What a whirlwind the last 5 weeks have been! On Tuesday we said goodbye to our friends in Traralgon and hello to the RC of Mount Martha. We have spent some time getting to know our host families and enjoying our last vocational visits while down under.

Wednesday night was our farewell dinner hosted by the RC of Narre Warren. It was a lovely night filled with friends from across District 9820 in Victoria. We gave our final presentation about the highlights of our trip, our take-aways from our vocational days and many heart-filled thank you’s to everyone we have met along the way. It was truly our pleasure and our honor to have been a part of this adventure and the GSE.

Thursday we headed into the city of Melbourne and explored the sites one last time. The Queen Victoria Market was a favorite and held many treasures and souvenirs for our friends and family back home. That afternoon we met up at the Parliament House and we got a personal tour from David Morris, a member of the Legislative Assembly. We saw the rooms where both the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council sit, had high tea, and saw the well-known library. We also learned a bit about politics in Australia and the differences between the two legislative bodies.

Today is our last full day in Australia as tomorrow we take off for home. The memories we have created here will surely last a lifetime and we will be eternally grateful for this opportunity. We hope you have enjoyed reading about our adventures down under!

Be sure to follow our Australian counterparts at http://rotarygse9820.wordpress.com/ as they begin their journey to our home state tomorrow as we end our journey here!

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Today is our final full day in the beautiful hilled countryside of the Latrobe/Traralgon area. 
 
We each had a vocational day.  Stacy had a bustling day with Big W-which is a department store that has approximately 170 stores throughout Australia!

Jenny spent the day with John Calabro, who is an international award winner and also a professional member of Australian Graphic Design Association – the peak national organization for professional graphic designers in Australia.

Alexis spent an exciting day at the Bendigo Bank-Mirboo North Branch and met with a wide range of people involved in the banking from both the operational and strategic levels.

Colleen visited with Alan Wilson of Alan Wilson Insurance Brokers.  Alan has a wealth of knowledge about the insurance industry with over 35 years in the industry!

Last but not least, Cathy!  Cathy was given the opportunity to spend the day with Rhonda Renwick who is a well-known philanthropist as well as the Managing Director of the Latrobe Valley Buslines.  Rhonda works extensively with the Women’s Trust network as well as with indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and was able to share with Cathy how she works to improve lives.
 
In the evening we met with and presented to our host club-the Rotary Club of Traralgon Central, as well as guests from the Rotary Clubs of Traralgon, Morwell and Hazelwood.
 

(Thanks Stacy for writing today’s post!)

We have moved on to Traralgon area in the Latrobe Valley….a lush, green region that even includes a rain forest with trees that are hundreds of years old. It sits between the Great Dividing and Strzelecki Ranges.  However, the paradox is that this is the major industrial region of Victoria supplying the power for the state.  It’s a coal mining region that has 700 years  of coal underground! (The coal is “brown” coal because it’s millions of years younger than “black” coal and it creates environmental issues).

There are 4-5 open-pit mines with HUGE power stations right  beside them….the coal is fed directly to the station, power generated and sent out through south-eastern Australia.  There is also a natural gas power station.  The people work in the “power industry” and not “coaling mining”.  The wages are excellent….the highest average income  in Victoria outside of  Melbourne.  Appalachia this is NOT!!!  However, the region has a low reputation as a place to live because of the type of industry and the strong “green” movement in Australia.  But the people are proud, and rightfully so, and the area is beautiful.

 We spent today in gold mining territory called Walhalla…..gold is what attracted folks to this region to begin with.  There is relatively little gold mining here anymore.  However, there is a historic town that we reached by railroad. We had a fascinating tour through a gold mine, part of which is still being mined.

 By the way, it is not all sight-seeing as it may sound of late…..we are doing all kinds of Rotary events including attending the meetings and giving presentations.  Also we had our 5th civic reception the other day hosted by the mayor and council members of Latrobe City.  We continue to marvel at how well and royally we are treated.

Blog post thanks to team leader Cathy Zimmerman 🙂

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Whilst we are 4 weeks into the trip, the Mitchell River group (our hosting club) knew we were in need of some relaxation on top of our vocational and cultural experiences. After lawn bowling, we had a wonderful dinner and presented to the 3 local Rotary Clubs: Mitchell River, Lakes Entrance, and Bairnsdale, on Monday night.

There was a civic reception with the East Gibbsland Mayor and the Shire Council on Tuesday. We were local celebrities on WIN Channel 9 news. We will also be featured in the local newspaper promoting Rotary and the Group Study Exchange. Wednesday featured vocational days in Bairnsdale at local businesses.

