Australia-Japan Foundation

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Australia Study Program for Minami Sanriku schoolchildren 2014

Currumbin Sanctuary

March 29 2014

After a few rainy days, the sky of Redland City finally cleared up. The students headed off to Currumbin Sanctuary in the city of the Gold Coast on a sunny Saturday, to see some unique Australian animals. An official from Gold Coast Tourism and the City’s mascot character Billy the Koala greeted the students on their arrival of Currumbin. After having their photos taken with koalas, the students learnt about the behaviour of Australian animals and reptiles from the staff members of Currumbin. The students then took part in volunteering activities by feeding the koalas and cleaning their enclosures.

After leaving Currumbin Sanctuary, they stopped by one of the most beautiful white sandy beaches in Queensland. For safety reasons, swimming was not allowed but they could enjoy paddling in the water up to their knees. The students grew up on the coast in Japan, and going to the beach used to be one of their routines, however when the tsunami hit their hometown it destroyed their beaches. They have not been able to enjoy the beach since then. As soon as they saw a beautiful white beach, they took off their shoes and started running towards the water and enjoyed the feeling of the beach under their feet. Every student had the biggest smiles on their faces since they had landed in Australia. It is clear that the beach is a special place for Minami Sanriku students.

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3rd Day at School: English and Japanese Class

March 28 2014

Queensland continues to rain. The first lesson at school today was an English conversation class. The class begins by introducing Australian slang, and the students learnt such slang words as arvo (afternoon), sunnies (sunglasses), mozzies (mosquitoes), barbie (barbecue), swimmers (swimming costume), and many other interesting words. At first the content was perplexing but the students seem to get used to it after a while.

Following Australian slang, students learnt useful phrases that they can immediately utilise during conversations with their host families.

After the English lesson, they enjoyed lunch with their buddies and then joined the Japanese lessons and other classes on their buddies' timetables.

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2nd day at school. English conversation, music and art class

27 March 2014

8 am at Cleveland High School. In the morning the homestay families saw off the students before their classes started. The students first talked about their homestay families, including their homestay families' pets, their rooms, and the food they ate for dinner.

Some of the students enjoyed barbeques, and another had a curry which was different to what you can usually eat in Japan. One student was surprised when their host family brought out chopsticks, and on the other hand there were students that needed to use knives and forks. The students were quickly surprised by the amount of differences there are between Australian and Japanese lifestyle, but the students embraced the change and looked forward to learning new experiences and being exposed to new challenges.

Students have come across some difficulties being away from home and communicating with their host families. And even though there have been some students that have cried, the kindness of their host families should allow them to overcome these problems.

The first class at school was English. The students were nervous and had difficulty with basic phrases, but when the students understood the English teacher for this class, Ms Madison, they seemed very happy.

Today, the students also had music and art class.In music class the students learnt the guitar. As most of the students had never even touched a guitar before, the Australian year 10 students (Japan 1st year high school) helped the students to learn two chords. Finally, the year 10 students invited the students to play the song "lego house" together. The students appeared to be quite satisfied with this achievement.

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Arrival in Australia: Reception and homestay

26 March 2014

After 24hrs since departing Minami Sanriku, the group of students finally arrived at Gold Coast airport. Officials from the Education Queensland Internationals were at the airport to meet the students off the plane.

When changing money at the exchange counter for the first time, the students were surprised that Australian currency is made of plastic, and comes in a variety of colours.

After an hour of travelling by bus from the airport, they entered the outskirts of Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland. Eventually they arrived at Cleveland State High School, which is located within the Redland City area of Brisbane.

Once we arrived, the students had an orientation session with the responsible teachers at Cleveland State High School. After the session, the students met their “buddy” students, who would be assisting them through their week at the school.

When they first met, there was some anxiousness on both sides. The students made their self-introductions, though were quite shy and hesitant. The students then joined the school’s Year 8 and Year 9 (Japan’s 2nd and 3rd Year Middle School equilivant) Japanese Classes. In this classes students could exchange Japanese and English for their mutual benefit. While students at Cleveland State High School can also learn French and Chinese, it was apparent that Japanese was very popular.

At the end of the school day, the students had departed more than 32 hours before. The students were understandably quite tired. While waiting for their host families to arrive – what sort of experiences will the students have in their week in Australia?

