Ironbark Beyond Year 9

Ironbark has long been a talking point at St Peters. Whether from an Old Scholar reminiscing, a Junior High student planning what to pack alongside their nervous/excited energy, or even from a member of staff reflecting on the many benefits of the outdoor education program, chances are you’ve heard about Ironbark from someone at St Peters. But did you know that it isn’t just for current Year 9 students?

While limited, opportunities to visit Ironbark after Year 9 do exist. In fact, in 2018, a group of Year 10 students wasted no time in taking up the option (just 12 months shy of their original visit!). Julia, Tess, Derryn, Zoe, Felicity, Olive, Molly, Lara S, Lara T and Danielle, spent five days reliving their favourite Ironbark moments. They woke early to go on runs, completed twice-daily farm chores, hiked to Cronins and more. They went back to keep the memories alive, but they got so much more out of it than that.

Why return?

In returning to Ironbark, the girls noticed how much they’d changed since their first visit.

“We were so much more confident and capable to do the farm jobs and cook our own meals,” Julia said. “It was awesome to go back and see how we’d grown from our last stay; to see how Ironbark and the following year had changed us.”

Similarly, Molly reflected on her original visit and why it was so important that she return.

“We were able to do so many amazing things, get out of our comfort zone and test our boundaries,” Molly recalled. “The experience taught me so much about myself and the people around me.”

For some of the girls, the return to Ironbark allowed them to experience farm life in a different season. Those who’s class group originally went in winter were able to swim in the dams; those who cared for more established pigs on their original stay, were instead able to see the piglets being born. The group hope they can continue to return to the farm regularly in the future.

Benefits of Ironbark

The intention of the St Peters Ironbark program, overall, is to teach essential life skills. As Director of Ironbark, Matt Sullivan, states, the approach is very different to traditional teaching.

“There’s more of a focus on personal growth and development—it’s a joy to be part of. Giving these kids new experiences, new opportunities and helping them to learn more about themselves through the process, that’s the real benefit of this work.”

Ironbark activities include:

  • Agricultural skills
  • Outdoor adventure activities
  • Community living tasks
  • The “Cronins Pioneering Program”

Students learn to feed and handle livestock; to ride horses, chop firewood and garden; how to cook in a camp oven; how to complete basic domestic skills such as cleaning and washing clothes; plus how to hike, abseil, complete a 24-hour Solo (unaccompanied campout) and more!

The experiences gained from Ironbark stay with St Peters students for life. In fact, when surveyed about their time at St Peters, Ironbark consistently rated amongst the top strengths of the College, according to Old Scholars.

How to visit…

As mentioned above, opportunities to visit Ironbark are limited and, of course, have to take place around scheduled Ironbark Class Groups throughout the year. If you would like to return to Ironbark, please contact Matt Sullivan about availability: