Between the 11-14th August 2015 a group of 20 youngsters from Thursday Island in remote far north Queensland participated in a specially organised surfing program under the Surf For Life Project.
Thursday Island is a small island in the Torres Strait. It is the administrative centre of all the Australian islands between Cape York and the New Guinea mainland. It is situated in the Prince of Wales Island group, or the Inner Islands, 35 km north-west of Australia’s northern extremity, Cape York, and its’ area is about 4 sq km. Sadly, many of the youngsters living on Thursday Island are considered highly disengaged and underprivileged due to remoteness of their community. As a result, the local children often lack the means of connecting to the bigger world around them and miss the opportunities afforded to most other children all around Australia.
Supporting this remote community is the Tagai State College. Tagai State College is committed to providing education and training services to the Torres Strait Nation that are holistic and designed to respond to the academic, social, emotional and physical needs of every child that attends.
In 2014, Surfing Australia was contacted by Nathan McQuire – one of the teachers at Tagai State College. Nathan was attempting attempting to organise a trip for 20 indigenous students to travel down to the Sunshine Coast (where Nathan had grown up) and to visit Queensland’s captial city – Brisbane. For a group of youngsters that had never seen a tarred road or a set of traffic lights, this was going to be quite an experience…and Surfing Australia was determined to ensure that surfing was going to be on the agenda.
As Nathan McQuire explains:
“These indigenous boys are mostly disengaged students who have been encouraged back into the classroom by enrolling in a Rugby League class. 2014 is the first year Rugby League has been offered to students and already we are seeing drastic improvements in behaviour and attendance.
My main goal teaching up in the Torres Strait is to provide opportunity and experience for these young men. I am from the Sunshine Coast and have grown up on the beach surfing and enjoying our coastline. I would love to get these boys into the surf and provide a new experience for them. It blows me away to think that some of these boys have never seen a traffic light let alone visited QLD’s capital city.
These boys have grown up living their lives surrounded by the ocean yet never have the opportunity to ride the power it can generate.”
In August 2015, the Surf For Life Project; Tagai State College; and the Sunshine Coast Surf School made the Surf for Life program a 4-day event, providing accommodation at a local Sunshine Coast Hotel for the Thursday Island Youngsters. They were flown down from the island community to Brisbane were they spent a few days performing at the Brisbane museum, after which they traveled up to the Sunshine Coast to see breaking waves for the first time in their lives. This in itself was incredibly exciting for all involved.
The boys had great weather and great 1-2ft waves for the full four days they were surfing, and everyone had managed to stand-up on a wave before heading back home.
Following the program, Tagai State College stated
“Thanks for providing surf lessons for the students from Tagai State College. They had an awesome time in the water and can’t wait to get back down to the Coast for another go.
Your instructors made the experience extra special with their attitude and interaction with the boys. I have attached some images from our lessons. ”