Big hopes for little Nungarin

Lauren CelenzaCountryman

Nungarin shearer and mum of four Jilly Wegner is spearheading the first WA Rentafarmhouse scheme in a bid to save the small town.

The scheme aims to reinvigorate small towns by renting out vacant farmhouses for $1 a week to attract new families to the country.

Like many small rural towns in WA, Nungarin's population of 300 isn't enough to keep it going.

In addition, the primary school is set to lose a quarter of its students to high school next year.

Nungarin Primary School Parents and Citizens Association and the Nungarin Community Development Group (NCDG) have banded together to launch the Rentafarmhouse, which has been instrumental in reviving towns in New South Wales and Victoria since 2008.

Founder of the scheme Christine Weston said Rentafarmhouse had been very successful in her home town of Cumnock, NSW.

"Cumnock farmers rented 10 houses for $1 a week and 10 normal rental farmhouses through the scheme. Three years later, nine families paying $1 a week still live in Cumnock farmhouses," she said.

"We had one family that came with seven children, which was great for the school and for the kids.

"Rentafarmhouse saved our town and many others in NSW, so it has the capacity to work nationally.

"Just make sure families look at the farmhouse, meet the locals and go to the school before they commit to ensure they know they're making right decision for their family."

With two houses available in Nungarin and two more undergoing assessment, applications close November 30 to allow families to be settled in to start the new school year.

Ms Wegner, who is president of the Nungarin Parents and Citizens Association, said she and the NCDG had received 65 applications so far.

"I urge other WA rural towns in the same position to try this scheme and we can all work together to make sure these great towns stay alive," she said.

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