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Community & Business

5 August, 2022

GROW Gular

From veggies to sea creatures, Gulargambone Central School students are learning how to become completely self-sufficient in their own schoolyard.

By Emily Middleton

The Royal Flying Doctor Service’s (RFDS) “Guiding Rural Outback Wellbeing” (GROW) program kickstarted in Gular at the end of 2019, and it is nothing but thriving.

“The students just love the whole thing. I mean how many other kids can say they’ve grown trout in the middle of the outback, and then get to eat it,” said Gulargambone Central School’s general assistant Missy Broughton.

“They’re growing their own veggies with little to no supplies, they’ve got yabbies, they’re all resources they can use. They can sell them to farmers in the future, or they can teach themselves how to grow and keep themselves fed.”

The RFDS heled a “GROW Gulargambone” day last week, where students and community members were invited to come along and see what GROW is all about. Students are encouraged to set up sustainable food systems.

Specifically, Gular students have learnt skills in aquaculture, and have learnt how to use nutrientdense water collected from containers used to farm yabbies and silver perch, to feed and water a vegetable garden.

“The idea of this this particular program is to target communities that have little to no services, or have barriers to accessing services in their communities,” explained GROW program coordinator and community engagement lead for RFDS, Matt March.

“In collaboration with our drug and alcohol mental health team, we provide some early education and early intervention opportunities for them.

“Essentially what we are trying to do is help communities, and certainly schools, to build resilience and build capacity within a community to be able to respond to their own mental health or alcohol drug related challenges.”

However, Mr March can understand that it may be difficult to see a link between aquaculture and early intervention.

“It’s this weird sort of thing – how does this have anything to do with wellbeing – but it does, there’s no doubt.

“The results that we have gotten over the years are so impressive. Gular is our flagship school, and not just because it’s been around the longest, but because it’s achieved so much.”

Ms Broughton says that although the program is adored by the students, there can still be setbacks.

“At times we’ve really had to work, and at times it’s been heart breaking, I’ve actually tried to give up. Twice I’ve walked into the room and 60 fish have been dead. It’s heart breaking.

“But you get up and you keep going. You do it again and you succeed and it’s the best feeling ever. So it doesn’t matter what happens, it can be bad at times, but the good times far outweigh them.”

Ursula Ryan, community engagement officer with the RFDS south eastern section and drug and alcohol mental health section, says that Ms Broughton’s experience is a perfect example of building children’s resilience.

“It gives them encouragement. It shows that it’s ok to have a setback, it’s ok to have a hiccup; I’m not giving up. It might be something out of my control completely, but I’m not letting that define the way forward.”

“It’s also a pretty unique way to learn about nutrition, diet, and production of food, where it actually comes from,” said Mr March.

Lunch is provided at Gulargambone Central School, meaning sometimes the GROW programs efforts are served to students.

“The students feel great that they’ve provided the kitchen with lunch. Lettuces are $12 but here’s some we grew, things like that. It just excites them so much,” said Ms Broughton.

The GROW Gulargambone day was held on Friday, July 29.

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