Making a splash!
Woman's Day Australia|January 10, 2022
Thanks to one special charity, hundreds of kids from the outback have learned how to be lifesavers
Ruth McCarthy

Some of us are blessed to live a stone’s throw from the seashore, while for others, being by the ocean is but a dream – especially for folks in the Aussie outback.

That was, until the early ’90s, when late Aboriginal elder Aunty Joyce Doole, of the tiny Brewarrina community in rural NSW, sat down for a cuppa with charity champion Jack Cannons to discuss volunteering and fundraising initiatives – and the Bush to Beach program was born!

Combining their passion for learning with a concern for the truanting kids in Brewarrina – a 1143-strong community situated on the banks of the Barwon River near the Queensland border – the two big-hearted founders worked tirelessly to bring together a unique experience.

The result: rewarding bush kids who’d demonstrated good school attendance and behaviour throughout the year with the opportunity for a three-day trip to the beach to see – and swim in – the ocean for the first time, all while learning water safety skills.

BUILDING CONFIDENCE

Now, 15 years on, more than 600 country kids from northwest NSW have benefited from the program, with the help and support of Sydney’s South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club.

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Boney-Coofey beams from ear to ear as she remembers her first trip to the beach, climbing onto a boogie board and splashing to the shore. “I’d never been to the beach or swum in the ocean,” she tells Woman’s Day. “I was nervous because the waves looked bigger than me, but I couldn’t wait to get in, and lifesavers looked after us.”

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