Australia

Indigenous kids in 'Bush to Beach' program make a splash at Narrabeen

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They’ve travelled 800 kilometres from home, and for some of them, it’s the first time they’ve seen the ocean.

Nine-year-old Diante Williams had never seen the ocean before.

He looks tentatively at the waves at Narrabeen Beach in Northern Sydney, before jumping in.

This is nine year-old Diante Williams' first time to the beach.
This is nine year-old Diante Williams' first time to the beach.
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It doesn’t take long before he’s clambering on a boogie board and splashing towards the shore.

He told SBS News the water was warmer than he expected.

“The ocean is really good. I love it,” he said.

He's one of forty Indigenous children aged eight to 15 on the 'Bush to Beach' program, who have travelled from towns in far north-west NSW to Sydney just to see the ocean.

Founder of the initiative Jack Cannon told SBS News it's an opportunity for them to visit new places and learn valuable skills.

The kids enjoy the 35 degree day by the water.
The kids enjoy the 35 degree day by the water.
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"It's an incentive to keep kids at school, we don't want truancy, we want kids to gain self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect.

“Education is the only way we can do that,” he said.

The town of Brewarrina, where many of the children hail from, is home to just 1,200 people.

The 'Bush to Beach' program has been running since 2006, hosting over 600 children at Narrabeen.

Bush to Beach founder Jack Cannon.
Bush to Beach founder Jack Cannon.
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This year, there’s a particular focus on water safety.

Robert Cook from the Northern Beach Surf Life Saving Club told SBS News they wanted to teach the kids the basics.

"Most of these kids haven't been in the ocean before, so we're trying to explain to them about the rips, and what the flags mean, and what to do if they get into trouble."

All the lifesavers involved in the program donate their time over the weekend and help teach swimming, surfing and basic first aid.

Volunteer lifesavers taught the youngsters a thing or two about beach safety.
Volunteer lifesavers taught the youngsters a thing or two about beach safety.
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The program has been such a success for the town of Brewarrina and the small South Narrabeen surf club, that Mr Cannon wants to get it up and running nationwide.

"We're very lucky that we have South Narrabeen surf Lifesaving Club. It’s a little club with a big heart.

“That's where we kicked it off and this is where we hope it'll grow from."

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