Falling in love with the land

Our cover girl, Annie Nichols, a former school leader at St Catherine’s Catholic College Singleton, was recently named an ambassador for Youth in Ag (Agriculture) Day celebrations. She has often attended the Sydney Royal Easter Show but this year she had the opportunity to spruik her passion for rural life. Aurora invited Annie, 19, to share her enthusiasm for all things country.

Falling in love with the land

Rural life has taught me many things – like how to have a quick shower and not waste any water, because drought is a disaster and water is liquid gold. I also learned about showing cattle, raising chooks and growing fruit and vegetables. But most importantly, rural life has taught me resilience and the importance of community involvement and spirit.


I believe I now have a far better understanding of the world. Not much is just around the corner – you have to put yourself out there, step up to the challenge and go exploring. This is why I believe rural life has so much to offer in terms of opportunities and life skills.


From humble beginnings, rural life has made me – as a member of the fourth generation of my family to live on our family property in Lower Belford, just outside Singleton – determined to pursue a career in rural or regional Australia.


I am the eldest daughter of a mechanic and a journalist, who have worked in the Valley most of their working lives. I have twin sisters, Lucy and Sophie, who attend my old school, St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton.


I have witnessed first-hand the difficulties in obtaining the same services in health that city cousins take for granted. With many others, I am lobbying on behalf of rural Australia for a better health deal and striving for equality within the health care sector. This is my second year studying physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle.


My road until today may look like smooth sailing but that’s far from the truth. What has brought me to where I am today is the love and supportive spirit of my community. “It takes a village to raise a child”, as Hillary Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, has said on many occasions.


Our family has been battling our father’s mental illness for over a decade now, and our ‘shining light’ has been our rural community.


Whom do you call when the police take hours to respond, and we need to be plucked off our verandah in the middle of the night? A neighbour will always come. When vets are delayed, we know a kindly young gentleman who will come to our rescue and pull a calf. When mechanics and the NMRA man are in high demand, we have our handyman ‘Tub’ down the road to call. When a tree falls down in a storm, we know another neighbour, the collector of all things weird and wonderful, who will have tug boat ropes to pull it off the fence. When doctors’ appointments take days, we have nurse Helen to make us drink apple cider and ginger.


For years we have been rescued, revived and our spirits lifted by our close-knit community.


In small country towns there are so many chances to represent your community and your school and I jumped at every opportunity to travel out of my comfort zone to be a representative for both.


Recently I was selected to travel to the National Rural Women’s Conference in Canberra as a NSW Rural Women Connect youth representative.


The stories women shared were incredible, always with the underlying theme of how opportunities presented themselves in rural towns and how the resilience and determination of rural communities played a major role in their success. Women like Elizabeth Broderick, Liz Davenport, Maggie Beer and the Governor-General Quentin Bryce shared their wisdom and experiences.


As Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation Woman of the Year 2012, and national runner-up, Catherine Marriott, stated at the conference, “Economic independence is one of the most important securities a woman can give herself.”


Throughout my adventures I have had the backing of the members of my rural community, their companionship and support, and for this reason I strongly encourage a life in the bush, a life in a rural community and a life without traffic snarls – well, except at change of shift in the Valley.


Yes there is a divide between rural and urban areas, and yes, I want to bridge that divide. Rural communities are unique and one can never fully understand how wonderful they are until they become part of you. Just simple things like having the same bus driver for years, Ken, who would reverse up the road if he caught a glimpse of us screaming up the driveway, late again. A bus driver that’s a best mate – how good is that?


I am very passionate about the rural lifestyle and encouraging and supporting young people to consider a career in rural Australia, in the agricultural industry, in rural health and in business. The career opportunities really are endless.


I am very grateful for the food that’s on our plates, the clothes we wear and the wine or juice we drink, because I know and understand how much hard work and dedication are involved in providing these necessities.


To all the young people out there, education is power. There are thousands of scholarships available, so apply for as many as possible, join community groups and show committees, embrace every opportunity, engage with elders, the wisdom people – we have a lot to learn. Most importantly, embrace rural life and all it has to offer.


Growing up in such a landscape you cannot help but fall in love with the land, as I have.

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