Bendigo Camp Sees Students Unpack the History Behind the Gold Rush

On Tuesday April 2 the Engineering class arrived at HTC enthused about their overnight stay to Bendigo. With Justin driving the school bus for the first time there was no shortage of students offering advice on how best to manoeuvre the vehicle and the shortest route to the Calder Freeway. Accompanied by Justin was fellow staff member Tamara Zerafa who acted as co-pilot and navigator for the one hour forty five minute journey to Bendigo.

First port of call was the Bendigo Central Deborah Gold Mine where our guide Christina got us kitted up with a hard hat before a quick OH&S induction to warn of the dangers of travelling into a seventy metre deep mine shaft. Christina was a wealth of knowledge, sharing her historical understanding of life on the gold fields as well as shedding light on the great engineering advances in the field of mining over the past one hundred and seventy years. The mine shaft was also a great opportunity for peace and quiet as mobile phone coverage doesn’t extend to 70 metres below the ground.

After one hour of peace and darkness in the mine and approximately 350 meters of tunnel we resurfaced, much to the delight of all students who had been without mobile phone reception for one whole hour. Highlights of the mine included seeing real life gold hidden within the rock walls, watching our guide drill into the rock with an early 1900’s ‘death drill’ and seeing how the miners blew up a shaft using dynamite (please note that real dynamite wasn’t used).

It was now time for a short lunch break in which some students frantically caught up with the one hour lost on social media whilst others indulged in an old fashioned Cornish pasty which consisted of meat and vegetables at one end and baked apple at the other. The pasties were made exactly the same way the miners would have had them with had a huge puff of pastry on top (like a handle) so as they could eat the contents with their dirty hands and then simply throw away the handle.

Our second activity for the day was a scenic tour on the old time Bendigo tram, conveniently located out the front of the Central Deborah Gold Mine. Students and teachers were treated to an audio recording outlining the major historical sights of Bendigo while also taking in the history of major events that had occurred in days gone by. In addition, we were treated to a short tour of the Bendigo Tram Depo in which students were able to witness first-hand the engineering processes associated with tram restoration. I t was now late into the afternoon and it was time to head to our overnight accommodation and enjoy some well-earned recreation time.

We arrived at the Bendigo Big 4 caravan park with an hour and a half to spare before dinner so the students set out on an expedition of the camp facilities. It wasn’t long before they discovered the shady surrounds of the camp swimming pool, setting up their towels and blasting the boom box to full capacity in order to give all park residents a taste of contemporary music or ‘doof doof’ as it’s known to the older generation.

With the allocation of rooms complete, it was time to head to the rec-room to start cooking for the masses. Much to the disgust of the students it was they who had to do the cooking. As part of the PDS component of the course students were required to prepare, cook and clean up using only the primitive facilities located within the camp grounds. It wasn’t long before we were eating deliciously created medium rare hamburgers and washing them down with a spot of Coles brand lemonade.

Dinner would not have been complete without a game of handball on the basketball courts and a bounce on the giant pillow to help settle the stomach. There were some fine displays of athleticism from Mitch Brown and an equally impressive display from teacher-extraordinaire Justin, who became an instant snapchat sensation when filmed completing a perfect double backflip with a triple pike landing.

It was now time for a quiet night sleep, with teachers and student alike retiring to their cabins for some much needed rest and recuperation in preparation for the final day of camp. Shenanigans were kept to a minimum as students ordered uber-eats for dessert and watched G rated films within the confines of their own cabin.

Call time was 7:30 am on the Wednesday as teachers Tamara and Justin banged on doors and ensured everyone was ready for breakfast and the final leg of our excursion. Students once again cooked their own meal as many mastered the art of serial and toast while Ryan Penn fired up the BBQ and cooked some quality bacon sandwiches for those who preferred a more substantial meal.

As 8:45 am approached it was time to re-load the bus and get to the Bendigo Chinese Joss House for our first and final tour of the day. We were greeted at the Joss House by an eccentric Darren who further enhanced our knowledge of life on the gold fields whilst giving us a unique perspective of the Chinese miner. In addition, Darren spoke of the Chinese Buddhist religion, helping students gain an understanding of the compassion and kindness required to be Buddhist.

With students now at one with the universe it was time to head back towards Melbourne and reflect on what had been an amazing experience for those involved. Although the reflection process would need to wait as we stopped at the famous Beechworth Bakery to indulge in a range of pastry and savoury snacks. After an hour at the bakery students rolled onto the bus for the final leg of the tour before arriving back at HTC to eagerly awaiting parents

Thanks must go to all students who attended the camp and also to Tamara and Justin for their organisation of such a fun and educational experience.