Clarkson students take on Bronze challenge

17 January 2022

Clarkson students wearing lifejackets in the pool with their ChaplainA group of Clarkson teenagers has made the most of an opportunity to learn vital swimming, water safety and rescue skills through an important partnership between Clarkson Community High School, Maar Koodjal and Royal Life Saving WA. The teens completed their Bronze Medallion training as part of the Royal Life Saving Talent Pool program throughout term four last year thanks to funding from the Department of Justice’s Criminal Property Confiscation Grants Program.

The aim of the program, which also saw the young people take part in traditional Aboriginal cultural programming through Maar Koodjal, was to provide engagement and diversionary pathways for teens throughout Perth’s northern suburbs, instilling positive cultural identity and providing valuable aquatic industry skills, experience and qualifications. It’s hoped these youth will go on to realise ongoing employment opportunities in areas such as traditional Aboriginal Cultural performance and throughout the aquatic industry.Royal Life Saving trainer Pida Bule-Turner with a Clarkson student demonstrating the recovery position

Clarkson Community High School Chaplain Scott Currie, who went through the program with the students, says it made a real impact! “At the start of the course, the kids just wanted to get out of school. They didn’t understand the opportunity that was in front of them. As they came to each session, they started to see that the skills and knowledge they were learning could really make a difference in their lives. They were enjoying the course and started to believe that they could help their friends or family in an emergency, or use this as a pathway to employment in the future. It’s been so great to see these young people engage and develop purpose in what they are doing, and what they could do in the future.”

Clarkson students during an on country healing programLisa Wallis from Maar Koodjal agrees, saying the cultural aspect of the program was also extremely well responded to. “Students were initially unwilling to engage or participate, by the end of the first day of the cultural on country sessions all of them were willingly participating and asking really relevant, good questions and enthusiastically involved. All students participated in a “smoking ceremony” and two of the young guys gained enough confidence to participate in a ceremonial dance. It was clear that with their newly learned information, their sense of pride in their culture and mob had increased their confidence.”

Programs like these are vital for Aboriginal young people, not only in improving their future job prospects, but also to reduce their overrepresentation in drowning statistics. Recent figures show that those under the age of 18 from an Aboriginal background are 8.6 times more likely to drown than non-Aboriginal children in our state. Six of the students involved in the program passed all aspects of the course and received their Bronze Medallion qualification, and Lisa says the determination shown by some students in particular to pass the course was especially pleasing!Clarkson students in a first aid course with Royal Life Saving Trainer Cameron Eglington

“One of the students who had completed her school year continued to attend program sessions despite not attending school because she was keen to achieve her goals and obtain certificates. Another had been suspended from school but continued to attend the program. He originally decided he wasn’t going to attend the last day of the first aid course on which the test was undertaken but told me that he came because he knew the first aid test was taking place and he wanted to complete it. This is a student whose school attendance is not good, yet his attendance at the program was 100%. It was great to see the sense of pride in him when he arrived and the sense of achievement when he completed it, knew the information he needed to, and passed.”

The comments from the students themselves about the course were also extremely encouraging, including Year Nine student Tyler Garlett who says he really appreciated all aspects. “The whole course was very enjoyable, it was a very cultural, spiritual, and educational experience. We learnt where our mob came from and who we are connected with, and how to develop ourselves and our skills in the pool with the Royal Life Saving course.”Two Clarkson boys with a lifesaving manikin in the pool

Fellow Year Nine student Donte Palmer agrees, saying the skills learnt will last a lifetime! “We got taught skills we can always use, I learnt lifesaving techniques, swimming manoeuvres and how to take care of people in trouble or emergencies. I also loved the cultural part of the course and walking in the bush at Yanchep. Tyler and I both hope to be leaders next year and want to help run the course with Maar Koodjal and the Royal Life Saving team.”

You can find out more about the Talent Pool program and the impact it’s making for Aboriginal youth right across Western Australia at the link below.

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