Imagine having never laid eyes on the ocean. This is an everyday reality for many people living in Aboriginal communities in far North West New South Wales. For almost 20 years, Bush to Beach charity has been bringing the ocean’s joy to these kids, with a series of inspirational three-day education camps at South Narrabeen. 

The Bush to Beach tale kicked off with a simple cup of tea… In the early 1990s, founder Jack Cannons AM was in Brewarrina for fundraising and volunteering initiatives when he met the late Aunty Joyce Doole. A decade later, they reconnected over a cup of tea and a shared passion – to find a way that they could provide local kids with a proper education.

The inaugural Bush to Beach Program set sail in 2006, with the support of South Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club. Cannon explains, “The premise was simple but profound – to reward children with a trip to the ocean if they attended school regularly and behaved well. For many, this journey marked their first encounter with the vastness of the ocean, leaving an indelible impact on their health.”

Now in its 19th year, Bush to Beach has facilitated annual three-day camps to Sydney’s Northern Beaches (a 12-hour bus ride away) for more than 600 children aged 7 to 15. Each camp brings up to 50 kids and their carers from Brewarrina, Goodooga, Bourke and surrounding communities in far North West NSW.

“The Bush to Beach kids learn water safety, surfboard riding, meet new friends, compete in nipper’s events, eat great food, learn CPR and basic first aid, learn snorkeling, painting classes, environment and ocean plastics classes, and have lots of fun,” Cannons explains. “They also get to see that there is another world outside of their environment.”

Bush to Beach’s impact extends far beyond the three days. Cannon says, “When I travel out (to Brewarrina), I meet so many young adults who have attended Bush to Beach, now employed, and are great representatives and ambassadors of their community. This year, we had two kids attend Bush to Beach. Their mum, now 26, was one of the first Bush to Beach kids.”

Support from the Northern Beaches community has ensured Bush to Beach remains at no cost to its participants. You can get involved by volunteering your time or making a financial donation, which covers everything from accommodation and petrol to activities and the 1000 meals served across the three days. 

Bush to Bush just hosted its annual camp at South Narrabeen Surf Club in January, and plans to host two more camps at Mermaid Beach in Queensland, plus a brand new camp near Newcastle in 2024. You can find out more and donate to Bush to Beach here.


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