Thank goodness it’s never too late to learn.

Aunty Trish, loved cricket. She used to take me to the MCC ladies stand in the 1980s. She was a mad keen, eternally frustrated Melbourne Football Club supporter and an avid horseracing follower. She had a keen ear for classical music and opera. She loved nothing better than fiddling in the garden or volunteering at the Royal Botanical Gardens. She was a fierce competitor playing cards. Solo her game of choice. She was literally a lifelong learner who taught me the value of curiosity and learning.

Aunty Trish took up painting at 89 years of age after she moved into Aged Care in Melbourne’s leafy inner East. Aunty Trish was astute and business like. She was determined to get her money’s worth while in aged care, so she made the most of the opportunities. She enrolled in creative writing and in art classes. A switch flicked in the art classes and her room become a gallery of her works. She was proud of them. We were proud of her. When Trish went to God aged 92, we farewelled an artist. Clearly, it’s never too late to learn.

Back out bush, learning new tricks is embraced by those who recognise the value of meaningful lifelong learning. During the 2000s, many Mallee farmers learnt new farming methods that stopped masses of fragile soil blowing away in windstorms. They learnt to grow higher yielding crops on the same amount of rainfall while leaving the protected from the winds.

It was interesting to watch the Mallee Elders respond to the activity of their farming children. Some resisted the change and were known to sneak out and plough a paddock when the younger generation were away for the weekend. Others, the lifelong learners, embraced the change and took to learning, just as Aunty Trish had done in her latter years. They understood that progression was critical to improve the farming futures of their kids and grandkids.

The Mallee Elders were sons and daughters of the original settlers. For 90 years, dust storms were considered a cross one had to carry in times of drought. The third and fourth generations were reclaiming and protecting the natural resource the settlers had cleared. They were also reclaiming hope after a tough run of years. This meant a full-scale change of preparing soil by chemically controlling weeds rather than mechanical means. It meant investing in new equipment, learning new ways of managing crops, new ways of sowing crops. These were big, big changes.

It was so rewarding to witness these Elders show interest and acknowledge there were better options than the way they did things 30 or 40 years ago. Less dust storms, less accidents on highways, less blow outs on sand hills.

It’s never too late to learn. Just ask Aunty Trish and those Mallee Elders.

Stay tuned to learn more. Stay well.