From Down Under to Hay River (Issue 23, 2012)

Welcome to Hay RiverLa Trobe Community Planning and Development students Fraser Neele, Robert Lean, Brendon Aikman and Trent Goodman have spent a week learning about Hay River in Canada.

In total, 21 Community Planning and Development students and staff spent the better part of a week snowshoeing, curling, skating, and learning about various facets of Hay River and the region.

The project had been in the works for more than a year, and came to fruition thanks to the friendship between Hay Riverite Kim Ivanko and La Trobe professor Dr Julie Rudner, who met while playing hockey in Toronto when they were both teenagers.

Their friendship endured through the years and when another La Trobe professor, Trevor Budge, suggested they bring students to Canada, Dr Rudner knew exactly where to go.

‘Every two years we aim to come to the United States and Canada,’ says Professor Budge.

‘When I told Julie we were going to Canada, she said we should go to Hay River because she had a friend there, so we did!’

The students loved their experience in Hay River.

‘We found it to be a great place; we work a lot with small towns in Australia and the people are always friendly and welcoming,’ says Professor Budge. 

‘Despite the difference, many of the issues here are similar to ours: concerns about infrastructure, service facilities, town beautification, issues of remoteness.’

Temperatures hit -15C, but students were happy to face the cold, with some kicking an AFL footy around outside – a sight never seen before in Hay River. 

‘Of course the snow was a bonus,’ says Professor Budge.

Some of the students found the Northern environment fascinating.

‘When we drove up (from Alberta) we really got a feel that we were going through different levels of snowfall,’ said Fraser Neele.

He said Hay River was not unlike his own town back in Australia.

‘I come from a town not too dissimilar in size, and while it’s nowhere near as remote, I understand some of the issues here.’

The students then headed to Vancouver and Spokane, Washington to do a project with the planning students there, before ending their trip in Portland, Oregon where they did a one-week intensive program.

Professor Budge said he hopes to arrange for one of his students to do a one-month work placement in Hay River next year, and that a couple students were already keen to participate.