Cultural Exchange Program

BHIEC visits Schools in the Tweed 2006
Michael Harmey

Ambassadors of Diversity
 The Tweed (PDF) The Tweed Photographic Essay 1(PDF) Smaller file for screen viewing.
 The Tweed Photographic Essay 2(PDF) Larger file for Printing.
BHIEC visits the Tweed 2006

On Tuesday 16 th May, 15 students, three staff members, a parent and a community information officer made their way in the early hours of dawn to the airport to begin a four day visit to the Tweed Region of northern New South Wales. The trip, which had been months in the planning, was organised as part of the NSW Department of Education’s Cultural Exchange Program, with the financial assistance of the South West Sydney Regional office and the Premier’s Department. The program aims to bring together students from communities very different from their own to build community harmony and increase inter-cultural understanding.

The 15 students from Beverly Hills IEC come from a variety of cultural backgrounds; Sudan, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Brazil, Lebanon, China, Korea, Laos, Finland, Philippines, Pakistan, Indonesia, Tonga and Egypt. All the students have been in the country for less than one year and are studying at Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre (IEC) before progressing to mainstream high school.

The program included a visit from representatives from the three levels of government. Mr Max Boyd, Administrator for Tweed Shire Council, spoke to the students about the difficulties facing the local government area in balancing the interests of residents and developers. The students also heard from Mr Neville Newell, State member for Tweed. He stressed to the students their rights and obligations as citizens within a democratic society. The students also met with Ms Justine Elliot MP, Federal member for Richmond. All students gained a valuable insight into the workings of the Australian democratic system and a clear understanding of the role they can play as citizens of a democratic society. The four day visit to the Tweed Region included a two night stay with students and their families from Kingscliff High School. The students attended workshops with Year 10 Geography students and Year 11 and 12 Society and Culture students. The students were welcomed to country by local indigenous youth and their Aboriginal Studies teacher.

Mr Ron Hankin, School Education Director, North Coast Region also addressed the students. He spoke to them about not being afraid of the differences between people and the benefits of learning about other peoples’ lives. He urged the Kingscliff students to use this experience as a starting point to explore the diversity within their own community.

The students from Kingscliff High School generously opened their hearts, minds and homes to the students from Beverly Hills IEC, sharing with them their beautiful community and envied lifestyle. In return the Beverly Hills IEC students shared stories of their migrant and refugee experiences, spoke about the conflict in their homelands, and discussed their hopes for their futures in Australia.

Beverly Hills IEC students had the opportunity to visit small primary schools with fewer than 40 students. The children from Crabbes Creek Public School and Duranbah Public School chatted with the Beverly Hills IEC students asking questions about home life, leisure time and food. They shared their music and learned dances from the visiting students. The families of the Duranbah community made food from the countries represented and the children displayed their research assignments on each of the countries.

The final school on the itinerary was Wollumbin High School. The school rests in the caldera of Mount Warning, surrounded by lush fields and cane plantations. On arrival the Wollumbin students were waiting in anticipation. As the Beverly Hills IEC students stepped off the bus they were warmly greeted by their local counterparts. The students spent the afternoon together investigating the nature of conflict and developing strategies to manage conflict situations. They shared the stories of their personal journeys and talked about their dreams for a future free of conflict. Beverly Hills IEC students addressed a whole school assembly, answering questions from the student body, ranging from “Are there polar bears in Finland?” to “Are Muslim girls allowed to choose their own husbands?” and “What is the civil war in Sierra Leone all about?” With their developing English skills, the Beverly Hills IEC students courageously answered the questions. The afternoon ended with a traditional Aussie bush dance that metamorphosed into an African dance involving all students.

On their return to Sydney, the students from Beverly Hills IEC remarked on the friendliness and generosity of all families and students they met. Many were surprised that others wanted to know about their countries and their personal journeys. All students expressed a desire to remain in contact with the students they had met and exchanged phone numbers and email contacts. The students enthusiastically shared their adventures with all the Beverly Hills IEC students and expressed a desire to do it all again!

Julie Ross and Michael Harmey




Beverly Hills Intensive English Centre