Not many people have the opportunity to be treated like VIP’s and meet British Formula One Driver Jenson Button and a V8 Supercar champion Jamie Whincup in the one day. Four star pupils from Areyonga got such an opportunity after they were selected based on their excellent class attendance, grades and attitude to work to attend the Qantas Melbourne Grand Prix. The trip included VIP access to restricted areas as well as experiencing some of Melbourne’s famous tourist attractions.. The school principal, Tarna Andrews accompanied the excited children all the way from Central Australia on their fun-filled trip. The students return to their home town with many stories to tell about Melbourne and warm memories which will no doubt encourage their school friends to be extra motivated to be selected in future.

Sarafina, Elle, Stefan and Kirsten, the four children from Areyonga and Tarna were warmly welcomed upon arrival to Melbourne by the Red Dust ambassadors Linley and Darren.

Their second day in Melbourne featured a visit to the Grand Prix track. At the track the kids were very excited to see Jenson Button and Jamie Whincup race in their roaring fast Vodafone powered cars. The students enjoyed the culinary delights that Melbourne has to offer, including a BBQ lunch at Linley’s house and dining at a Southbank restaurant. To experience the city in the evening was a special event for the Areyonga students as it was their first time for them to visit Melbourne.

During their stay, the Areyonga students paid a visit to Christ Church Grammar in South Yarra and managed to befriend some students there. This kind of program is a great way to build relationships between schools which are physically distant from each other. While in Melbourne they also managed to do some shopping, go to the Richmond Football club and see things few have access to – including a visit to the weights room to meet some of the players. The timing of their visit couldn’t have been planned better as the students also had the opportunity to see the newborn baby elephant Mali at Melbourne Zoo. Later that night, the kids saw the Richmond team they visited earlier play against Carlton at the MCG. Pity the Tigers lost though! While in Melbourne, they also managed to catch the Essendon versus Geelong game, two matches in one stay!

At the Grand Prix track, the Areyonga kids were given special access to the Vodafone /McLaren garage where they managed to get some glimpses of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One machines. Later they also got to meet Craig Lowndes and sat in Jamie Whincup’s V8 car.

During their Melbourne stay the Red Dust hosts ensured they got to see other well-known Melbourne attractions such as the Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne Aquarium and Luna Park.

Red Dust wishes to express gratitude to our partner, Vodafone Australia Foundation, our ambassadors, Linley Frame and Darren Smith, and role models who gave their time to spend with the group. We also thank Craig Lowndes, Jenson Button and Jamie Whincup for their time, Holiday Inn for providing accommodation, and the Richmond Football Club. With the help of all involved the childrens’ stay was full of highlights and excitement.