At Thomaston High School: Seventh Graders Skype with Australian

Hayley Woods, a third-year student at Central Queensland University in Australia, spoke to 67 Thomaston High School seventh-grade students via Skype on Tuesday, January 21 at the high school. Questions from students pertained to food, academics, slang, healthcare and holiday meals. (Chamberlain photo)

THOMASTON — Janice Ellis, math and geography teacher and Michelle Pope, geography teacher at Thomaston High School, held a Skype session with Hayley Woods, a third-year student at Central Queensland University, in Australia, for the seventh-grade students on Tuesday, January 21 at the high school. Hayley is a friend of Ms. Ellis’s daughter Amy. Amy Ellis is a junior, studying digital media with a concentration in film making, at Endicott College.

Amy went to Central Queensland University for study abroad this past spring where she met Hayley. 

Currently Ms. Ellis and Ms. Pope are teaching the students about Australia. Each student prepared questions to ask Hayley, which were approved by their teachers.

Hayley spoke to the 67, seventh grade students for approximately an hour and a half, discussing Australia and answering their questions.

The topics discussed included snacks, language, voting, United States and Australian government, politics, healthcare, education, cultural events, careers, sports and the military.

Hayley explained the language barrier and different types of slang. She told the students words that were different in Australia but meant the same thing in the United States.

For example, a servo is a gas station, a boot is the trunk of a car, a jumper is a sweatshirt, college is university and brekky is breakfast. A student asked if the language barrier was difficult and she stated that when people come to visit, it is important to remember that they have an accent.

She said that accents can be harder to understand depending on where they are from, but slang is the larger challenge because there is a difference between Australian English and American English. She used the word color as an example. In Australia, it is spelled colour.

A student asked about healthcare and Hayley said that because the benefits for taxpayers in Australia are generous, ambulances and hospital visits are free.

She said that there are public and private hospitals, and because the public hospitals are funded by the government, it is free for Australian citizens and most Australian residents.

Hayley talked about voting in Australia. Voting is compulsory and if people do not vote, they may receive a fine. If people choose not to vote, they must provide a legitimate reason.

Hayley spoke about Australia Day and how it is celebrated. It is celebrated differently because for some it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British ships that arrived in Australia, but for others, it is referred to as Invasion Day.

For the Aborigines that lived in Australia before it was inhabited by Europeans, Australia Day denotes a day that their people were killed and their land was taken from them. Hayley said that Australia Day is not celebratory for everyone.

She told the students about the formal apology that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made to the Aborigines, or the Stolen Generations, in 2008. The apology was on behalf of the Australian Parliament.

A student asked if there is discrimination towards Aborigines and Hayley replied that it is a sensitive topic, and it does happen.

She talked about other holidays. She said that when she celebrates Christmas with her family, they serve foods like prawns, potato salad, ham and Pavlova. 

Hayley said that students begin school the same age as American students. She said that grades are divided into kindergarten through sixth grade and seventh through twelfth grade.

She said that for every 10 weeks of school, Australian students get two weeks off. The seasons are reversed, it is currently summer in Australia.

She said that education benefits for taxpayers are generous and Australian students do not have to pay for their college degrees upfront. Instead, students are required to pay based on a percentage of their future income after they graduate. 

Another difference in Australian education is that there are no basic courses. Students take courses useful to their degree in high school and college. For Australian students, academics are the main focus.

Hayley spoke about different types of stores and restaurants in Australia. She said that there is some fast food, but it is much healthier than American fast food and the portion sizes are smaller.

She said that there is a McDonalds, but it is called Maccas. Stores do not use plastic bags, straws or cups.

In reference to sports, the most popular sports are swimming, running, tennis, rugby league and cricket.

She said that unlike the minimum age of 16 in the United States, Australians can begin to work at 13. Certain jobs require children to be 14 years and nine months old.

Hayley said that Australia has a national anthem, but it is seldomly used. She said that Australia does not have a pledge, but they recite the Lord’s Prayer and a code of conduct.

A student asked Hayley about environmental issues including the Great Barrier Reef and the current bushfires.

Hayley said that the deterioration in the Great Barrier Reef has been caused by industrial runoff, oil spills and fertilizer. 

She said that the Great Barrier Reef could grow back with time, but because the pollution has not decreased, it is unlikely.

She said that bushfires have mainly affected the southern part of the country with an increasing amount of damage.

The session ended with the students asking if there was a way they could help with the bushfires and she said that people can make knit pouches for wildlife or monetary donations. 

She recommends that if students want to donate, they may send money to organizations.

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