A Trip Down Under Part 6: Departures
Posted by Jim Humphries on 15th, January, 2016
Ticket entrance to the IFCO Conference Gala evening was our Australian hats we had been issued with at registration. The hall was set with tables and was already full of people, all talking excitedly. We found a table with a new foster carer friend we had made at the conference. Her name is Maria; originally from Ireland, she is married to an Australian man who is a builder. Maria was at the conference alone and I was surprised to hear that this was the first fostering training she had ever received. Other new friends called Glennis and Colin were also on our table. Robbie Mac was on stage and introduced the band for the evening. The food was amazing, we had delicious giant prawns to start, followed by amazing wagyu beef, plenty of beer and wine and a pudding. There was music and dancing and everyone had a great time.
The last day of the conference was much shorter, starting at 8:30am with morning tea at 10am and the closing ceremony at 12:15pm. Again there were some good speakers with interesting things to tell us. The closing ceremony featured musicians from the Australian X Factor, who sang and were joined on stage by many children in care who had attended the Youth Program, and who displayed some beautiful art work that they had done.
We had to say goodbye to Maria straight after the music had finished, as she had a plane to catch back home. It had been a brilliant experience and we had learned so much in such a short space of time. We had a complimentary photo taken which we will frame as a memento of the conference. Having said our goodbyes to many people we made our way to the Silent Auction to see if we had won any bids. I met an Australian lady who had bought our hamper and pointed out to her that I had included a copy of our story that had won us the trip to the conference. Unfortunately I had been outbid on the Australian art tea towels, but I had won the Australian flag.
We made our way out into the sunshine on the balcony and had a cup of tea with Glennis and Colin, some other new fostering friends who are English people who are now living and fostering two Aboriginal children in Perth. I opened my Australian flag, only to find it was actually a pair of extra, extra large board shorts! We had a laugh about that, then took all of our stuff back to our room.
That afternoon we went out and walked across Pyrmount bridge and up through central Sydney. After lunch at a sushi bar we walked up through Hyde Park and visited the Australian Museum of New South Wales where we took lots of photos of Aboriginal art. Then we walked on further through the beautiful Royal Botanical gardens with striking fountains, statues and fantastic trees, flowers and plants. At the end of the Botanical gardens was a vast tree that seemed to usher us down a sweeping lawned area to the Sydney Opera House. It was such an impressive sight and we both felt very excited. Outside of the Opera House there was a music festival going on with artists including Jake Bugg, Mumford and Sons and many others. We went into the Opera house and met another English family who had been at the conference. They had bought tickets for the show Velvet and we bought tickets for the next night. We had a drink outside overlooking the Sydney harbour bridge and a guy walked past wearing a Velvet T-shirt. I asked if he was in the show, he said he was and was pleased when I told him we had bought tickets for tomorrow night.
We walked back through the Botanical gardens and Hyde Park and back to Darling Harbour where we had an Italian meal overlooking the harbour. The food was great and was complimented by a young Australian who was playing guitar and singing. After our meal we had a chat with him and bought his CD of original songs that he had recorded with his girlfriend. We walked back around Darling harbour to The Star and spoke for ages about all that had happened over the last few days.