Students from farms and towns across NSW came to Sydney on the weekend for a circuit-breaker from the unrelenting drought.
More than 150 public school students had a weekend at Sport and Recreation centres and attended the Schools Spectacular: Stars – but it was the simple pleasures in life their teachers said stood out.
“It’s more than a trip away,” said Kelly Bryden, principal of Tibooburra Outback School, the most geographically remote school in NSW.
“It’s a chance for them to experience the excitement of things others take for granted. They were in awe of seeing trees, seeing water in rivers, feeling soft grass under their feet.”
And untimed showers, according to Tibooburra student Cassidy Hiscox.
For Ellie Mae Hough Wedding it was her first time in Sydney and first time on a plane. “The Schools Spectacular was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Classmate Thomas Shiner said: “The finale was really cool, because all 5,000 people came together.”
Thomas explained that the Aboriginal meaning of Tibooburra was “lots of rocks” and the landscape was dry and dusty in one of the hottest towns in NSW.
“We had an inch of rain a while ago, but if we don’t get more soon we’ll have to start trucking water in,” he said.
The Department of Education ‘Wish Upon a Star’ initiative hosted 157 students from 42 schools for a no-cost treat and was supported by Transport for NSW, the Office of Sport, RØDE Microphones and Rex Airlines.
The Tibooburra students travelled 400 kilometres to Broken Hill through a dust storm to catch a plane to Dubbo where they joined other students for the bus trip to Sydney.
Schools Spectacular co-producer Rosemary Davis said the students’ reaction to the Schools Spectacular and just being in Sydney were priceless.
“One boy walking into Qudos Bank Arena said, ‘Geez, this is a big shed’,” she said.
“Ninety-five per cent of the kids had never been to Sydney. Most had never seen or experienced a live show before so culturally that will have a great impact.
“The smiles on their faces said it all. The teachers also had a great time. One teacher said she had seen the [Schools Spectacular] show on TV but nothing compares to seeing it live. She was blown away.”
The students travelled from transport hubs in Dubbo, Wagga Wagga and Tamworth to Sport and Recreation centres at Berry, Narrabeen and Broken Bay.
The Minister for Education and Early Learning, Sarah Mitchell, who met the students at the Schools Spectacular, said she hoped the students would return to their schools and share their joy with classmates.
“Our rural communities are doing it tough, so being able to give a break to 157 students from these areas makes a difference,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Teachers and parents have told me that this opportunity will be the highlight of the year for many of these students.”
The students were nominated by their principals, who told stories of family hardship and tragedy, towns running out of water, children helping parents feed stock before and after school, and families forced to separate or leave towns and farms to find work.
Jane Simmons, co-producer of the Schools Spectacular, hosted a group of 15 students from Nemingha Public School to the variety show featuring 5,500 students.
The students were chosen from a ballot and got the chance to meet the Schools Spectacular students backstage and take in the show.
“They were in awe, one boy said he was actually speechless,” Ms Simmons said.
“These families are doing it tough and this trip has been like a circuit breaker.”