Surfing Victoria’s Indigenous Surfing Program has been given a $100,000 funding boost to increase social participation and employment opportunities for young Indigenous Australians.

The Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program is one of the longest-running Indigenous engagement programs in the country, now in its 23rd year.

Proud Munna Munna man Jordie Campbell, who runs the surfing program, says he uses surfing as a way to connect Indigenous Victorians with the ocean whilst learning new skills, water safety knowledge and healthy habits.

“Strong Aboriginal community leadership and engagement in culturally safe and engaging environments that are inclusive, respectful and flexible are the core values of the program to ensure its success,” Campbell told the NIT.

Campbell grew up on Bunurong Country in a small town called Sandy Point near Wilsons Prom and first got involved in the program as a young teenager at the Woorangalook Koori Surfing Titles.

“I quickly fell in love with the event and the Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program. Throughout the program, I got to learn so much about my culture and meet so many amazing people who are now lifelong friends,” he said.

“Having people like Steve Parker and Anthony Hume take me under the wings as role models really helped me become a role model in my own right.

“Since then I have gone from a participant in the program, mentor to young ones and now I work full time at Surfing Victoria running this amazing program.”

Jordie Campbell catching a wave. Photo via Twitter.

Campbell told the NIT he couldn’t be more excited about the funding boost to the program and that there are exciting times ahead for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria.

“It really puts us in a unique place where we will not only be able to consolidate the amazing work we currently do with communities across the State of Victoria but also build on it and hopefully create greater opportunities for community, particularly in the more regional areas of the coast,” he said.

Campbell said it can be hard to get community out in the water during winter, so during that time he speaks with communities about the program’s plans for the coming year and how to best design the program to suit their needs.

“Program season generally kicks off around September school holidays and is rolled out until about May the following year, with the summer period being our major time for programs,” he said.

Victorian Minister for Community Sport Ros Spence said the funding would help build pathways for young Aboriginal people. 

“From Bell’s Beach to Cape Woolamai, Victoria is synonymous with surfing, and what better way to make a difference to young people’s lives than engaging Aboriginal youth and building pathways to success.”

The Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles at Bells Beach are set to be held from September 10–12.

By Teisha Cloos