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Grant boost brings the waves to Tassie

A NATIONWIDE organisation is ready to make waves in Tasmania after receiving a $10,000 Westpac Foundation Rural Community Grant to bring its program to an Eastern Shore beach to support some of Tasmania’s most vulnerable.

The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia is a volunteer organisation that enables people with a disability to experience the joy of surfing and going to the beach.

“We aim to give people with a disability a safe open water experience,” Disabled Surfers Association of Australia Tasmanian coordinator Ian Brettingham-Moore said.

“We cater for a wide range of disabilities, it could be people with paraplegia, quadriplegia, blindness, people who are intellectually challenged, amputees, or cerebral palsy – the list is endless really.

“Being in the ocean is a very special experience and it can be life changing in terms of what experiences it can open up for somebody whose lifestyle options have become more restricted.”

Mr Brettingham-Moore said the grant would enable a couple of the branches in Victoria to bring some gear and experienced volunteers and trainers to Tasmania to help set up the program by running an initial event in February.

“The importance of it is that everyone has fun and it’s important to concentrate on what you can do rather than what you can’t do – we just want to help people do what they can do,” he said.

“We only surf in broken water because safety is paramount and we don’t want to put people at any risk, so there’ll be a lot people there to support participants.

“Some of the participants will gradually gain confidence, and once they’ve had half a dozen or so waves, we can assess whether we’ll give them a shot at it on their own.”

The rural grant was delivered by the Westpac Foundation in partnership with the Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal (FRRR), with $1 million awarded to 100 local not-for-profits across Australia.

Westpac Foundation chief executive officer Susan Bannigan said the rural grants were designed to provide assistance for those in rural areas who had faced a particularly challenging year.

“Supporting organisations focused on employment, education and training is at the heart of our strategy, and by partnering with FRRR, this enabled us to leverage their expertise in rural, regional and remote areas and extend our reach to help these communities in need,” she said.

FRRR chief executive officer Natalie Egleton said rural and regional communities played a vital role in Australia’s prosperity and vibrancy.

“They are facing continuing challenges to growth and development – from drought, to bushfires, to floods, and now COVID-19,” she said.

“Targeted financial support for education, training and employment pathways is critical during these times, particularly for vulnerable groups.

“Through the Rural community Grants program, FRRR and Westpac Foundation are proud to back local groups to improve the opportunities within their communities so they can continue to prosper.”

In addition to the funding, all grant recipients will receive pro bono support and access to leadership development programs, legal support, and financial capability training via Westpac’s Changemaker program.

For more information on the Westpac Foundation Community Grants program and recipients, visit www.westpacfoundation.org.au.

Caption: From left, Disabled Surfers Association of Australia Tasmanian coordinator Ian Brettingham-Moore and social media manager Shaned Gaffney.