During the April school holidays 15 adventurous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from the Victorian Highlands travelled down to the YMCA Anglesea Recreation Camp for an incredible week-long skate camp. As well as a strong focus on fun, the program had an important emphasis on using skate as a way for young people to reconnect with culture and country.
The camp is the first of its kind in Anglesea, and is a result of strong partnerships between YMCA Anglesea Recreation Camp, Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative, Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Skateworks school holiday and Social Justice Indigenous programs.
As a part of the program participants created their own Skateworks Balance Stick (a type of skateboard). Starting off with a blank board each young people paint symbols of challenges they want to face and symbols of dreaming to connect them with country.
A highlight of the camp were sessions ran by Brodie Jarrett, a proud Gumbaynggirr man and cement ripping skater and accomplished Australian indigenous artist. Brodie is Australia's best known and highest ranking Indigenous skateboarder. As well as showing off his skills, he taught a grip tape and board painting session.
12-year-old Robert* enjoyed the camp and learning new skateboarding skills.
“I didn’t know how to skate ramps, but I do now and can practice when I get home. I can’t wait to start a new collection of skateboards. I also really loved learning archery and I’m going to do archery with my aunty when I get home too,” he said.
For many of the young people, the camp also provided an important reprieve from personal struggles and opportunity to learn from positive role models in a safe environment.
“Many of these young people come from variety of challenging circumstances. Some have autism, others suffer from anxiety or identity insecurity. The camp was about providing a safe place for a young indigenous person to develop their identity and strengthen links to culture and country,” YMCA Anglesea Camp manager Jason Stewart said.
The program has now set its sights on further expanding within the Ballarat region. With the incorporation of Social Justice Indigenous kids, the birth of Fierce Aboriginal Girls group and Deadly Young Fellas group, exciting things are ahead for this important program.