An all-inclusive, fully funded excursion brings country kids to the big smoke for the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Story Kate Newsome   

Each year the Sydney Royal Easter Show brings together almost one million people from across the country to see the best of Australia’s agricultural industry. But quite often, due to socioeconomic factors and sheer distance, it is kids from the country who don’t get to experience what’s on show. This paradox inspired the All Roads to the Royal program, which since 2019 has offered regional NSW schools the opportunity to take part in a 4-day fully funded trip to the Easter Show. 

“To see kids see everything for the first time, that always makes it very special,” says Tasha Hurley, chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW’s (RAS) Youth Group. Members of this subcommittee volunteer their time to organise and run the excursion. “It’s a really nice thing to be a part of because you get to see some very genuine excitement and reactions to all the things at the show that we probably just take for granted,” she says. 

The jam-packed schedule caters for up to 40 participants each year. Their itinerary includes breakfast with the RAS Rural Achievers and Rural Women, hands-on experiences and tours of different animal pavilions and exhibitions. The students are also given opportunities to enjoy the entertainment and competitions. “The dream is that [the students] walk out the end of it and go, ‘Wow, there are so many different avenues in agriculture’,” Tasha says. 

This year, the participating students hailed from Tottenham Central School in the Central West and Bowraville Central School on the Mid North Coast. “We normally do the one [school], but this year because they were 2 smaller schools, we thought we could just bring them both and double the fun,” Tasha explains. 

The program is traditionally for students from years 7 to 12, with the exception this year being a single student from year 5 who “takes every ag class on offer”, explains Lori Wilson, an agriculture teacher at Bowraville Central School. 

Many of the students rarely come to the city, if ever. “It was insane, the questions on the bus,” Lori says. “You don’t realise what they don’t know until you take them somewhere that they’ve never been.” 

Lori applied for the program knowing that many of the parents in the community would be unable to afford such an opportunity otherwise. She says the excursion has “opened the kids’ eyes” to different career opportunities within agriculture and the world outside of their home town. 

Charlee Woods is one of Lori’s year 11 students from Bowraville. Having grown up around agriculture, Charlee has found a passion for the beef industry and aspires to work as a jillaroo. “I wanted to go [on the excursion] to see all the other different industries, the poultry, the sheep and all that,” she says. “I already knew the tiniest bit about each industry, but coming here has opened it up.” 

Maddi Loftus, a year 11 student from Tottenham, shares a similar passion for the ag sector. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” she says, “just getting to see how everything works and getting to go behind the scenes.” 

Maddi’s teacher at Tottenham Central School, Sarah Lindsey, says her students have had a lot to gain from All Roads to the Royal. “I’m hoping that they’ll come to realise what’s involved in the ag industry and think a bit more about what they want to do later – that’s the big picture.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #149

Outback Magazine: June/July 2023