Posts Tagged ‘Rural’

Uniting Church fighting for those most in need

Posted: October 1, 2012 by jessgeelong20 in Rural Events
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Despite living in the comparative safety of a rural community, teenage involvement with sex, drugs, alcohol and violence is on the increase and becoming alarming.

The Buloke Shire located in North West Victoria is confronting this problem and working along side the Donald Uniting Church to tackle this issue amongst youth within their Shire.

Reverend Margaret Russell and her husband John have been working within the community for several years and fund a variety of programs which provide support and advice for young rural children and their families.

“The people had been carrying the baton for the community over the drought; it must have been going for seven years since before we came. They were tired; they were struggling to a find a way to build people up, and when we had made our decision to come we thought one of the things we have got to try and do is make a difference. We just can’t be a church in four walls; we have got to make a difference at large,” said Mr Russell.

When John and Margaret first moved to Donald they noticed that the Buloke Shire only funded a youth worker, two and a half days a week.

During this time, Donald and surrounding areas had also suffered a number of accidents involving youth.

“We had some suicides and bad car accidents and problems with kids wiping themselves off with alcohol and we were between a brick and a hard place saying, how can we make a difference here,” Mr Russell said.

The Uniting Church applied for a Commonwealth Grant to enquire about youth and parenting around the Buloke region and to assist a full time worker for the youth program.

The Russell’s then applied to the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania to enable the funding of the Youth Worker full time.

St Andrews Uniting Church – Donald

“We were able to run health expos where they bussed in all the kids into Birchip and looked at healthy eating and all sorts of things such as sports, substance abuse, inappropriate sex and behaviour. At the end of that first two years it was so successful that we then asked The Synod for another grant for another two years. We were able to help fund the youth worker for four years and we really started to see a difference for the youth but there was still so much work to do,” said Mr Russell.

Better Health released a statement that young children in regional areas are more inclined to drink underage over those living in metropolitan areas.

But what is driving these children to push the limits of the law and become involved in these illegal activities?

“They don’t actually understand that drinking is meant to be sociable, to enjoy, to have fun and eat and have conversation. But this drinking to be numb is bloody sad and I see a lot of that,” Mr Russell said.

“I think the football clubs have made an effort in that direction to be more responsible about young people and drinking,” Mrs Russell said.

Julie Saylor, Youth Development Officer for the Buloke Shire has helped young children find alternative activities such as encouraging them to attend their local youth groups.

“The youth groups have all increased by tenfold, participation is high and young people that would never engage with a service before are actually engaging with a LGA which is not rare but it’s unusual. They are more inclined to want to work with community based organisations, but our participation rates has been fantastic and they are all involved in some level of all our programs,” Saylor said.

On March 2012, Saylor held a local youth freezer ‘Huddle for the Puddle’ at Birchip to help raise funds for the Charlton floods.

The Birchip Youth Group helped Saylor make this event a success having The Justice Crew as their main act.

“Since the youth group put on this event and even with all the after math of challenges it’s actually been quite positive because other shires are finally starting to see what young people and what our programs are doing. Even for all the challenges that the program has the other side of the program is that it’s quite well respected from funding bodies to other workers in other shires,” said Saylor.

The Buloke Shire and Uniting Church say they are not giving up on these children.

The programs set in place have enabled children to form a brighter future, one without violence, jail time and drug and alcohol abuse.

It is believed that this behaviour is a cry for help from other issues that are occurring at home.

“If we were to say what the worse thing we see is, yes we see alcohol and yes we see problems with sexual stuff, but the biggest thing is parenting. Being the parent the mother or the father wanting to be their son or daughters best friend rather than their parent,” said the Russell’s.

The Uniting Church has continued to sponsor the local football club and together with Donald football trainer, Colin Adams, John holds a breakfast before each football match for players that do not eat breakfast.

“They don’t come up and say XYZ but I know deep down that they feel the church really cares about them and their attitudes have changed tremendously. Our aim to get involved with the youth at football and in sport wherever was to not put bums on seats, it was to actually show that we care and we want to share God’s love with them in another way. That we will be there, have a presence, support them, do whatever we can do that’s within our power and try to make a difference and I think we have done that,” the Russell’s said.

To listen to the full interviews please click on the pod-cast.


If you were in the city on August 16th you may have heard the chants “Bailliue Bailliue, he’s going to fail you,”  you may have seen the flood of teachers and students streaming down towards Parliament and you may have asked yourself, what’s all this fuss about?

Students and teachers march through the city.

In the latest state budget the Baillieu government cut a brutal $300 million from the TAFE sector. Now hundreds of teachers and TAFE staff have lost their jobs. Many campuses are  facing closure, courses have been shut down and fees have been massively increased for thousands of students. And to further rub salt into the wound, the government is considering cutting another $230 million.

I asked some TAFE students and staff why they were so passionate about this issue.

Neil, Latrobe Valley




“Because some of my friends have already lost their job, but I’m more worried about where the students are going to go.”





Matthew, Box Hill



“Because not many places have a quality and recognised music course like Box Hill Institute, if it shuts down it will have a substantial effect on the Melbourne contemporary music scene.”





Angus, Swinburne




“Because Swinburne is already under funded, one of my teachers leaves an hour early to get to another class.”





A lot of protesters had travelled from the country to make their voice heard as rural and remote towns will most likely suffer worst from these cuts. If their TAFE’s are closed, students and teachers will have to commute miles and miles to work and study. Julia Gillard even hit out at Mr Bailliue claiming it will be a heavy blow for towns such as Warrnambool, Morwell and Mildura, calling TAFE part of their ‘social Fabric’.

A major concern for protesters was where will the kids who have tried and failed at normal school go?  The kids who just don’t fit in?  And the others who have unimaginable home lives and struggle to cope with school as well?

Chloe Williams is one of those students, completing a child care diploma at GoTAFE in Seymour, country Victoria. “I dropped out of school because of bullying, if TAFE didn’t take me I would be doing nothing” Chloe said. She fears her and the other people on her class have no future without TAFE.

And what about the students who use TAFE as a pathway to university? Many students HAVE to go to TAFE in order to get into their desired course.

A student stands up for Swinburne as it faces closure. Swinburne offers many university pathway courses.

Angus Cameron, a student of Engineering at Swinburne TAFE says he won’t be able to complete his university degree if his TAFE shuts down. “I’m not sure if I’ll still be able to go to uni” Angus said.

Baillieu has hit back claiming “enrolments exploded in courses that were cheap to deliver, profitable for providers but did not deliver on jobs.” This is his attempt to shift the blame to the previous Labour government, whose funding regime allowed private providers to flourish. These registered training offices don’t have the same overheads and are running diplomas in days when the skills take months to acquire and TAFE’s just can’t compete.

Despite the previous governments errors, Baillieu has still made the decision to cut TAFE’s funding in a time when they need all they could get. He however refers to it as a ‘reform’ and claims it was “designed to save the system from collapse”.

But this reform has already shut down RMIT’s Professional Writing Diploma through lack of numbers, while cuts have also led to the closure of the Engineering department at Bendigo TAFE’s Castlemaine campus.

The future is uncertain for TAFE students and teachers but one thing is for sure, they’re not going to take it any more.

If you missed the protest join the constant virtual rally on twiiter at