"Opportunity should not be defined by geography" - this is the sentiment Trundle Central School principal John Southon has instilled into the minds of his young students, and school and local communities.
When the drought hit Trundle hard, John wanted to help in every way he could.
Besides being a strong and vocal advocate for encouraging people in bigger regions to support, shop in and visit rural communities, he has coordinated multiple individuals and agencies to deliver sustained drought relief to Trundle.
In the last 12 months, John and the community has managed to achieve and secure 250 food packages, 250 toiletry packages, $70,000 dollars injected into the Trundle economy, establishing community showers and community washing machines, eight tonnes of bottled water, 240 Christmas presents for children, 200 individual school packs, 500 packets of dog food, 260 boxes of new clothes distributed throughout the community, three concerts organised for students, one therapy dog permanently at the school and two major excursions completely subsidised.
His efforts have attracted nation and even world-wide media attention, with Trundle Central School featuring on the Seven Network's Sunrise, BBC World Service and China News.
John has been able to highlight the struggles and success of rural Australia and making larger communities more aware of what towns like Trundle are going through.
It's this kind of leadership that has earned this principal a nomination for the TransGrid Leadership Award in the prestigious NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards.
And he has now made it into the semi finals.
The leadership award focuses on the dedication, selflessness and leadership of individuals who are the "driving force" in their community. They are at the forefront of community contribution; may have overcome significant difficulty, adversity or hardship to achieve excellent outcomes; and may have pioneered significant changes in their community, business or organisation that have altered the way people think and perform for the better.
Through John's hard work, cash injections into the town's CBD has allowed Trundle Central to assist businesses through difficult financial conditions.
For example the uniform shop is the most recent business to receive support, with every family given $100 to spend in-store
The exposure the school has received has allowed other organisations to adopt the school and town, which has included visits from Rural Aid, Rotary clubs and other groups.
Among the barriers John has faced has been the "rural and farmer pride" where country people are socialised not to ask for help. Another barrier has been the logistics of distributing aid across vast distances and varied communities.
But John has been able to overcome these and part of his success can be seen in the children of Trundle Central.
As John's nomination form says, "these children have been empowered to help their families in these times of significant rural need and hardship".
The next round of judging for the awards, which will determine the finalists in the eight categories, will take place on Wednesday.
Winners will be announced at a gala presentation dinner on November 8 at the Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains.
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