9 May 2022
A new program facilitated by Outdoors NSW & ACT and funded by the Australian Government and the NSW Government through the Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund starts today in Port Macquarie. As one of the 12 regions funded for this program, it is the second region to commence the program, following Portland in the Blue Mountains region. Run by Outdoors NSW & ACT and partnered with Port Macquarie Surf School, the funded program will run for the remainder of this term.
Outdoor education and recreation have a tremendous and essential role in achieving and maintaining physical and mental health, yet many of the population are still yet to access and experience the benefits. Port Macquarie was one region identified for its low participation in active recreation in our local youth, and in particular the inability for disadvantaged youth to connect with these activities after school.
The whole program across NSW will assist up to 1,900 youth across Greater Sydney and Northern NSW with a variety of active recreation opportunities through a structured program. The completion is then celebrated with 3-day camp that focuses on fun and enjoyment in activities and connection with peers. The program gives the kids that have come across adversity in their life an opportunity to try different activities that they hope they connect with one or more that they can then participate regularly and ensure they are getting the benefits of activity and new skills that help to set up resilience in our youth.
“The skills built in active recreation and in outdoor environments cannot be replicated elsewhere and it is so important that these opportunities are delivered to all youth in our communities regardless of barriers, so they have the opportunity to build skills of social capacity, resilience and mental health management.” Lori Modde, CEO of Outdoors NSW & ACT.
Lori continues, “I love the fact that our program can introduce them to activities they didn’t know were an option and introduce them to newly found skills. And it doesn’t need to be a short-term gain, as through the Active Kids voucher scheme provided by Office of Sport NSW, the kids can continue to partake in the activities with financial support.”
The completion of the program with a camp-based experience is strategic. Research has demonstrated time and time again, the value of camp-based programs for children and youth impacted by difficult circumstances is visible in their social, mental and resilience capacity. The experiences, memories, and friends made by attending these programs seems difficult to measure however, parents, participants, and staff who deliver these camps will observe how powerful an impact these projects make across the entire community.
However, what is more measurable is the long-term health outcomes and a multitude of studies show time spent in nature is consistently linked to well-being objectives. A 2018 paper by Marsden Jacob & Associates estimated $508 million was saved in lifetime healthcare costs by people participating in outdoor pursuits in NSW alone. The Outdoor Youth Programs Research Alliance (OYPRA) reported from their nine-year study, the sharp rise in the youth anxiety and mental health challenges can be improved through participating in outdoor programs.
The youth that will partake in this program will be across 12 regions in Northern NSW & Greater Sydney that were impacted by the 2019/2020 bushfires. Based on the highly successful ‘Drought Break’ program run by the Office of Sport under the Auspices of Regional NSW in December of 2018 and January 2019, Outdoors NSW & ACT in collaboration with their active recreation partners applied for close to $600,000 to implement this Youth Recreation Resilience Program. Port Macquarie will benefit in getting these kids to experience new activities and build new skills at the same time.
Partners involved in the project will include members of Outdoors NSW & ACT, Department of Education, Office of Sport NSW and various active recreation providers including the Port Macquarie Surf School in this local program.
News coverage from NBN
This is a Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund project through the joint Commonwealth/State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.