Newcastle students visit Wauchope High School's ag plot

Manning Valley Neighbourhood Services, Northern Settlement Services and Newcastle Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre joined for a successful youth cultural exchange trip in November.

Seventeen students from four different Newcastle high schools travelled to the Mid North Coast to learn about life in regional NSW, educational opportunities and, most importantly, to meet other young people and make new friends.

The Newcastle students travelled two hours to Taree High, which has been hosting Newcastle since 2013. After a warm welcome, the students sat in discussion groups sharing information about where they live, things they like, things they don’t like, dreams for the future and more.

Following lunch it was time for a grudge soccer match that broke down all the barriers. The game was informal but highly competitive, with lots of laughs and smiles. Once again Newcastle came out on top.

Newcastle students were then fortunate to be able to take part in an Indigenous education session, learning about the local Biripi culture from Uncle Russell Sanders and Jay Davis. That included learning some Gathang language, making music with leaves, sanding leaves and the very exciting throwing of spears and boomerangs.

The students then travelled at hour to Port Macquarie for some R&R by the pool and the beach.

The following day, students went to Charles Sturt University in Port Macquarie, where they learnt about the university through a scavenger hunt and games. Then it was onto the more rural Wauchope High School.

After another warm welcome, Wauchope students led small group tours around the school where they enjoyed Aussie delights, including the zooper dooper, vegemite sandwiches and fairy bread, which was very new for most.

A game of Mat Ball — a customised Wauchope ball game combining soccer and softball — was followed by a sausage sanger and a trip to the ag plot, where students learnt about the animals. Those who were game handled calves, cows, sheep, goats, guinea pigs, roosters and chooks.

At the end of a busy day the Wauchope students requested an exchange so they could visit everyone in Newcastle.

This informal style of learning, breaking down barriers and making connections was very successful. All the teachers and students were genuinely welcoming and once everyone got over their initial nerves there was lots of talking and swapping of social media.

The schools were exceptionally organised, ensuring the visits ran smoothly. It was a great experience for both the visiting and hosting teachers and students.

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