Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

For high school students studying agriculture in South East NSW, hands on experience gives them the skills they need to gain employment when they finish their studies. For 200 students from across 11 different schools around Nowra, this meant having a go at the School Steer Spectacular at Nowra Showgrounds.

A $5,500 grant from the ABC Heywire initiative meant that South Coast Beef Producers Association (SCB) could spend three months mentoring students as they learnt how to feed and prepare steer for the Hook and Hoof competition. This involved hands on, industry-based learning with a pathway into the agriculture industry.

In addition to the steer competition, SCB conducted a number of skills-based workshops to build the students understanding of the techniques required in preparing and showing. These included the selection, grooming, parading and judging of cattle, and carcass assessment. Students were also expected to present a report on the project to a panel of judges. The presentations had to demonstrate: the hands-on preparation of the steer, the animal science and recording of the steer project, the agribusiness and commercial outcomes and how the project was recorded and reported.

The project mentored secondary school students who are studying agriculture and who are interested in a future career in the agriculture industry.

Some schools returned home to commence preparation for the next Spectacular with the students from Moruya High starting their own Beef Cattle Club and negotiating with a local beef producer to provide them with cattle to train for the 2019 Spectacular. Already, a number of students involved in the Spectacular are now studying agriculture at a tertiary level.

One of the teachers involved said of the day; “Thanks for providing the students with the fantastic opportunity, they really did enjoy and learn which was fantastic.”

Another teacher said; “There is more fruit from the Spectacular, more kids down at the ag plot breaking in cattle, older kids mentoring younger or inexperienced ones. Great stuff!”

“This project was driven and supported by young people every step of the way.”

Since Junior Mayor of Mt Isa and 2015 Heywire Youth Representative, Justice King, helped secure a $10,000 Heywire Youth Innovation Grant, a group of Mt Isa youth have been part of a program that has helped them to share stories of mental health, learn film-making skills, and ‘roll out the red carpet Mt Isa style’.

Kicked off in September 2015 at the Mt Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, the Raise Your Cards project included running four days of Digital Storytelling workshops for 19 young people. Professionals were brought in to help them develop skills in storytelling, scriptwriting, storyboarding, basic camera work and film making, film editing and sharing, communication, planning and team work. A young group ‘We Are One’ led the program throughout the application process and program design, while tapping into local Justice King, who chaired meetings and was actively involved along the way. Other support came from Vincent McManus of CuriousWorks, Chris Doyle and Jacqueline Olley of Headspace Mount Isa , James Cook University , Leann Shaw, Community Yarning Circles  and Alvin Hava Young People Ahead, Youth and Community Services Inc.

‘Raising cards’ raises confidence

Stephanie King, one of the project coordinators from the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health, told of her excitement for the group’s opportunity to learn. “This has a flow on effect for their self- confidence and for what they would like to be and their future aspirations as young leaders in our community.” She said one young participant commented that “It was the most awesome thing I have ever done.”

“All 12 young people were super keen and excited to play their part, the young ones even turned up extra early on their school holidays and put in a mighty effort to produce some really amazing scenes.”

Flexible workshop delivery enabled the project to take different directions. Reducing stigma around youth and mental help isn’t easy and is often a difficult subject to broach for youth, especially with the end result being broadcasting of personal stories. The young group decided they wanted to make a joint film and worked collaboratively on a script that would include everyone. The result: Straight Outta Isa (WATCH). One girl, Sophie, took another approach and used whiteboard animation to tell her story.

The workshops culminated in sharing the stories through online channels and the team organised a free community screening night on October 9th 2015 to coincide with mental Health Week. It was attended by almost 100 people.

Ms Justice King commented for an ABC article that she was overwhelmed by how much the young people were willing to share at the workshop.

“With my experience, especially with youth of their age, they’re usually very enclosed in themselves and don’t talk,” she said. “It really did launch us out of the water, it was so surprising that they were open to discussion.

“It really shows that we’re exiting the era where discussing bad topics as youth [is taboo].”