Station kid to China gig
Wednesday, 26th April, 2017
By Kara de Groot
As a teen, Jason Hannigan never saw himself travelling the world, but fast forward a decade or two and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
He recently got back from a trip to China, where he travelled to high schools and universities in Inner Mongolia to promote Independent Education Partners’ Australian exchange program.
He first connected with the company when he was at university, and began by leading tours across Australia, before the company asked him if he’d like to go to China.
“Initially I was doing presentations on just the program, but then I started telling stories about growing up in Broken Hill on my family station and they said it was great, and I should talk more about that,” Jason said.
“So I started talking more about that and it just blew their minds, all these concepts were obscure to them and they loved it,” he said.
His presentations primarily took place at high schools affiliated with Inner Mongolia Normal University, where he could be speaking to anywhere from 50 to 120 students at a time.
It’s a far cry from his roots at Churinga Station about 120km east of Broken Hill, where he grew up with family.
As a youngster, he was schooled through the School of the Air (SOTA), going to Willyama High School once he was older and spending school holidays back at the station.
“I was a SOTA kid in 1995 or 96, before they had digital programming,” Jason said.
“The teacher would send the homework in the mail and then we’d talk on the radio, one of the old two way radios, and we had a governess as well,” he said.
“I told the kids all about it in my presentations and it just blew their minds.”
He said he has very fond memories of his holidays at the station, mustering sheep and running homebrew rallies.
“We have roughly 7,000 sheep, and it just blew the kids minds how many we had,” Jason said.
“We had kelpies, so I talked about Australian working dogs and how we’d use them and motorbikes, and even airplanes to muster,” he said.
“For fun we’d get old cars and rally drive them around the property on dirt roads.”
Jason got into a scrape or two in his time, and said they’ve had to call the RFDS out for him at the station twice in his life, which he also shared with the students.
“When I told the kids about the RFDS it was a strange idea to them, that you’d have to call a doctor to fly up,” he said.
“Definitely life out there has its challenges but I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.”
From his country beginnings Jason has ended up travelling the world, from Africa to China, and even Europe.
He said travelling was almost addicting for him.
“In 2014/15 I was in South Africa with a volunteering program as well as studying for four weeks,” Jason said.
“I’ve made trips to New Zealand, I’ve been to Europe once, and of course it was while I was on a study tour of China that I first met the owner of Independent Education Partners,” he said.
“I told them I was graduating soon and available to do work and the next thing I knew I was leading a tour group.”
Jason hopes that his story will encourage other Broken Hill youths to think about where life can take them.
“Work hard and do something new and different while representing our town,” he said.
“From humble beginnings to all of a sudden being in China is completely mind boggling, I’d never picture myself in that situation.”
Jason’s presentations have gone so well he’ll be going back next month, to a different province in China, to continue to share his love of Australia with the Chinese students.
Talks are even underway to see him based full time in Beijing, but despite all the travel, Broken Hill remains Jason’s home.
“Broken Hill is a flat town and it’s easy to get isolate and it can get addictive travelling,” he said.
“You move away from Broken Hill and spend years studying and working, but coming back is just an instant feeling of relief.
“Going back to the station is just so easy, it’s going back home.”
* Our ‘local gems’ receive a $50 Sampsons Gift Voucher for sharing their journey. Sampsons has been supporting the Broken Hill Community, one way or another, for over 100 years. If you have a suggestion for our ‘local gem’ column, email email@example.com or phone 8087 2354.