That's the Spirit: Rod Sandell - Warren NSW
After his family’s three generations on the land at Warren, Rod Sandell reckons he’s just about earned the right to call himself a local. The dedicated Rotarian and community stalwart says there’s a lot Warren folk miss out on – traffic, smog, the rat race – and he wouldn’t have it any other way in a town he believes survives thanks to a history of community teamwork. Rod sat down for a yarn with That’s the Spirit’s JEN COWLEY.
Jen: How long have you been at Warren?
Rod: All my life, so far. I was born and raised locally. I’m third generation, actually. My grandfather took on the Red Hill country in 1898. I can nearly get away with calling myself local.
Jen: What does it mean for you to be part of the Warren community?
Rod: Because it’s such a small community, everyone knows everyone so you just have to work together in a little town, and it’s just really nice to be a part of that.
I think the best thing about the town of Warren is its people, I really do believe that. That need to work together makes a town like this very special because you have many good people making things happen. That hasn’t changed over the years.
Warren is fortunate in that we have good health and educational and sporting facilities, but it’s always a struggle for a small community – you really have to work hard at it, otherwise it doesn’t happen. You have to work hard when you face those challenges.
Jen: What do you think makes Warren able to overcome the challenges it’s faced over the years?
Rod: Like all small communities, it’s about teamwork. You just pull together. You don’t give up. As a community, you look at what needs to be done and you do it. You just get through it the best you can. It’s about working as a team and not throwing your hands in the air when things get a bit hard.
Jen: Can you tell me about Rotary and what it means to you to be involved?
Rod: I’ve been involved with Rotary for about 15 years, I suppose – maybe longer. I’ve been president and held various roles, but we all take on the roles really – as I said, in our Rotary club, as in the community, it’s about teamwork and all working together.
Rotary is all about taking the opportunity to give back. This district has been very good to us as has Rotary, and so it’s a way of doing something to contribute. We all have to do that – everyone in their own way needs to find a way to give back. Rotary is a very good vehicle for that, we’ve found.
As an organisation, particularly in a small town, Rotary has the ability to bring all kinds of people together, and in fact more-so these days than ever in the past. Rightly or wrongly, Rotary has been seen as an “old men’s club” and honestly, nothing could be further from the truth today – Rotary is a very friendly and open organisation. Anybody that likes to do a little bit of community work fits in very well.
Jen: What are some of the things the Warren Rotary Club has done for the community?
Rod: It’s been wonderful to be part of things like the Group Study Exchange, Rotary youth agronomy and youth in cotton programs, grain camp, RYDA (Rotary Youth Driver Awareness) the youth leadership programs – all kinds of youth programs – and other programs that make such a local, national and global difference.
Rod Sandell (centre) with fellow members of the Rotary Club of Warren NSW.
Jen: How do you see the future for youth in Warren?
Rod: Young people will always find it a bit hard in Warren because there’s not a lot of professional jobs available, but there are still job opportunities and work in the town. Certainly, through Rotary we’ve put a lot of time into youth programs in the town and that’s been very rewarding from both perspectives.
Jen: You’ve been involved in the rural industry all your life – do you see a healthy outlook for that sector?
Rod: I do for a couple of reasons, chiefly that the world needs us as much as we need the world. We’re not only providing food for Australia, we’re very much helping to feed much of the rest of the world. With our population increasing, the world will always need the rural industry, and the Warren region is a great hub for the production of a lot of exports that supply other countries around the world, as well as being used here domestically. There’s the grain, the cotton, wool, sheep, cattle – there’s an enormous amount of production, so I think there’s a very healthy future for the rural industries in this region.
That’s also good news for young people in terms of future work and career opportunities.
The rural industry is certainly becoming more and more professional. As much as the cotton industry has been condemned by some recently, it’s a great example of that growing professionalism. That industry has been very innovative in what they’ve done.
Jen: What would you say to people who have misconceptions about life in a small community like Warren?
Rod: We miss out on a lot out here: we miss out on the traffic, we miss out on the rat race, we miss out on the smog, we miss out on the noise…
In all seriousness, we enjoy a terrific lifestyle here. It’s not for everyone, but we have people coming here because they’re craving that kind of life in a small community. We all work together in this community – that’s the best part.
*This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of social distancing measures.
NALAG's 'That's the Spirit' hardcover book features a selection of excerpts from the stories gathered from Western NSW during 2018-2020.