By Noel Hobley

Terry Jarvis, one of Australia’s most exceptional watercolour artists, and his partner Michelle Kent, wondered how they could help during one of the toughest droughts in Australia’s history. So, in November 2019, they stuck to what they knew and generated the ‘Life on the Land – Our Farming Heroes’ painting exhibition at the Bendigo Town Hall.  Over $40,000 was raised, including a major donations from Gulf Horizons Foundation, Flashmarket and EyeCandy Motorsports, as well as support from other local donors such as Fosterville Gold Mine and the City of Greater Bendigo.  

Strathfieldsaye Primary School students also held a fund-raising event, donating all funds to the ‘Life on the Land - Drought Relief Appeal’.

In order to stage the exhibition and organise the distribution of funds, Terry enlisted the help of Bendigo Rotarian, Brian Figg, who had been involved with the Easter Art Exhibition over many years.  Opening on a Friday night and exhibiting through Saturday and Sunday, the ‘Life on the Land – Drought Relief Appeal’ was an instant success and its committee immediately kicked into action to organise the distribution of available funds.

Rotarians with varying experiences within farming communities and financial management set about identifying opportunities where there would be the most impact for rural areas ‘doing it tough’. Leveraging existing drought programs through Community/Rotary groups at the coalface remained a preference for distribution of funds.

The largest distribution to date of $20,000 went to the Rotary Club of Cobar that organised a B-double truckload of hay to be distributed to farmers in the Central NSW area. With this funding Rotary Cobar was also able to secure further funds from Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) and a second truckload of hay was organised.

Funds also went to Rotary Mildura who provided food vouchers for farming families in the Millewa region, and hygiene products for school children at Werrimul, including a voucher for new shoes. The East Loddon Foodshare program based at Dingee, produced grocery hampers, with groceries purchased locally from funds provided by the project.  Importantly, the hampers were distributed to local CFA brigades and the Salvos for distribution to families they identified who were in need.

Following the success of these distributions, the Gulf Horizons Foundation donated a further $30,000, and donations from individuals have also been gladly received.

The Rotary Club of Bendigo continues to review further distribution opportunities including funding to community groups like East Loddon Foodshare, Drought Angels, Star Thrower and Hive Aid.  A pallet of cosmetics was made available and together with vouchers, cosmetics were included with hampers.  A NSW artist colleague saw Terry’s Facebook post about the Appeal and is donating a painting to Rotary for a raffle or auction to raise further funds.

Whilst the recent rains have relieved some rural communities, recovery is slow and drought conditions still exist across many areas.  So, the work goes on, and funds raised will continue to be used to assist those in need.

The Rotary Club of Bendigo acknowledges the foresight of Terry Jarvis and Michelle Kent for initiating the ‘Life on the Land – Drought Relief Appeal’ exhibition, and thanks all those who have given donations for their generosity.  Further donations to the appeal are still welcomed through:

For further information contact: Brian Figg – Project Manager, Life on the Land – Drought Relief Appeal, Rotary Club of Bendigo at or 0428 133 384.