We started the day with a boat cruise around Gippsland Lakes and enjoyed the many varieties of birds inhabiting the area. We’ve learned many lessons down under … and today’s was “eating” wine, a.k.a. enjoying your wine with food, at the Nicholson River Winery. After a lovely cheese and wine tasting (with kookabarra as entertainment) and tour of the winery, we gathered with our new Rotary friends for amazing food and fellowship to conclude our time in Bairnsdale.

Upon leaving Yarram we headed to Ballarat for Rotary District 9820 Conference. On Friday we went to a welcome ceremony at the Mayor’s office. Following that we kicked off the Conference then went to see “Blood on the Southern Cross” at Sovereign Hill. It was a great show and interesting to learn about some of Australian’s history.

Saturday we were at the conference listening to some great keynote speakers, including a faux corporate speaker! That night we attended a Masquerade Ball and saw the outgoing GSE team members from Australia.

Sunday morning the conference wrapped up and we went with our new host families to the RC of Mitchell River. On Monday we went lawn bowling for the first time and to the 90 Mile Beach and Lakes Entrance.

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What another adventurous week we have had! On Monday we met up with yet another wonderful set of hosts from the Rotary Club of Yarram. Our first stop was to the Prom!

Wilsons Promontory, or the Prom as it is called, is a national park in South Gippsland that is known for its beautiful scenery and its Squeaky Beach, where the sand squeaks beneath your feet as you walk on it. After the Prom we met with Paul Macphail who is a well-known Kelpie dog trainer. The Kelpies are used as working dogs on many farms in the area.

On Tuesday we went to five different farms in the Yarram area. We saw sheep shearing, mixed beef cattle and sheep farms, and a dairy farm. It was great to learn about a major industry in Australia and see it firsthand. We also heard from a local Landcare Australia representative. He talked about the push to help regenerate the land to help preserve the environment. Many Australians are working hard to plant trees and provide sanctuaries for the wildlife here.

On Wednesday we had another vocational day where we met with local business people and discussed our various fields. That afternoon we went to the Tarra Valley Rainforest and saw a suspension bridge, waterfalls, and the often shy Lyrebird! We finished up our day by giving a presentation about ourselves and Wisconsin to the RC of Yarram and guests.

Tomorrow we are off to the District Conference in Ballarat!

Caught in a field of sheep!

Rotary GSE Australia at the Red Hill Brewery on St Pattys day.

The team at Red Hill Brewery on St. Patrick’s Day.

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The team at Cape Schanck Lighthouse.

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The team at Phillip Island.

We had an amazing time with RC Frankston North, RC Frankston Sunrise and RC Langwarrin. After spectacular vocational visits in the Frankston and surrounding areas on 3/16 and our presentation and networking at their weekly meeting on 3/15, we  embarked on some cultural exploration.

St. Patty’s Day Down Under
We enjoyed a morning of sailing on the crisp waters of Western Port. We even witnessed a dolphin swimming along side the vessel which was absolutely amazing. The afternoon was filled with even more breathtaking views along the coast of the peninsula at Flinders and Cape Schanck. We wrapped up our day tour with a stop at Red Hill Brewery and the beautiful outlook at Arthurs Seat.

Phillip Island
On Sunday, 3/18, we traveled to Phillip Island and experienced some wonderful sights … the pelicans at San Remo, kangeroo and wallaby feeding at a local zoo, the Nobbies, and at the end of the day, the trek of the little penguins. It was a great day with our new Rotary friends.

March 13
We spent an eventful day on our first vocational experience.  Each of
us had a day filled with meetings, discourse with our counterparts in
our respective industries, as well as a fantastic opportunity to
really exchange ideas and share experiences across cultures about our
workplaces back in Wisconsin.  Each of us thoroughly enjoyed our
vocational day as it was a very unique experience to be afforded a
look into how people from another country run their businesses!

March 14
We visited the winding hills of the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
After a short stop for tea and some light sightseeing, we had a picnic
lunch amongst some of the tallest and oldest trees many of us have
ever seen.  The weather was splendid and the views were breathtaking.
There was an area where visitors could watch wild cockatoos rosallas
and gallahs.  We even got to see the famed Puffing Billy train!  In
the evening we gave our first presentation at the District 9280
welcome dinner.  With over 100 attendees, including the district
governor, we were welcomed by the warm reception of the district and
its members!

March 15
Today we leave our friends of RC Endeavour Hills and head to our next host families comprised of RC Frankston North, RC Frankston Sunrise and RC Langwarrin!

Mount Dandenong

The team (including team leader Cathy Zimmerman) at a lookout spot on Mt Dandenong.