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Sailing on the open sea with a Big Buddy


Seven young Indigenous males and one older male, dressed in shorts, shirts and hats. They are standing on a boat ramp with water lapping at their feet. In the background is a dock with boats tied up.
Far from home, the seven Big Buddy participants and supervisor learned how to sail the beautiful seas off the west Australian coast.
23 Mar 2017

It’s good to have a big buddy; someone to talk to, give you advice and teach you how to sail a 44 metre square rigged tall ship from Exmouth to Fremantle in Western Australia.

Seven Indigenous young men from Dalby and Oakey in Queensland joined the crew of the STS Young Endeavour last October, for the time of their lives. As part of the Goondir Health Services Big Buddy Program, the young men learned how to navigate, keep watch, cook in the galley, set and furl sails, climb the 30 metre mast and of course, take the helm.

They joined in various activities commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog at the shores of the ‘great southern land’.

Stephen Moss, Young Endeavour Youth Scheme Executive Director, said the voyages in the ship develop skills for life.

“The youth development program delivered during each voyage increases self-awareness, fosters a strong sense of community spirit, and develops character, confidence, teamwork and leadership,” Stephen said.

Beginning in July 2015, the Big Buddy program has empowered Indigenous youth aged 12 to 17 years to achieve their full potential through mentorship, guidance, social interaction and the promotion of life skills.

The program enables and encourages youth to take advantage of existing services such as education, health, vocational training, cultural awareness and much more.

Big Buddies are drawn from a wide range of community organisations. Coordinated by the Big Buddy Project Coordinator, these mentors assist participating students to identify those things preventing them from achieving their goals.

The 12-day voyage on the Young Endeavour had the young men pursuing personal and team goals as well as challenges. By voyage’s end, they had the skills and confidence to elect a leadership team and take command of the brigantine vessel as it sailed along the spectacular Australian coast.

Keeyan Hooper from Dalby who had been disengaged from his schooling has discovered a new career pathway. Since his involvement in the program, Keeyan has acquired a range of skills and received the Order of Australia Association for NSW Young Endeavour Gold award.

“Before the trip, I was excited to make new friends, do something different, and do something new,” Keeyan said.

“Since getting back I have applied to join the navy.”

The program and voyage has allowed Keeyan and his six young buddies to look towards a positive future.

Find out more

Placing Indigenous young men and women on a career pathway to a brighter future is a priority for the Australian Government.

The Australian Government’s Children and Schooling Program funds Goondir’s Big Buddy program under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy initiative.

For information about other programs and services offered by Goondir, visit their website at Goondir Health Services.

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