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
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
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