This browser is not supported. Please upgrade your browser.

Space to grow

Posted on : 12 January 2017

WORDS: Nicola Conville
Article first appeared RAS Times November 2016

Two years ago a teacher had a vision to create a natural play space for her rural community and thanks to funding from an RAS Foundation (RASF) Community Futures Grant in 2015 her goal has been achieved.

School teacher Katie Rowe was inspired to create a play area for young children at her local café, Two Eight Two Eight, in her adopted home of Gulargambone in the central west plains of NSW. The building was purchased by the local community in 2002 and has been renovated slowly over the years, evolving to encompass a visitor’s centre and café.

“As the building took shape, I felt it needed something to engage the school children and help them feel proud of their community, and that’s where the idea for a natural play space came about,” Katie explains.

The RASF Community Futures Grants encourage rural youth leadership by providing financial assistance for community projects. The program has been running for three years, and in that time, 23 grants have been awarded, with a total sum of $510,000 in funds distributed to help community projects come to life.

When Katie learned about the Community Future Grant, she felt it was the perfect fit for her project. She put together a very detailed proposal but says the hardest part of the process was keeping it a secret once she knew the application had been successful.

“I knew about it for three weeks before the announcement at the 2015 Sydney Royal Easter Show, it was hard to stay quiet!”

On receipt of the grant, volunteers spent five months building the new play area, which includes a herb garden that provides for the café kitchen, and an interactive leisure and learning space for local kids aged up to seven years.

“There was a lot of work to do,” Katie says. “We cut down trees, replaced the shed and put in a new drainage system – and you’d be amazed and how much dirt it takes to fill a space like this too,” she laughs.

Local school children helped out by creating beautiful handmade stepping stones for the space.

“It was a lot of work, but when it all fell into place it was worth every second. In April we had a launch party and Kate Ross from the RASF came down for it. The place looks amazing now – it’s so colourful, with plenty of shade and a beautiful garden.”

Katie had only been living in Gulargambone for a few years when her vision for the play space began to take shape, but she had a strong desire to give back to her local community.

“It’s so nice to be able to do something significant and it’s lovely that the kids have somewhere safe to play,” she says.

“I love rural living for the sense of community, the fresh air and open spaces. But it’s also a beautiful environment for kids. Country living also gives them a lot of resilience and teaches them that when people work together, that’s how things get done.

“The Community Futures Grant is a great initiative because even going through the process of application gets you thinking about what you would like for your community and the skills you would like to learn. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their community and themselves.”

In 2015 David Ryan and Helen DeCosta were also awarded Community Future Grants achieving excellent results for their communities.

Learn more about RASF’s scholarships and grants.