The Classic Wallabies Indigenous Exchange (CWIE) has high hopes for the future, after a successful trip to Hoedspruit, South Africa.
Six young Indigenous women and two men spent more than a month at Mphaku School, working tirelessly to construct an eco village, help build sustainable food sources while learning teamwork and leadership skills.
Working in conjunction with the Make a Difference Leadership Foundation, set up by Springbok World Cup-winning captain Francios Pienaar, and conservation group Eco Children, CWIE aims to offer a ‘tour experience’ in its exchanges.
The CWIE, established in 2012 by Bruce Muirhead and Classic Wallaby Brendon Nasser, has sent four tours to South Africa since its inception, funded through a mix of federal government grants, corporate sponsorship and the Classic Wallabies Foundation.
The CWIE South Africa program is part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, delivered in partnership with the Classic Wallabies Foundation and AVI.
“The synergy between the indigenous communities of South Africa and Australia is fantastic,” Nasser said.
“The young people represented themselves, their communities and their country very well, and worked very hard.”
Nasser said the exchanges worked to empower young Indigenous people, giving them valuable life skills as well as guidance to further their careers.
Aside from their community projects, the program also sent two MBA students to Edinburgh Business School last year.
It’s not just Wallabies the exchange program has worked with, with former British and Irish Lions Gavin and Scott Hastings overseeing work in Scotland, adding to the group of Classic Wallabies including Nick Farr-Jones, Simon Poidevin, John Eales, Peter FitzSimons, and Gary and Glen Ella.
Wallabies flanker David Pocock crossed paths with the group in Hoedspruit recently, having a "transformative" effect on the tour, Muirhead said.
“Sport has sort of become like a global diplomacy, and there is hardly a better representation of that ambition than David,” he said.
“His obsessive interest in excellence and drive for change was inspiring for everybody.
“You couldn’t get a better symbol of the power of rugby to make a change.”
CWIE’s success has attracted government attention, while there is also talk of reciprocal programs with Pienaar’s foundation, that would involve working with Indigenous Australians at home.
“There’s interest with the government in engagement with the Pacific Islands, and extending the program over there,” Muirhead said.
“There’s also interest in getting some of the young female rugby Sevens players involved.”
For more information on the Classic Wallabies Indigenous Exchange program, head to their website here.