A focus on youth has been beneficial for the sister cities of the Liverpool Plains and Blacktown.
Blacktown City Council’s sister city coordinator Greg McCallum said Saturday’s International Youth Connect Forum was the “real highlight” of the weekend’s activities in Quirindi.
“The outcome of that was phenomenal, really,” Mr McCallum said.
"To get groups of 16 and 17-year-olds to talk about youth issues was phenomenal.
“They reported back to the group on Sunday morning at the farewell breakfast and there’s just so much content we can get stuck into.”
The forum was headlined by 2016 Young Australian of the Year Jessica Watson who sailed around the world solo and unassisted at the age of 16.
“[Jessica] spoke about challenges, overcoming issues, isolation, depression, all of those things she experienced on that trip,” Mr McCallum said.
“That’s why she was the key person.”
Charity youth organisation Rap 4 Change was also proactive, running workshops ahead of the weekend at schools in Quirindi and Walhallow.
“The afternoon at Walhallow school was just phenomenal. No one who was there will forget that,” Mr McCallum said.
“What they did with the kids, giving them the experience of being a DJ and the hip-hop, [it was] just mind-blowing.”
There was also something for the kids, with Play School presenter Alex Papps performing a free concert at the Royal Theatre on Saturday.
“Alex Papps was outstanding,” Mr McCallum said.
“He connected with the kids and his ability to really pitch at their level was incredible.”
To get groups of 16 and 17-year-olds to talk about youth issues was phenomenal.Greg McCallum, Blacktown City Council
Mr McCallum said the weekend wasn’t just a benefit for Liverpool Plains’ youth but also Blacktown’s youth who came from three high schools.
“That’s their first experience into the country and for some of them their first experience on a train outside of the Blacktown link,” he said.
“Everyone we spoke to said it was a good opportunity for people to forget the issues that are confronting everyone and it gave our kids an insight into the issues people living in the country are facing.”
The sister city coordinator said Blacktown City Council was “absolutely delighted” with the outcome of the weekend.
“We had really high expectations of everything and we exceeded it,” Mr McCallum said.
“I think this year we engaged the community more and certainly our community coming up there and focusing on youth development and giving youth a voice, I think that was the biggest change.
“I think we all learn every time we get together, we learn something about each other and that’s what the sister city program is about.
“We’re committed long-term to come up every year [and] we want to keep focusing on doing something different and build on what we’ve done.”
The Blacktown City Council won’t stay away from the country from long, with a trip planned to attend Christmas in Quirindi in December. The council will bring along some Christmas cheer, with plans to donate items from Blacktown’s mayoral gift appeal to the Liverpool Plains.