The girls, who live in Winmalee in the Blue Mountains, an area devastated by bushfires last year, smiled and cheered as Kate, 32, and William, 31, joined them for an impromptu photo call outside their hut.
The lighthearted moment followed a traditional tree planting (actually shoveling the last spadefuls of soil onto a summer red Eucalyptus tree), and then the girls serenaded the couple with “Bravo!”
The royal couple were visiting the town, an hour and a half’s drive from Sydney, to show their support for the families who had lost their homes and the emergency services personnel who had worked in searing heat to help them.
“They’re amazing people, bringing joy to a lot of people,” one parent, Sandi Cornthwaite, told PEOPLE.
Putting the girls at ease, William asked which of them enjoyed school. “A lot of the littler ones put their hands up. A lot of the seniors didn’t put their hands up,” said Brianna Sten, 13. “Will said: ‘That’s all right. I didn’t really like school either.’ ”
“I said, ‘Me too.’ And then he high-fived me.”
As has become customary, William and Kate – who was wearing a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress and her favorite navy wedges – received still more gifts for Prince George. One of the girls asked William asked if they had picked a name yet for the cuddly wombat given to baby George by Australia’s governor-general on Wednesday.
When he said they hadn’t, Nicola Cook, 13, told William, ” ‘You could call it Nicola.’ He then said, ‘We don’t know if he’s boy or a girl! So I said, ‘If it’s a boy, call it Nick!’ ”
In the town of Winmalee, 195 homes were destroyed last year in the space of a few hours. There, William and Kate spoke to Eartha and Peter Odell and their children Mia, 9, and Ty, 6, who lost their home at a time when their daughter was waiting for an operation for a life-threatening brain condition.
“It’s a very private thing, our land. It’s very hard having everyone looking at it,” Eartha, 47, told reporters. “But for them to come all this way to say hello and ‘I’m sorry this happened to you’ – it means an awful lot. It did not seem like duty to them. It seemed like a pleasure.”