Each Monday for the last four weeks Larrakia Nation have been picking up Belyuen School children from the ferry terminal and taking them to swimming lessons in Coconut Grove.
According to teachers at the school, it’s quite possible this is the first organised swimming lesson program for these students, and they have loved it.
“The kids are always asking me when the next swimming lesson is” said Principal Elspeth Hurse. “We wanted to choose a sport that was a bit different. Football and basketball are the go-to sports, but we wanted to give the kids an opportunity to experience something different”.
But it nearly didn’t go ahead.
Teacher Josh Keating organised the lessons but said they hit a significant snag early on. “We got the money for the lessons through the Sporting Schools Grant which gave enough for 30 students to have five swimming lessons over five weeks. This issue was the cost of transport, and we were at the point where we had no option because all our funding was going to be spent on transport”.
Then Josh got in touch with Larrakia Nation, and everything changed. Larrakia Nation runs community night patrols at Belyuen and knows the community well, including the facilities the children don’t have. “We thought we could help the children during the day too and we wanted to give them something to look forward to” said Ranelle Singh who coordinates the transport and has been picking the children and teachers up each week.
“As soon as we arrive with the buses the kids want to jump on full of energy, play their games of eye spy & enjoy the ride to the swimming centre. They complete their swim class, and when we pick them up, you can see they’ve had amazing time and they’ve really enjoy themselves in a different learning environment.
Elspeth has been very happy with the service and the kid’s progress “Larrakia have been so lovely with the kids, and so reliable. It’s just made it so smooth and seamless and nice for the children to have a service that is culturally appropriate too. The amount of improvement the kids have made has blown me away. Seeing them improve every week is just incredible. We really want to thank Larrakia because without them, we couldn’t have done this swimming program”.
Knowing it is possible for Belyuen students to have transport in Darwin for school activities has opened up opportunities for more swimming lessons in the future.
“This trial has been so successful, and they want to roll it out in years to come and we want to be involved. Kids in Darwin get the opportunity for swimming lessons, so I thought why can’t we use the buses we have to support the community kids too?” said Ranelle.