Stella Evans – Winner
I am a Visual Arts and Design student at the University of Wollongong. Originally from the small country town of Boorowa, my artist practise is inspired by my life growing up on a farm. I use a variety of mediums to comment on the beauty but also the hardships endured on the land. I am very passionate about bringing awareness to life in the country and the work of our Australian farmers.
The recent drought was the one of the most intense and heart-breaking experiences for my family, our community and so many others living in regional Australia. It was described as “the worst drought in living history”. That is an incredibly hard statement to hear and one that does not sit lightly. There were days we thought we would never get through. We had no idea when it was going to end. We could not see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My father and family were hand-feeding thousands of sheep, basically every day. The physical strain of this was only one aspect. The mental pressure was relentless and was beyond words. Day in, day out, not knowing when it was going to rain. The ground was dirt as far as the eye could see. The sheep would run towards any vehicle in sight hoping to be fed. There was a lack of feed in the state, requiring us to pay extra to source from Victoria. The continuous 40-degree days. The dried-up dams, rivers and creeks. The fear of running out of water not only for the animals but also for ourselves. The dust storms that rolled in most days like tsunamis which blew the soil off the paddocks and turned the sky brown. There would be rain forecasted but it would never come. Dad would look at the radar and say “it’s gone”. I would not know how to respond; I could hear the heartbreak in his voice. We would go to town to get away and every person you saw would talk about the terrible weather and how dry it was. Everyone was suffering, the community was suffering, the whole atmosphere of the town was deflated and we were not the only ones.
During this time, I travelled to Wollongong for the weekend. I was not prepared for what I was about to experience. People were living their best lives, enjoying summer by the beach, going out for coffee with friends… The grass was green, and life seemed perfect. Meanwhile, I felt like my family and community were at breaking point. I could not comprehend how there could be two completely different worlds living only a few hours apart. I returned home and told my family I wanted to defer university to help them, but they said they did not want me to.
The day finally came when we had a decent down pour of rain. I remember it so clearly. All the runoff from the hills had created a small creek and there was water lying all through the paddocks. My brother and I got the boogie boards out. I do not think I have ever been so excited. Thankfully, the rain continued and was reaching far and wide to other affected communities. The sight of the hills turning green really was incredible and a site we had not seen for a long time. Living in the country this is something we are always grateful to see.
I believe there is a lack of knowledge and understanding in metropolitan areas about life in the country. I have witnessed it first-hand. There needs to be more education about what farmers do for our country. People walk into the supermarket and buy chicken, ham, carrots, apples, porridge, milk, butter, bread, rice, nuts… (the list goes on) Whilst wearing cotton pants and a woollen jumper. All of which has been so easily available to them because of the hard work of our farmers. Farmers are every day, quiet heroes who keep the country going and get back up when knocked down.
The aim of ‘The Road of Hope’ is to educate metropolitan areas about regional Australia and to provide a sense of hope through this. 2020 has been a year of unprecedented events that have tested us all. Life on the land teaches you that you can get through life’s biggest challenges. You will see the rainbow at the end if you hold onto hope.