THURSDAY’s inclement weather did little to deter the award winning Bengar Film crew from capturing the essence of local students and mentors who are involved in the Tumut High School Rural Youth Cattle Enrichment program.
There has been little chance for celebrating since the school was announced as the winner in August – from the 780 entries received – of the National Australia Bank Schools First NSW State Impact Award back for the school’s outstanding school-community partnership.
The strong and very successful partnership involves lead members, Margaret Bowden from Weemaru Murray Grey Stud in Adelong, Steve Bellchambers from Rising Sun Rural and Tony Butler who is the Agriculture teacher at Tumut High School.
With the accompanying $60,000 grant received for the NAB Schools First prize for the continuation of their successful Rural Youth Cattle Enrichment (RYCE) program safety banked, the students along with agricultural teacher and mentor, Tony Butler, have been hard at it, ensuring preparations for the film-shoot and impending show season are on track.
The film-crew arrived to the Butler’s Gilmore property on Thursday morning unprepared for the horrendous weather conditions that greeted them and were quickly bundled into drizabones and winter woolies to begin a gruelling filming schedule.
On location for a day and a half to film the students with their cattle, the film will be used as part of the documentary that will be shown at the National finals NAB Schools First awards evening in Melbourne on November 7.
A short snippet will be shown on the night along with the footage from the other national finalists. A full documentary to be released after the event.
As the NSW winner, Tumut High School is up against seven other state and territory winners for the NAB National Schools First Impact award of $140,000.
The award will help continue to provide the rural students of Tumut High School with the terrific opportunity to develop their skills, interest and future career prospects in the cattle industry.
On Thursday as the rain steadily dripped off the peaks of the Akubra hats worn by the keen cattle handling students and down onto their oilskin jackets, Creative Director of Bengar Films, Ben Gartland, guided his crew in capturing the perfect sequence of film to show the students in a light unique to the area.
“It has been inspiring to capture the story here and give the partnership the credit they deserve,” Mr Gartland said. “City audiences have very little knowledge of what goes on in Indigenous and rural communities, it will be great to be able to show them.”
The Bengar crew have filmed all the finalists, experiencing the country and it’s people from Cook Town to Geraldton to Flinders Island and Tumut.
“We have slices of all parts of Australia in the final of the NAB Schools First competition,” Mr Gartland said. “It has been incredible the people we have met and the passion they possess for what they are doing. We have tried to capture the people involved in this program and tell the story of the schools and community partnership.
“The Tumut story has been great to film, Tony and the students have been so passionate and real.”
For Mr Butler, the rewards in being involved in the program are there is a lot more work to do.
“We had several meetings after the win and have moved pretty quickly to establish the RYCE Charolais Stud for the students,” Mr Butler said. “Since 2005 we have had the commercial breeders for showing given to us, we are jumping to the next level into stud cattle, which takes an injection of funds but is going to be great for the program.”
The school has already purchased their first breeder from local Charolais stud breeders, Ian and Donna Robson, who have helped the partnership out over the years offering their expertise and support.
“The next group of animals we will purchase for the stud are from Palgrove Charolais in Queensland where Steve Bellchambers used to work,” Mr Butler said. “These cattle are recognised for having superior genetics and we would become the most southern tip for these already proven bloodlines.”
Mr Butler views starting the stud as an opportunity to provide greater learning experiences for the students involved in the RYCE program.
“We will start to show the cattle in not only the hoof and hook category at Canberra Royal next year but also in the stud show section,” Mr Butler said. “In Sydney next year Charolais will be the feature breed so we thought we will jump into that as well. This is not all working because of me. Marg and Steve, the students and the parents are what makes this partnership work.”
Unfortunately only two representatives are able to attend the gala dinner finals night, but for Mr Butler accompanied by Mr Bellchambers it won’t just be glitz and glamouring it up, they will be attending a full day workshop prior to the awards ceremony designed to help them improve their RYCE partnership program.
Regardless of the outcome of the next round of the NAB Schools First competition, the toiling will not stop for the Tumut group who will continue to head out to the Butler’s farm each Wednesday during sport time on the Gadara bus they are kindly allowed to use to tend to their cattle.
“We have 23 students involved each week and they even come out in the holiday,” Mr Butler said. “There is great enthusiasm from the kids and the whole community regarding the program. The kids are proud of what they are involved in. You can see the value of the program on the students faces and through many of wanting to work in agriculture when they finish school.
“The key is to unlock their enthusiasm, then we know we have done our job.”