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Community & Business

9 December, 2021

CEF recognises Jemma

You may know her from her weekly submission of Mindfulness with Jemma, from her new Miller Street shopfront Little Windmill Yoga and Wellness, or even from the school yards with her three children.

By Emily Middleton

However you may know her, Jemma Burrell was the recent recipient of the Country Education Foundation Alumni Community Champion award, and she could not be prouder.

“People who work in health fields don’t do it looking for gratification, but it is really nice to have hard work recognised,” said Mrs Burrell.

Born in Warialda, and moving to Coonamble in year eight, Mrs Burrell wanted to be a speech pathologist from a young age.

After finishing year 12 at Coonamble High School, she moved to Albury to study a bachelor of applied science (speech pathology) at Charles Sturt University. The Country Education Foundation (CEF) were able to support Mrs Burrell in making this decision happen, after she was a successful applicant of a CEF grant.

“While my parents never mentioned it, I know that things were tough while my older sister and I were at university. They also had to find ways to feed the stock when things got dry, as well as support their daughters,” said Mrs Burrell.

“Like so many regional families, we weren’t always able to travel and see each other because of the distance. For us it was roughly eight and a half hours, one way.”

Mrs Burrell was able to buy the essentials however, the grant meant she could afford to travel home to see her family a little more.

“It would have been so much harder without the CEF grant. I was so homesick when I started university.

“I hadn’t even driven in a town with traffic lights by myself until I moved down to Albury,” said Mrs Burrell.

When Mrs Burrell came home during Easter break at university, she recalls being adamant that she was not going back.

“I told my parents it just wasn’t for me.”

But after speaking with an occupational therapist (OT), and with her parent’s support, Mrs Burrell stuck with it.

“Four years still felt like forever, but the insights from the OT and support I received was exactly what I needed at the time. Once I put it into perspective, I knew I would be able to stick it out and return home when or if I needed to.”

Sticking it through and graduating is exactly what Mrs Burrell did. As a new graduate, she offered services through ageing, disability, and home care. Her work took her to all parts of rural NSW including Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Cobar, Bourke, and Brewarrina.

“I completely fell in love with delivering accessible, mobile therapy services to remote areas, and I knew this is where I wanted to be,” said Mrs Burrell.

Fast forward to 2017, Mrs Burrell married a farmer from Gilgandra, and began to set up their life together. Living in Gilgandra made Mrs Burrell realise that towns like these often have limited access to allied health services, which inspired her to go from employee to business owner.

Starting her private practise The Mobile Speechie in 2018, Mrs Burrell has just recently opened her yoga studio Little Windmill Yoga and Wellness.

Herself and her husband are also primary producers and run an agricultural contracting business, SJB Ag Contracting.

“For a pair of country kids in their early 30s, I don’t think that’s too bad! Most days I wake up excited to got to work, and not many people can say that” said Mrs Burrell.

Living out her dream of helping people, Mrs Burrell loves Gilgandra, and understands how much the community has been knocked around by drought, a mouse plague, and COVID-19.

“I am so proud of Gilgandra, the community spirit and how resilient the people are.”

Mrs Burrell says she is always thinking of ways she can use her knowledge, experiences, and education to help her community. She has recently spoken about building relationships with local organisations to provide services to mothers and children who have experienced mental illness or trauma.

Currently completing a mental health in yoga course to improve the ways in which she can support those who attend her yoga classes, Mrs Burrell is also writing a funding proposal for a free parent training program targeting early language stimulation for toddlers in the community.

“These are the types of projects that make my heart sing,” said Mrs Burrell.

Mrs Burrell is forever grateful to the CEF for giving her the opportunity to be where she is today. She says she is “bursting with the kind of joy that comes when you are able to make a difference,” and couldn’t thank CEF enough for the kick start.

“I would love for other kids from Coonamble and surrounds to see that if we put our minds to something and lots of hard work too, we can really make a change in our rural communities.”

Gilgandra’s CEF grant application period has been extended by a month, factoring in delays caused by COVID-19.

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