Classic Wallabies Indigenous Exchange program changing lives

by Australian Rugby Union

Classic Wallabies rugby legends Gary Ella, Nick Farr-Jones, Simon Poidevin and Brendan Nasser and the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells gathered in Sydney to farewell eight young Indigenous Australians as they departed for South Africa to undertake a volunteer project with a remote community.

The group is taking part in the Classic Wallabies Indigenous Exchange (CWIE) program, an innovative Federal Government-funded initiative that provides young Indigenous Australians with life-changing experiences through volunteering – living and working on community projects overseas.

They will work alongside a local school community in the Hoedspruit region of South Africa to create an Eco Village in just five weeks, building a large vegetable garden and refurbishing classrooms for conservation-based lessons.
The CWIE South Africa program was established in 2014, inspired by the spirit of friendship and global relationships that rugby players experienced on their international tours. Recognising the significant contribution that their time wearing the gold jersey made to their personal and professional development, the Classic Wallabies are committed to supporting the CWIE program to provide Indigenous youth with similar experiences and opportunities.

The program aims to enhance the futures of Indigenous young people by facilitating opportunities to explore new social, cultural, sporting and academic experiences. It is designed to be a beneficial and valuable learning experience for all involved, including the program participants, the communities they volunteer in, as well as the volunteers’ communities when they return to Australia.
Queenslander Kevin Yeh Yow was a CWIE participant in 2016 and this year returns to South Africa as the program Team Leader. His time on the program gave him new understanding of how communities can work together to get an outcome.

“The biggest impact for me was the hard work ethic that the students, parents, teachers and community members showed throughout this journey. I was able to take that home and give back to my community in the same way, if not better,” Kevin said. “My time on the program will always be one of the highlights of my life."
Northern Territory resident Elliana Lawson is new to the program this year. As an NITV journalist, Elliana is passionate about sharing Indigenous Australians’ stories and cultural knowledge with the local community in South Africa.

“We are both resilient peoples, and I think there is so much to learn from each other to become stronger together,” Elliana said of the program. “Through this overseas exchange, I believe I will not only become a better storyteller for our mob, but also a stronger leader for our young ones.”

An initiative of the Eidos Institute, the Classic Wallabies Indigenous Exchange (CWIE) is a leadership program for Indigenous Australians. The CWIE South Africa program is part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, funded by the Australian Government. It is delivered in partnership with the Classic Wallabies and AVI.

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