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One of the highlights on the Ganbina calendar for our Year 11 and Year 12 leadership program participants is the annual trip to New Zealand.

To encourage more Aboriginal youth to remain in mainstream education, Ganbina participants who join the Youth Leadership Program and are in Year 11 or 12, are able to go on an all-expenses paid week-long trip to New Zealand.

For many of the participants, this is their first trip overseas. They are also often the first in their family to have a passport and travel internationally.

The New Zealand trip not only serves as a reward for making it to the senior year levels of secondary school, when many Aboriginal youth have often dropped out, but also helps develop leadership skills and exposes them to another Indigenous culture.

Ganbina Program Manager and former Ganbina participant Rianne Hood says the trip helps Aboriginal youth develop their leadership skills by pushing them outside of their comfort zone.

“By going on this trip the kids are stepping outside of their comfort zone and they are often the first one in their family to travel overseas. By taking advantage of opportunities as they arise, that in itself is a leadership decision. By choosing to go they have decided they have aspirations and they want to learn more, which inspires other Aboriginal youth in their community,” Rianne said.

The trip is jam-packed with activities that combine cultural immersion and learning from New Zealand’s Indigenous people, the Maori, as well as fun tourism experiences.

“We want to make sure that the trip isn’t all about serious cultural learning. We want the kids to have a balance of learning and fun. So we embed some fun tourist activities into our agenda such as the Skyline Rotorua and Waitoma Glowworm Caves,” Rianne said.

These fun activities are then contrasted with opportunities to learn about Maori culture and language, which not only serves as an educational experience but also gives an opportunity for Aboriginal youth to reflect and compare how Indigenous populations are treated in Australia.

“Clearly we (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) were effected a lot more by colonisation than the Maori people. The Maori have kept their language and they are much more comfortable in their identity in the country compared to Indigenous Australians. There is a lot more acknowledgement of First Nations People in New Zealand compared to Australia and Maori culture is much more embedded in everyday life,” Rianne explains.

For the Ganbina participants, seeing this is a real eye-opener and inspires them to learn more about their own language and mobs.

“The trip really inspires our participants when they go back home to learn more about their own cultural identity and what resources are available to them,” Rianne said.

For Ganbina participants, the New Zealand trip is the cherry on top after successfully reaching the final few years of secondary school and completing a three year Youth Leadership Program.

“The New Zealand trip is only available to our Youth Leadership Program participants once they have completed two years of the leadership program and on the condition they stay in mainstream schooling. It’s a stepping stone and a bit of bonus to support them on that journey to completing Year 12.

“It’s about encouraging them to stay engaged in school and it’s a complement to them that if they get to that point, they get to have a really fun time overseas.

“Many of our kids say they can’t wait to get to Year 12 and graduate because they will have earnt the New Zealand trip,” she said.