Bringing 'Bre' to the breakers

Brewarrina is located on the banks of the Barwon–Darling River in far north western New South Wales. Grazing and farming activities underpin the local economy, which has been in the grips of the worst drought in living memory. The district also has a large indigenous population.

Brewarrina Shire Council has a sister city relationship with Warringah Council in Sydney, and together they run a grass-roots program that benefits both LGAs.

For the past ten years, the South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club has run the ‘Bush to Beach’ program, bringing disadvantaged indigenous children from Brewarrina to the beach every year. The program is run entirely by the surf club and other enthusiastic volunteers from surrounding areas.

The aim is to inspire indigenous children through activities that encourage education, hope, confidence and self-esteem. Participants are selected by Brewarrina district elders as a reward for good school attendance and conduct in the community.

In 2016, an $8,000 grant from FRRR’s ‘Tackling Tough Times Together’ program covered the costs of bus hire and a driver, enabling the 40 indigenous children and their carers to make the 800 km journey to Sydney for the three-day camp. Six of these children had never seen the ocean before their visit to Narrabeen in January.

During their time at the beach, the group took part in numerous activities, including rock climbing, archery, tae kwon do, karaoke, a circus workshop, disco and trivia night. Of course, there was plenty of time spent at the beach and in the surf with nippers, club members and other locals.

The children also took part in age appropriate water safety education and basic first aid training, which was delivered by the surf club’s Education Officer and six medical students from the University of Notre Dame’s ROUNDS club.

Tackling tough times together

SLSC life member, Eddie Billett, put in many hours to drum up interest and support for this year’s ‘Bush to Beach’ program, even driving to Brewarrina at his own expense.

In acknowledging FRRR’s contribution, Eddie said the initiative was all about supporting others through difficult times, and inspiring indigenous children to make the most of the opportunities that are available to them.

"We at the surf club are proud to assist our fellow Australians who are going through drought, and therefore facing many challenges,” he said.

“We want to assure them that we will tackle the tough times together. Without the support of FRRR, the program simply would not have gone ahead… on behalf of the bush kids, thanks again.”

In a letter to organisers, one mother outlined the benefits of her daughter’s experience.

“[This] is a great program (by far the best) for children that live in the bush to experience city life and the beach,” she said.

“[My daughter] was very fortunate to have learnt so much, as she was new to the ocean it was an eye opening experience.”

“She learnt many skills, mostly survival and safety skills. This program has also helped boost [her] confidence and socialisation skills… and the people she met and made friends with made her trip extra special.”

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