Kathryn Tovey is painting fluid lines of lilac at the Art Club stall. She’s got her back to sun, and the beautiful comings and goings of the market day crowd.
Kathryn’s halfway through this mural, and halfway through a 12-month exchange from her home country of England. She says she chose to come to Bendigo because she loves Australia, loves the bush and the kangaroos – especially the ones on campus.
“I’ve been travelling around, I’ve been up the west coast, and to Brisbane and Sydney,” she says. “I like Bendigo because it’s surrounded by nature, it’s a short drive into the city and there’s a great sense of community here.
“This year I’m looking forward to making lots more friends, having a good time and enjoying my degree… and the weather!”
It’s a perfect 26 degrees for this annual showcase of Bendigo Student Association clubs and societies. Warm enough for outdoor education students to lure the masses with chunks of watermelon and orange segments. It’s an innocent way to promote something called The Mob.
“Can I have my photo taken with the rest of The Mob?” asks James in his borrowed white sunnies. Turns out The Mob is the name given to the outdoor education student club, one of the most popular on campus. A membership is a ticket to untold adventures and crowd-pleasing discounts at the local pub.
There’s a specific campus club for most courses, and they’re all represented here on the oval, but The Mob welcomes everyone. “Morley here’s the president, but everybody’s equal,” says James. “It’s just good to get around the mob.”
A civic ceremony to welcome new students backs up this statement. Bendigo’s deputy mayor-with-the-hair Rod Fyffe looks out across the record 100-market stalls and encourages students to connect with the opportunities in Bendigo.
“You can volunteer for the Bendigo Easter Festival, get involved with the arts or play football or netball for Golden Square – which you can sign up for out back. Yes, I am a life member,” he admits. “We have these opportunities available to you and we want you to take part.”
Head of Campus Rob Stephenson agrees – although not with the councillor’s choice of club. “One of the defining features of our campus is the way we’re really integrated into the city,” he says. “Playing for Golden Square is one option, but if you want to play country footy, Bridgewater is my pick.”
Or, there’s always gridiron. Exercise physiology student Darcy Young is representing his team at the Bendigo Dragons stall. He’s been playing for the local gridiron team since it formed in 2012, and this year takes on the role of defensive coach.
We wonder, do his studies give him an edge on the field? “It helps me with training more so than during games. Although I am keyed into other players and how they’ve moving, so that maybe gives me an advantage,” he says.
“We’ve been in four semi-finals in a row and we’ve lost four semi-finals. Everyone’s getting a bit sick of that, so this year we plan to win it all.”
Darcy’s other plan is to complete a masters is exercise physiology, then land a job in the city he loves. “If all goes to plan when I finish studying I’ll be working at the new Bendigo hospital,” he says. “It’s an amazing facility and there’s a lot of smart people there to learn from.”
Next to the Dragons stall Imogen Smith’s tattoo of actor Vincent Price catches the photographer’s eye. “He’s my favourite horror actor, I’ve been obsessed with him since I was a little kid,” she says.
Imogen is here to recruit new players to the Dragon City Derby Dolls and its team the Chicko Rollers. She says uni students make great derby players, adding the sport is a lot like studying; it takes commitment, dedication and passion.
“It’s a lot of work and you’ve got to commit but we accept anybody who wants to play into the league,” she says.
Imogen is completing a personal training course this year, to help with job prospects and with the league, but next year plans to be on the other side of the stall for O-Week.
“Next year I plan to study at La Trobe,” she says. “Being here makes me excited for the future. Everyone’s so passionate. It’s a cliché, but this is the future of our country, coming through here right now. There’s so much potential bunched into this small space it’s really amazing. It’s quite an inspiration.”