An artist, a Rotary club, and $87,000 in drought aid

An art exhibition by a leading Australian watercolour artist set the wheels in motion for the Life on the Land Appeal, which has raised more than $87,000 for drought-affected communities.

Terry Jarvis is one of Australia’s most exceptional watercolour artists and, with his partner Michelle Kent, they wondered what they could do to help during one of the toughest droughts in Australia’s history.

The pair stuck to what they know best, and together they generated the Life on the Land – Our Farming Heroes painting exhibition at the Bendigo Town Hall, Vic, in November 2019, which raised more than $40,000.

This total included a major donation from Gulf Horizons Foundations, in conjunction with Flashmarket and EyeCandy Motorsports, along with the support of other local donors, including Fosterville Gold Mine and the City of Greater Bendigo. Strathfieldsaye Primary School students held their own fundraising event and donated all funds to the appeal.

In order to stage the exhibition and distribute the funds raised, Terry contacted Brian Figg from the Rotary Club of Bendigo. Opening on a Friday night and exhibiting through Saturday and Sunday, Life on the Land was an instant success.

“We were a little surprised by the fantastic support Terry received from some donors to the exhibition, particularly the sizeable donation of $20,000 from Gulf Horizons Foundation,” said Brian, project manager of the Life on the Land committee. “The event became the catalyst for the Life on the Land Appeal, which has now raised more than $87,000 in total.”

Rotarians with varying experiences within farming communities and financial management set about identifying opportunities where they could have the most impact in rural areas doing it tough. Leveraging existing drought programs through community/Rotary groups at the coalface remained a preference for distribution of funds.

The largest distribution so far, of $20,000, went to the Rotary Club of Cobar, NSW, and saw a B-double truckload of hay distributed to farmers in the Central NSW area. With this funding the club was able to secure further funds from Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) and a second truckload of hay was organised.

Funds also went to Rotary clubs in Mildura, Vic, where food vouchers were provided to farming families in the Millewa region, and hygiene products to school children at Werrimul – including a voucher for new shoes.

The East Loddon Food Share program, based at Dingee, produced grocery hampers, with groceries purchased locally from funds provided by the project. Importantly, the hampers were distributed to local CFA brigades and Salvos for distribution to families they identified as in need.

Following the success of these distributions, a further $30,000 was donated by the Gulf Horizons Foundation and some personal donations from individuals were gladly received. The Rotary Club of Bendigo continues to review further distribution opportunities with the remaining funds.

“One of our new projects is Star-Thrower Beach Retreat, working with some Friends of Rotary on the Bellarine Peninsula to provide weekend getaways to the beach for partners of farmers (post-COVID),” said Brian.

“Terry Jarvis is on our committee and has expressed his desire to host another exhibition in 2021.”

The recent rains have relieved some rural communities, but recovery is slow and drought conditions still exist across many areas, so the work goes on and the funds will be used to assist those in need.

The Rotary Club of Bendigo acknowledges the foresight of Terry Jarvis and Michelle Kent in generating the Life on the Land exhibition and thanks the donors for their generosity. Further donations to the appeal are welcomed. Visit donations.rawcs.com.au/36-2019-20.