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Bush to Beach – Indigenous youths see the sea for the first time

A group of Indigenous youths from rural north-western NSW enjoyed a three-day summer camp on the Northern Beaches over the weekend (3-5 February.)

About 40 youngsters, aged from eight to 15, participated in a range of activities, including snorkelling, surf lessons, beach volleyball, karaoke and a taekwondo martial arts training session.

They came from districts that have recently been isolated by extensive river flooding caused by torrential La Nińa rains over the summer; for many it was the first time they ever set foot in the sea.

The long weekend of activities was hosted by Bush to Beach, a charity that sponsors remote-living Aboriginal youths to enjoy a taste of the seaside we often take for granted.

Bush to Beach surf camp youths enjoy a snorkelling session in Narrabeen Ocean Pool. Photo: Alec Smart

Bush to Beach brings up to 50 young people, plus carers, from Brewarrina, Goodooga, Bourke and surrounding communities in far north west NSW to Sydney’s Northern Beaches for a three-day camp each year. The program has grown over the years to also include surf lessons, football with the local Manly team, Taekwondo lessons and a disco.

Bush to Beach founder Jack Cannons AM, who launched the charity 18 years ago, explained that the annual trek is an incentive to participate in school education.

“The trip is a reward for school attendance and an opportunity for the kids to see that there is another world outside their own community, and help develop their confidence and self-esteem,” he said.

Kristen Wright, Australia’s Miss World entrant (centre), supervises snorkelling in Narrabeen pool. Photo: Alec Smart

He continued, “Brewarrina and its surrounding areas, including, Weilmoringle, Goodooga and other far West NSW towns are disadvantaged by location, droughts, floods and the extreme heat. The trip away provides the children with a special opportunity to explore new places, while learning valuable skills.

“The educational component of the trip teaches the kids water safety, CPR, basic first aid while making new friends among families from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.”

Snorkel with Miss World Australia

The first water-based activity on their busy schedule, after an initial safety induction at South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club, was snorkelling lessons in North Narrabeen ocean pool. Here Manly Observer watched professional scuba instructor Kristen Wright guide the excited youngsters around the saltwater pool.

Ms Wright is also Australia’s entrant in the 2023 Miss World beauty competition in Puerto Rico in December.

A youngster quickly picks up surfing skills from Manly Surf School trainers at Collaroy Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

Afterwards, the youths took to Collaroy Beach on surfboards provided by Manly Surf School, whose instructors joined Ms Wright in helping stabilise those who managed to stand upright in the choppy, seaweed-laden waves.

Manly Observer caught up with Jack Cannons on Collaroy Beach, who declared, “It’s fantastic to see the smiles on the kids’ faces! They’ve had a 13-hour bus trip from Brewarrina, Goodooga and Weilmoringle to get here, overnight. They’ve already passed their swimming proficiency tests; they’ve done snorkelling, and now they’re in the surf riding surfboards!

“A lot of these kids have never been in the ocean. It’s a great experience… We run these camps at least once a year, but we’re going to be running a lot more.

Bush to Beach summer camp are given a surfing lesson by Manly Surf School on Collaroy Beach. Photo: Alec Smart

“But this is not a one-man show,” he insisted. “This is about a great group of people: South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club have been involved since day one… This is run by volunteers, it’s not run by any paid staff, so that’s what makes it very successful. Matty Grainger from Manly Surf School donates his time every year for this – their team do this for nothing.”

After the snorkelling and surfing lessons, the youths enjoyed a packed schedule, from eating scones baked by the Country Women’s Association, to spinning poi, juggling balls and twirling hula hoops on South Narrabeen Beach with Circus on the Sand, followed by other activities, before a Sunday afternoon pizza party on the beach, courtesy of Pizza Hut Collaroy, then, finally, a karaoke-disco at the Collaroy Centre.

We imagine they’ll sleep the entire 13-hour coach trip home!

Bush to Beach website


Bush to Beach Indigenous youths enjoy snorkelling in Narrabeen Ocean Pool. Photo: Alec Smart

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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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