Arden Anglican School students have been going to Tumbarumba, New South Wales since 2013 to undertake a unique Country Experience. The program has been developed as a partnership between Arden and Tumbarumba Shire Council.
From Arden’s perspective, students are given an opportunity to experience the country first hand. They see the beauty and the harshness of the country, get to hear accounts of the joys and struggles of living on the land and discover both the similarities and differences between their experience as city dwellers to those of their new friends in the country. The Tumbarumba community really enjoy having the Arden students visit. The country end of the program is coordinated by the enthusiastic Mr Paul McPherson , Noxious Weed Officer, Environmental Services at Tumbarumba Shire Council. Mr McPherson has worked at the Council for 28 years and loves working with today’s youth. He shared: “I get a real buzz out of being with the children and have a lot of time for them. I really like the consistent good manners, warm personalities and diversity of the Arden students. Through this experience we all benefit as we share the knowledge of both our country and city communities with each other.”
Mrs Kathy Bush, Arden’s Year 10 Country Experience Coordinator, explained: “Country Experience was launched as an experience for students to give back to a community by volunteering to work in a totally different environment to their own. The experience helps prepare our students for life as it gives them a real understanding of how all communities work together to make Australia what it is. Providing primary produce is an important part of what our country does and at Tumbarumba the students meet the people who make this possible and try to support them, while gaining so many amazing experiences themselves.”
Students stay at Laurel Hills Forest Lodge which is situated near Tumbarumba with large open spaces and resident wild brumbies. “Our students are always amazed at the open spaces and how beautiful the country is. They love having the brumbies near the campsite and also kangaroos and other wildlife”, said Mrs Bush. She continued: “There is no television and very limited phone reception and no Wi-Fi, so students have to keep themselves occupied at night without technology which is a new experience for most. In the evening students play volleyball, cricket and other ball games on the oval until dark. Students then tend to play cards or we have arranged activities in the hall.”
Mrs Bush explained that the activities undertaken through the week include:
- Working with Tumbarumba Shire Council on projects such as mucking out stables and painting fences at the Tumbarumba Turf Club; helping out with gardening, painting and general chores at the Pioneer Women’s Hut; Planting trees; and any other activities that the Council find suitable for the students to undertake.
- Students also have a half day with Murrumbidgee Local Land Services where they do water quality testing in a river, plant trees, learn about weed control and other activities.
- A visit to the Hyne Mill is also on the agenda where students see a state of the art timber mill in full operation and learn about some very specialised career opportunities.
- Students also visit a working Forestry Site to see the logging in progress.
- Another highlight for the students is the disco on the last night where Arden students and local students enjoy a night of fun and friendship and celebrate diversity.
- Other activities undertaken are:
- Boggy Creek Show
- Indigenous Experience afternoon
- Shelter Building for emergencies in the bush
- Visiting Sugar Pine Forest and Paddy Rivers Fall
- Interactions with country people is at all the activities as well as in the township which the students visit on some afternoons for a walk around and to support the local businesses.
Mr McPherson commented “Tumbarumba Shire Council is very supportive of the Country Experience partnership. In addition to allowing me to coordinate the experience, they also generously provide the Arden students with access to the local facilities.”
When asked how the students find the experience, Mrs Bush said: “Our students embrace the activities and enjoy being in the outdoors and interacting with the local people and listening to local peoples’ experiences which are shared openly with our students.” She added: “They always say how much better they know their year group after the experience and how they have made new friendships. I think these can be put down to living in a small community and not having technology to distract.” Mrs Bush added: “Our representative from the Council, Mr Paul McPherson really enjoys having our students as they are always keen to embrace the physical activities and learn more from his vast knowledge of the region. He warmly refers to our students with Arden staff as ‘our students’. “
Among the list of what the experience teaches, Mr McPherson said: “The city students learn about the balance of life. For example, the practical steps farmers need to take to manage stock in order to keep them safe from predators and disease in the country environment.” He feels that the country students enjoy meeting the city students and learning about their different lifestyles and cultures. Both groups love the experience, with Mr McPherson concluding: “Ongoing friendships have been made through this partnership, with many students staying in contact via social media. It really is a great opportunity to share knowledge between the city and country communities.”