In March Bucks Herald reporter Andrew Kay was selected for a prestigious Rotary exchange to learn about journalism in Australia. Here’s what happened.
LOOKING at the Sydney Opera House I ask my host ‘was it a controversial design?’ The response, ‘Naah, we loved it – it was just the cost we didn’t like!’
The comment made me smile. It seems, thinking of Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, the price of an iconic building is rarely forgotten wherever you go in the world!
I was in Sydney, along with Ayesbury Town Centre Project Officer Emma Eyles, after being selected for a Rotary exchange – designed to allow young professionals aged 25-40 to learn about another culture and how their professions are practised abroad.
Rotary (since many people have no idea) is an international charity which raises money for projects such as trying to eradicate polio. There are 33,000 Rotary clubs worldwide (Aylesbury has two) where members meet once a week to arrange events and raise money for local and international causes.
Rotary also invests in youth, through writing and public speaking competitions, and supports young leaders through its annual exchange programme.
Each exchange has a theme and this year I joined a five-strong team from Herts, Beds and Bucks who all had a connection to the media.
As a journalist I spent time at various newspapers and magazines, including the Sydney Morning Herald, where I watched a news planning meeting and spent time with the paper’s arts editor (which is similar to my role).
I toured the studios of ABC, the Aussie version of our BBC, and spent time sharing ideas with a number of local papers such as the Hornsby Advocate, Peninsula News and Hills News. As a team we also visited the Australian version of the press complaints commission.
To give a true insight into life in Sydney, all of the team stayed with different members of Rotary and their families – an opportunity not available to most tourists, who just stay in hotels. It was clear that the myth of a better work life balance Down Under has long gone. Because of the difficulty of getting around in Sydney, it is quite common to rise by 5.30am just to reach the office for 9am. Huge traffic jams are also commonplace in the city.
However, the climate is warmer and the people are much friendlier – in shops the staff start talking to you, unlike in Britain where you both usually stand in silence.
With my various Rotary hosts I was also able to explore many of the finest sites Sydney has to offer. Highlights included the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Palm Beach (where Home And Away is filmed) and the Blue Mountains.
I also saw first hand the difference that Rotary clubs were making in Sydney, from fundraising for a hospital to reducing the numbers of road deaths by educating young drivers,
A particular highlight was visiting Sydney’s Olympic Park and seeing how well it is used 12 years after the games. Emma and I also presented bosses with a 2012 Mandeville mascot and discussed how Stoke Mandeville Stadium could make the most of its Paralympic legacy – despite not hosting any of the London 2012 games.
> Next year’s exchange is for ‘educators’ to visit New Zealand.