‘It’s so green’: Drought kids drink in Sydney visit
KIDS came from the furthest and most drought-ravaged reaches of the state to see the Schools Spectacular, but they were more excited to see green grass and a duck.
Principals from 42 rural schools hand-picked 157 students who have most struggled through the state's worst ever drought, to travel to Sydney for Saturday's matinee performance of the Schools Spectacular variety show at Qudos Bank Arena in Homebush.
Three children travelled from Tibooburra, 17 hours' drive northwest of Sydney, where kids spend their free time building cubby houses from scrap tin they string up between rocks that dot the lunar landscape.
At their accommodation in Narrabeen on Friday night, the Tibooburra Outback Public School Students squirmed when they heard thunder for the first time in more than a year and squealed with delight when they saw a duck for the first time in their lives.
"We don't get ducks in Tibooburra, we only get galahs and eagles, and their used to be lots of kangaroos but they've almost all died in the drought," 10-year-old Ellie-Mae Hough-Wedding said.
"Tibooburra is dry and dusty and the dust storms every couple of days get in our eyes and sting the backs of our legs.
"This is my first time in Sydney and it's so green and out the window of the bus we saw a Christmas tree farm which was cool because we don't have many trees at home."
The 10 primary-aged children in Tibooburra don't need or want social media because they see one another almost daily.
At recess and lunch, Tibooburra Outback Public School students drag mats on to the oval because the bare ground is too hard and rocky to play on without grazing their hands and knees.
The towns students travelled from included Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Hay, Armidale, Gunnedah, Moree, Inverell and Temora.
Proving children are attuned to the stresses of the drought, 12-year-old Will Mudford from Hermidale, between Dubbo and Bourke in the state's northwest, last week learned to drive a 18-gear tip truck to cart hay around his parents' 12,000-acre property.
"Every day after school I help dad with jobs every day, including fixing the grader when it's broken down, clearing the sheep's water troughs and unloading the hay truck with a front-end loader," Will said.
"Some paddocks are just stubble from a crop back in 2016, other paddocks are ploughed with nothing in them, and others are completely bare except for shrubs and thistles."
Will is the only Year 6 student in Hermidale and spends his recess and lunch breaks shooting hoops with the two Year Five students.
The trip was a chance to give kids a reprieve from the relentless torment of the state's worst ever drought, according to Gunnedah-based Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell
"Children are resilient but they see if mum and dad are struggling on the farm and we need to support them," Ms Mitchell said.
"Principals nominated the children they knew would benefit most and from the kids I've met, they've chosen the right bunch, because they're all so grateful and so polite and thankful for the opportunity."