Variety Bash: taking to the road for remote schools
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 128 No 2, 31 March 2023, page no. 22
It was day three of the 2022 Queensland Variety Bash and we pulled into the racecourse at Boulia next to a lime green VW Combi.
Compared to our clapped-out old Holden, this car was schmick! Beautiful paintwork, pristine engine bay and everything working. We began chatting with their team, only to discover they were both recently retired educators out having their first experience of “the Bash”, as it is affectionately known. As we talked about retirement, they shared with me “the three Hs of retirement”, health, help and a hobby, as being the key to staying engaged and having a great time. This got us thinking; why wait until we retire to get these elements humming?
Variety Queensland have been running the Bash for 32 years for the benefit of schools and kids statewide who are disadvantaged, sick or living with a disability. The most recent Bash raised more than $2 million, and with the Queensland Teachers’ Union stepping in as our major sponsor this year, our team contributed more than $15,000.
The benefits were felt at some of Queensland’s most remote and rural schools. There was a new playground at Dajarra SS, STEM equipment for Boulia SS, and Julia Creek SS received a new bus to enable some of its remote students to attend school, get to swimming lessons in the 40+ temperatures, and attend other excursions. There was also a new bike for every student at Tambo SS.
On top of these generous gifts to schools comes the more targeted presentations of wheelchairs, complex seating, and boards to promote feeding and age-appropriate peer engagement, just to name a few grants that are handed out along the way.
We visited tiny towns and invested huge amounts in their local tourism, events, activities and maybe their watering holes. We met fantastic people and heard stories of hardship, mateship, grit and determination for success and achievement. We met educators at Winton, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa, Dajarra, Boulia, Bedourie, Birdsville, Isisford, Tambo, Springsure, Dingo and Cawarral just to name a few.
The heartening part of this experience was, regardless of isolation or distance, kids are kids, and they all deserve a fair go. Our teachers love their students and their school and will do whatever it takes for their students to succeed. Our school leaders are passionate and collaborative and make the impossible work every day. We were lucky enough to drop off some goodies from the QTU and the Centre for Learning and Wellbeing (CLAW) Emerald to our school colleagues along the way and hear their fascinating stories and experiences.
Jumping back to the 3 Hs, our physical health is a personal thing, and we all need to find ways in our busy days to support, maintain or improve it. Our mental health is a completely different challenge. Personally, the feeling of seeing children who are having a difficult time receive a grant or a gift of something that will change their lives is more than a tear-jerker. It gave an overwhelming sense of pride that I had done something that was genuinely for the good of another person. That’s about the most rewarding feeling there is. I had helped.
As far as a hobby goes, I’m far from a car person. Over the three years that I have been “Bashing”, I have learned a range of new skills that challenged me mentally, physically, and financially! Dr Adam Fraser talks about the personal benefits of doing things that are purely for us as a key to our long term and on-going mental health and wellbeing. I could not agree more after experiencing the Variety Bash. We came as a group of 450 strangers and left as a tight group of friends. In the meantime, we supported countless communities financially, socially, and emotionally, and had the time of our lives.
The hashtag for the Variety Bash is #yagottadoit. I can’t agree more. And if the Bash isn’t for you, find something that will get you away from work, focused on others and you can’t go wrong.