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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Harry's prickly reception Down Under
Prince Harry at Taronga Zoo, Sydney
Prince Harry has a prickly encounter with an echidna

Prince Harry got a prickly reception on his first day of a three-month trip to Australia.

The 19-year-old prince, who will work as a jackeroo, rounding up cattle and sheep during his gap year before joining the military, had the task of holding on to an echidna during a visit to Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

Harry held the prickly creature, grimaced and yelped: "It's pretty feisty."

But he was given a warmer welcome by sisters Brooke and Jessica Brims, aged 17 and 15, who gave him their telephone number and asked him for a kiss.

It was a brief public appearance for the prince who will work from dawn to dusk for less than 100 a week on remote cattle and sheep stations in the outback.

Prince Harry leading the Eton parade
Harry wants a military career

Asked if the prince would have time to go to the pub, a Clarence House spokeswoman said: "It would be nice, now and again, to sample Australian hospitality - so I hope he has some fun as well as working hard."

Earlier, royal officials revealed that Harry, who wants to be a career soldier, had passed his first army selection test with flying colours.

But, if he succeeds in gaining a place at the elite Sandhurst Military Academy, Harry may take a second gap year before signing up as he may be considered too young for the gruelling officer training.

'Cultural theft'

St James's Palace has not said whether the prince will meet any members of the Aboriginal artist community.

He managed to upset many prominent artists, well before even heading to Australia.

Prince Harry
Harry upset Aboriginal artists with his A-level style
They said Aboriginal-style paintings he created for his A-level art exam earlier this year misused motifs and were cultural theft".

St James's Palace apologised for any offence caused.

Armed officers from Scotland Yard's royalty protection branch are travelling with the prince.

The estimated 600,000 cost for the 12-strong squad has already caused some controversy in the press.

Are you going on a gap year? How will you fund it? Tell us what your plans are using the form below.

Once you've started your career you'll be able to save more easily for a trip later
Mark, UK
I took a year out when I was 35, which many of you may feel is quite old. However, I was in the enviable position of being able to afford to do so much more and probably appreciate it more too. So don't worry if you can't take a year off now, because once you've started your career you'll be able to save more easily for a trip later. It will also benefit future employers, who will value the 'worldliness' you've picked up from being exposed to other cultures, especially in this age of globalisation.
Mark, UK

I'm doing a gap (few months not a year!) before doing post grad research. I need a break even though I owe loads on student loans, (no taxpayer funded me). I'm going to work for my father's relatives who have a sheep station and then I'm going backpacking until my cash/time runs out. Unlike Harry I'll be doing it all on a shoestring and it won't cost ANY taxpayers a penny.
Meg, UK

For years I looked forward to taking a gap year travelling. Then when the time came, just after finishing my A-levels, I was faced with a painful choice. This was the year before tuition fees were introduced and I was told I could either take a year out and pay fees throughout my course, or go straight to University and pay no fees at all. Not coming from a rich background, I had to opt for the latter. Since leaving University two years ago, I have never found myself in a financial position to do the travelling I have so long wished for.
Gareth Jenkins, UK

I am also planning to go to Australia, but will head to the cities and the coasts rather than the outback! I graduated a year ago and have decided that working life is not for me! I have about 2500 saved, and hope to save more before I go to Oz in March. I will get a Working Holiday Visa so I can work for some of my time there. I wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. It does seem like everybody heads to Australia on their gap year, so I hope the beaches aren't too full of boozing Brits!
Ellie, Scotland

After working from July to December at an HR consultancy in London, I am going to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Canada, and maybe round Europe as well. I've been saving for a few years and basically everything I earn in London goes towards this trip!
Zoe, UK

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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published.

The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"He [Prince Harry] already has a following"

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