can continue to study.”
Ms Caitlin Hancock, a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Bachelor of Veterinary Science student from Yatte Yattah on the NSW South Coast said, “Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community.”
The Regional Impact Scholarship Fund was established in late 2020. More information about the fund, including how to make a donation, is available on the ‘Giving to Charles Sturt’ webpage.
The Charles Sturt University Foundation Trust currently distributes more than 200 student scholarships every year.