July 11, 2019
Blackbutt is looking a little shinier and tidier than it did on Wednesday thanks to a welcome helping hand from The Big Lift.
About 40 students from Sydney’s University Of Technology put in a combined 160 hours of volunteer work on Thursday morning to help five of Blackbutt’s long-established community groups attend to a list of outstanding maintenance jobs.
Between 8:00am and noon, the students tidied up the grounds of the Blackbutt Tennis Courts and made over a community garden at Benarkin for the Blackbutt Heritage and Tourism Association; pruned an overgrown garden area for Blackbutt RSL’s members; and sorted out the Blackbutt Avocado Festival’s office and storage shed.
Others pitched in to clean up and paint part of the fence around Blackbutt Showground’s main arena; varnished the woodwork around the woodchop arena and the stairs leading into the main pavilion; and attended to a number of smaller but just as necessary tasks elsewhere in the town.
Afterwards, all the students gathered together for a free lunch and receive heartfelt thanks from members of the groups they had helped.
The Big Lift group in Blackbutt was one of two busloads of UTS students which left Sydney to help out in various rural towns.
This is the second time a UTS group has visited Blackbutt.
A similar group came two years ago, and it produced remarkable transformations in the space of a morning.
Blackbutt Avocado Festival president Jeff Connor was instrumental in orchestrating The Big Lift’s first visit.
He also played a key role in organising this year’s return visit, helping to organise local community groups and a list of tasks.
Jeff said the problem Blackbutt’s community groups faced was common to many rural towns.
Community groups provide important services but most have an ageing membership, he said.
This means that proper maintenance of each group’s assets tends to become steadily more difficult, so the offer of volunteer labour from The Big Lift filled a genuine need.
The Big Lift president Melissa Jimenez said participants were happy to help out.
Melissa – a Master’s student at UTS – said The Big Lift started 10 years ago to promote the idea of volunteering among students, as well as give them an experience of what life was really like in rural Australia.
“Things are so different here,” Melissa said.
She said the problems rural towns faced were quite different to what she and other students experienced in Sydney every day, where simply moving a car out of a driveway can mean 15 minutes waiting for a break in the traffic.
So while volunteering to help out was a good thing, it was also a genuine educational experience for all the students who took part.
This year The Big Lift visited several NSW towns en route from Sydney.
At Moree, one bus headed to Blackbutt and the other to Clifton.
The group in Blackbutt camped on Wednesday night in the showground’s main pavilion.
Melissa said the two busloads of students will reunite on the Gold Coast to give everyone a spot of R&R, then return to Sydney.
[UPDATED with correction]