IT IS the time of year when country kids pack their bags and leave for boarding school – but for the ones who are making the trip for the first time it can be a daunting experience.
Banjo Walker, 11, will be making the trek to St Brendan’s College Yeppoon this year for the first time as a student to begin Year 7.
The Clermont boy from Gemini Downs is the only one from the small town’s St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School heading to St Brendan’s, but he said he wasn’t worried at all.
Banjo is the youngest of the three Walker boys to go to Brendan’s, with the eldest Fletcher finished high school after starting in 2012, and Logan heading into Year 9 this year.
He said he’s looking forward to making new friends, but also being able to play cricket – something he hasn’t been able to do at home because of rugby league commitments.
With his favourite subjects being sport and science, Banjo said he was pretty impressed with the school at the open days, especially the boarding.
“It's pretty good because they've had renovations there,” he said.
“I’m not nervous, I think it'll be fun.”
For Banjo’s parents Connell and Renee, seeing their youngest head off to boarding school meant a big change at home.
Especially, Renee said, socially.
“I’m more worried about us socially without kids’ football to go to on the weekends,” she laughed.
“I'm excited for him, we don't ever say 'it's going to be sad that you're gone' - we want them to have the opportunities that can be given there that can't really be in a small town.
“And continuing with the Catholic education is important to us.”
At home at Gemini Downs the Walker family run a cropping and cattle operation, with about 200 Brahman/Droughtmaster cross breeders on 2915 hectares.
Connell, who also went to St Brendan’s, said the size and scale of the school meant it was not that dissimilar to the space at home.
“It's a rural school, it's got the beach available - there's room for the kids to run,” he said.
“A lot of things probably get overshadowed at Brendans by the sporting side of it, but once you are part of it and are involved in it and see the goings on - it's not as concentrated on as it seems.”
They both said seeing Fletcher and Logan thrive at the school definitely filled them with absolute confidence watching Banjo leave.
”Logan went last year and the Year 7s and the Year 12s were in the same dormitory last year, so I think that (having Fletcher around) really helped Logan settle in because he's the much more quiet of the three of them,” Renee said.
Renee said the opportunities not only sporting and education-wise were great, but the chance to build relationships and learn to talk to people were invaluable.
“Fletcher has commented that it's the best thing we've ever done for him,” she said.
Banjo, who has been very successful in rugby league and athletics in the past year, may be putting on a brave face – but Renee said some tiny cracks did begin to show.
“When he went for his boarding orientation he was very edgy and it wasn't until we were halfway there that we realised he was really nervous,” she said.
“We didn't expect that because he is quite outgoing.”
The trip from Gemini Downs to St Brendan’s is about five-and-a-half hours.