18 July 2023

The College gymnasium has been refurbished thanks to the generosity of Suzy and Tim McGavin AdCertAA’94 DipAA’99 and Laguna Bay.

The updated facility in the student social club area is already proving popular with 30-40 students accessing the gym. Weekly personal training sessions with Jess Veenstra are run through the support of Active Farmers. The connection between physical and mental health, well and truly acknowledged.

“The newly upgraded facilities represent a tangible assertion of the impact being made by the Marcus Minds Project. Active Farmers is a similar initiative established by the Riverina’s Ginny Stevens and brings together farmers and other locals in small farming communities through regular group fitness in a fun and interactive environment, with a focus on physical exercise and mental health,” said keen exerciser and Co- Deputy President of the Student Executive, Hugh Dawson AG2.

In March this year the NFF surveyed 1300 food and fibre producers in the National Farmer Wellbeing Report. The results were:

  • 30% of farmers have attempted self-harm or suicide.
  • The top three factors impacting farmer mental health were weather or natural disasters (47%), financial stress (36%) and inflation and cost pressures (35%).
  • 76% of Australian farmers believe that the role they play is undervalued by the Australian public.

While these figures alone are shocking, several positive messages surfaced in the report. Most prominent of which was the proven benefit of farmer-to-farmer support. Increased awareness of mental health and incidence of mental health advocates in rural communities is well documented to have played a significant role in helping farmers through the 2018-19 drought especially.

Hugh thinks the upgraded gym will make a difference beyond the College gates.

“As Marcus is essentially a ‘satellite’ rural community, we expect this level of engagement to play a significant role in habit forming and awareness raising that can be taken back to the bush with graduates. A huge thank you must be expressed to Suzy and Tim McGavin of Laguna Bay, and Ginny Stevens and Justin Sampson from Active Farmers, and the Marcus Oldham staff leadership for their collective support and assistance in making this possible.”