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Hello, Harry

He has worked with indigenous communities along the Amazon and in the jungles of Peru. Meet our new Director of Boarding, Harry Hildebrand.

NEWS 26 Mar 2024

It is a long way from Lima in Peru to the Northern Territory, but Harry Hildebrand has quickly settled into life in Darwin. As a seasoned traveller used to navigating his way around the world, Harry has enjoyed spending the past few months discovering Darwin and the surrounding area.

Harry, originally from Wangaratta, has visited 77 countries, and has spent the past 26 years living and teaching in Peru. During this time, Harry sailed up and down the Amazon River and took students to remote indigenous communities in the Amazon jungle, where they worked alongside local people to build new homes and amenities.

Harry did this as leader of a program at the international co-educational school, Markham College. The HELIX program (Holistic, Experiential learning, Leadership, International citizenship and the X-factor) helped students develop academically while also focusing on leadership skills, helping young people discover issues they were passionate about, and raising awareness of their place in the wider world.

“Many years ago, I worked at Wesley College in Melbourne and my time there was awesome — it was a great job. But at the end of 1995, I watched the kids graduate and I felt those students would have done pretty well whether I’d taught them or not,” recalls Harry.

“I wanted to teach in a place where young people didn’t have as many opportunities — that was why I moved. I planned to work overseas for 10 years and that became 26 years. I ended up in Peru after hitching rides on boats all the way up the Amazon”
Harry Hildebrand, Director of Boarding

In Peru, Harry met his wife, Vanessa, and their son, Luka, was born there. He began teaching Biology and then became Head of Science and Deputy Head, particularly focused on taking students out of their comfort zone to work with indigenous communities.

“During one project, I took 250 kids away for a weekend and we built 15 houses for people who had been living in straw huts. The kids took charge which was beautiful to see. Since that project began in 2010, more than 450 houses have been built. We also took students to indigenous communities in the Peruvian Andes and in the jungle. I’d go to those local communities, build relationships with them and we worked together which was very rewarding.”

Now, as the Head of Boarding, Harry is using his experience overseas to enrich the boarding experience for students at HRS.

Strengthening connections between indigenous boarders and the wider school community is a priority, as is ensuring boarders feel they are an important part of HRS. Harry also sees potential to increase the number of domestic and international boarders at the school.

“I’d like to create some opportunities for day students to understand a little more about the life of the students who board and I’m looking forward to building a relationship with indigenous communities in the Northern Territory,” he says.

“There are lots of possibilities that I’m excited to investigate. HRS has created an amazing environment that could set an example for the rest of Australia”
Harry Hildebrand, Director of Boarding

Harry’s Peruvian-born wife, Vanessa, and son, Luka, are joining him in Darwin in May.

In Lima, Vanessa developed a project focused on giving children land in native communities so they could develop their own projects that care for the environment and nature. She is keen to develop similar projects in the NT.

“Vanessa has a lot of experience working with indigenous communities and she’s excited about what she may be able to do in Australia,” says Harry.

“Personally, I knew I was always going to be a teacher — it’s a life passion and it has never worn off. I love teaching in the classroom and interacting with every kid in a meaningful way. The educational experience, if you can harness it, is very profound.”