A unique program providing Tomaree High School students with an opportunity to learn how to nurture and care for the Port's koala population is breaking new ground.
In a national first, Port Stephens Koalas (PSK) has welcomed 21 students from Years 10, 11 and 12 to undertake an eight-week work experience initiative at the Treescape rehabilitation facility at Anna Bay.
State MP Kate Washington, on hand recently to observe the students going through their paces, congratulated both organisations on creating a special, collaborative, world-class program.
"It's not only providing students with work experience skills, but also an understanding of environmental issues affecting our area and the importance of volunteering," she said.
PSK secretary Ron Land said that the course, which has been endorsed by Department of Education and Department of Planning Industry and Environment, had been kicking goal since it began on October 14
"This is the first and only type of training course with koalas in Australia. We have had our operational licence specifically amended to allow students aged between 15 and 18 to participate for a couple of hours a week for the eight-week duration," Mr Land said.
"Graduates will then be offered the opportunity to volunteer and work at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary."
Tomaree High students Carter Mullins, from Year 10, and Tatum Hunt, Year 9, were thrilled to swap their school uniform for labouring attire at the sanctuary, where eight koalas are currently recovering.
"It has been an enjoyable and educational experience," said Carter.
Tatum, who has her eyes set on becoming a school teacher, was extremely thankful for the opportunity to work with koalas and volunteer staff.
"The staff here are so eager to help and answer your questions. I can certainly see myself volunteering here in the future," he said.
Tomaree High principal Sue Xenos said she had no hesitation is partnering with PSK when presented with the initiative.
"This is a local organisation doing great deeds for our local koala population in a area where our students live. It is real life learning," she said.
The school's careers adviser Kyle McElwain said there were many benefits as well as education and awareness, communication, teamwork and punctuality.
Mr Land said that the course had also been hailed as an excellent precursor for students wishing to pursue tertiary studies in veterinary science or wishing to secure employment in animal care.
"Three similar courses will be offered in 2020."
He said that Port Stephens Koalas was seeking corporate sponsorship to help fund course costs.
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