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Heading off to Australia, first stop- Afternoon tea at the Australian Embassy

25 March 2014

The Minani Sanriku Students Study Tour 2014 is the third study tour since the program started in 2012. The 20 participating students were selected from three junior-highschools from Minami Sanriku including Shizugawa, Utatsu and Togura (merged with Shizugawa from April 2014). With suitcases kindly donated by Club Australia, students departed their early in the morning. They first stopped by at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo to participate in the afternoon tea function hosted by Ms Williams, Minister-Counsellor (Political).

The students introduced themselves in English to embassy staff, and afterwards enjoyed Autralian sweets – lamingtons, anzac cookies to name a few. After this they played hide-and-seek and rugby with Embassy staff and their children.

Ms Williams then spoke to the students, encouraging them to make new and friends and to be open to trying new things. Ms Williams further encouraged the students, reminding them that their futures have no limits.

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Minami Sanriku school children leave for Queensland

24 March 2014

As part of the program 'Australia is with Minami Sanriku', twenty school children from three schools in Minami Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, will leave Japan on 25 March 2014 for Queensland to experience Australian school life and exchange activities at Cleveland District State High School. For many, this will be their first overseas trip. Before participating in the program, each of the students wrote an essay about what they wanted to do in Australia if they could visit. The program aims to provide them with an opportunity to widen their outlook on the world and make connections with people from a different backgrounds. As part of the program, students will stay with Australian host families and participate in a number of activities such as visiting Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, visiting beaches along the Gold Coast and participating in training exercises with Australian life savers as well as undertaking various volunteering activities. Prior to departing for Australia, the young students will attend an afternoon tea hosted by the Embassy. They will return home to Minami Sanriku on 3 April 2014.

This is the third tour of the 'Australia is with Minami Sanriku' program for Minami Sanriku students since the tsunami/earthquake in March 2011. Previous tours were to Victoria in 2013 and Queensland in 2012. The tour is funded by the Australia-Japan Foundation but is also supported by Jetstar Airways, Education Queensland International, Tourism Queensland, Gold Coast Tourism, Club Australia and the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. This program supports Australia’s continuing commitment to Japan's recovery and reflects the close relationship which began in 2011 with the immediate response by the Australian Government to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. Australia quickly despatched a 76-member Urban Search and Rescue team to Minami Sanriku to search for survivors in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. The then Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited the town in April 2011 and was the first foreign leader to visit this disaster-affected area. She met with its Mayor, Mr Jin Sato, and residents at a local evacuation centre. At the Mayor Sato's request, Australia subsequently donated a sizeable food aid package to the town. In October, more than 60 staff from the Australian Embassy, their families and members of the Australian expatriate community visited Minami Sanriku to participate in the town's monthly 'recovery market'.

In the three years that have passed since the earthquake and tsunami, the Australian Government, Australian enterprises and many individual citizens have provided various kinds of support to contribute to the Tohoku recovery effort. Our relationship with Minami Sanriku continues to be nurtured by ongoing Embassy visits and AJF projects such as performances by Melbourne based Polyglot Theatre. Parliamentary Secretary Senator Mason visited Minami Sanriku in October 2013 and met with Mayor Sato and members of the local business community. He also visited a local school to meet students who participated in the 2013 AJF funded study tour to Melbourne.

The full program schedule for the young school students is listed below:

Program Schedule - 24 March to 1 April 2012

Day 1
Tue 25 March

Leave Minami Sanriku
Afternoon Tea at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo
Leave for Gold Coast

Day 2
Wed 26 March

Arrive at Gold Coast
Welcome function at Cleveland State High School (host school)
Stay with host families

Day 3
Thur 27 March

Attend classes
Stay with host families

Day 4
Fri 28 March

Attend classes at the host school
Stay with host families

Day 5
Sat 29 March

Visit Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – meet koalas and volunteer activities Stay with host families

Day 6
Sun 30 March

Activities with host families

Day 7
Mon 31 March

Visit Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club
Attend classes at the host school
Stay with host families

Day 8
Tue 1 April

Farewell afternoon tea at the school
Stay at a hotel

Day 9
Wed 2 April

Leave Gold Coast via Cairns
Return to Minami Sanriku (3 April) via Tokyo

Major Sponsor

AJF Crest
Australia-Japan Foundation

Official Support

Embassy Crest
Australian Embassy, Tokyo


Queensland Logo
Education Queensland International
Tourism Queensland Logo
Tourism Queensland
Tourism Gold Coast Logo
Gold Coast Tourism
Club Australia Logo
Club Australia
Jetstar Logo
Jetstar Airways