Bringing Kids From the Australian Bush to the Beach

Helping to bridge distances to create a better future.

a boy's first time in the ocean.

(Varina C /

People who live near the ocean are used to going to the beach and taking dips in the water. But people who live far away from beaches, sometimes never get that opportunity. An educational program in Australia is changing that for indigenous children from the bush who saw and swam in the ocean for the first time.

The children – ages eight to 15 – took part in the volunteer-led Bush to Beach program which just resumed after years of covid 19 and severe flooding, reported ABC News. The students were from Brewarrina and surrounding areas in northwest New South Wales and traveled 700 kilometers to South Narrabeen near Sydney.

Bush to Beach, which was founded in 2006,  brings up to 50 outback kids to the beach for a three-day surf camp to learn new skills, and to build confidence in an environment that is totally new to them, according to the organization.

It all began with a cup of tea
Jack Cannons, the founder of Bush to Beach met with Aboriginal elders – including the late Aunty Joyce Doole – in Brewarrina in the late 1990s about fundraising and volunteer efforts. In early 2000, Cannons and Doole had a conversation over a cup of tea that was the impetus for Bush to Beach.

The two connected over their shared concerns about education, especially the education of the indigenous children who lived isolated lives in remote towns in bush.

“Kids in the outback don’t have the same opportunities as kids in the city. I wanted them to see what else is out there, enjoy new environments and meet new people,” Cannons said on the organizations’ website.

The program began in 2006 and through a partnership with the South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club, over 600 children traveled the 10-hour bus ride to visit the beach. Only children who have good school attendance and behavior are  eligible for the program, reported The Western Herald.

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A first taste of beach life
The children have the opportunity to spend three-days of fun in the sun, learning how to swim, snorkel, ride the waves on a surfboard, but most importantly, learn vital CPR and water safety rules. Before they get to the beach, there is a stop at a pool for swimming lessons.

Despite spending all those hours on a bus, the kids are very happy to be at the beach, according to ABC. Nine-year old Hazel was excited to collect shells and go for a swim. “My town is small but here it's big. We don't have a beach [at Brewarrina],” she told ABC. “I went snorkeling and I saw a turtle, a hermit crab and a couple of fish.”

While the kids gain so much from the program, so do the volunteers. Brian Grundy, a local south Narrabeen surf lifesaver, said that the program has an, “amazing" effect on the kids, and help to inspire them to achieve goals. Including higher education.

Cannons is very pleased with the success of the program and said that he wanted to expand it to more NSW communities in the next two years.  He said, “I want this to go right around the country, surf clubs and communities adopting bush towns and just becoming mates,”

Bush to Beach is helping to bridge the physical distance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures to create a better future together.

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