Indigenous youth learn life and work skills through Beyond Billabong program

The Courier Mail, 22 July 2010

These boys from the bush are hitting the beach to help themselves become men. Thirteen indigenous teenagers from remote Queensland communities have come to the busy Gold Coast as part of Beyond Billabong, a program aimed at helping them make a better life for themselves and their families.

Troubled and disadvantaged Aboriginal youths and young men learn life and work skills which will hopefully secure them a job. As part of the four-week program they learn horsemanship and livestock handling, computing, four-wheel-drive skills, leatherwork and indigenous art at Longreach.

The program, started two years ago by North Queensland cattleman Boyd Curran, also includes a week on the Gold Coast where participants are taught skills including team-building, cooking and health and nutrition. There's even a "city orienteering'' element where the teens have to find their own way back to their Tallebudgera Recreation Camp base from various parts of the glitter strip.

"Being in the 'big smoke' is a big eye-opener for the boys, many of whom have never been outside their communities, let alone somewhere like the Gold Coast,'' Beyond Billabong team leader Luke Miller said. "It's about getting them outside their comfort zone, challenging them, teaching them life skills and boosting their self-esteem and confidence.''

But it's not all work and no play for the boys. As well as life lessons, they get to enjoy activities including surfing, kayaking, beach footy and visits to the theme parks. Yesterday, they hit the beach for a muck-about with Queensland Reds rugby player Will Chambers.

"It's great to see these kids having fun and learning some important skills at the same time,'' Chambers said. "They're full of energy and enthusiasm and they really seem to want to make something of their lives.''

Dylan Toby, 16, of Normanton, said he was learning skills to hopefully get himself a job as a ringer. "Or maybe a footy star,'' said the huge Brisbane Broncos fan with a laugh.

Greg Stolz – The Courier-Mail