Active Australia Innovation Challenge winners

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A virtual-reality headset to help aged-care residents to be more active; tandem bicycles to allow people with vision loss to enjoy cycling; and a study into high-intensity interval training at work. These are all among the winning entries in the inaugural Active Australia Innovation Challenge.

The challenge, an initiative of the Heart Foundation and the Federal Department of Health, invited tertiary institutions, schools, councils and other organisations to submit innovative ideas for getting people moving. The winners will each receive a grant of $10,000 to turn their project into a reality.

Data available at the Heart Foundation’s Australian Heart Maps show that two-thirds of Australian adults are not active enough for good health. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Australia. Last year, 18,590 Aussies died from heart disease.

The Active Australia Innovation Challenge received more than 130 submissions, with entries coming from every state and territory.

Shortlisted applicants had the opportunity to refine and pitch their ideas before a panel of experts decided on eight winners. We can now reveal them to be:

Organisation: Alwyndor Aged Care, South Australia
Project Name: Expanding exercise engagement with virtual reality
Alwyndor Aged Care is a small, not-for-profit aged-care organisation in Adelaide. They will use their grant to buy a recumbent cross trainer and virtual-reality headset, which will be programmed to display mountainsides, village squares, flowers and birds. This will provide greater motivation for elderly people to use the equipment, turning exercise from a chore into a digital experience.

Organisation: Newcastle Cycleways Movement Inc., NSW
Project Name: Hunter RidesAssist
Under Bicycle NSW’s RidesAssist program, people with vision impairment can enjoy the physical and social benefits of cycling by riding a tandem bike with a specially trained sighted “pilot”. This grant will fund the purchase of two tandem bikes, a trailer, accessories and other equipment to establish RidesAssist in the NSW Hunter region.

Organisation: Milperra Public School Support Unit, NSW
Project Name: Dream Sensory Garden
Established in 2017, this school’s support unit has 22 children with special needs, including autism and mental and physical disabilities. The grant will be used to assist in the transformation of the unit’s bare playground area into a sensory garden with planter boxes, slippery dips, climbing equipment, swings, sand pits, sensory paths, a bike track and a mud pit.

Organisation: Scouts Australia, ACT Branch
Project Name: SciScouts: Health
SciScouts is an annual science-based program for Scouts members aged five to 18. Next year’s theme is “Health and Fitness”, and this grant will help pay for a series of fitness challenges, events and workshops exploring the links between physical activity, health and science. Topics to be covered include healthy hearts, exercise physiology, nutrition and healthy body/healthy mind. 

Organisation: No Lights No Lycra (NLNL), Victoria
Project Name: NLNL Regional Tour
NLNL is a recreational activity in which people participate in free-form dance in an inclusive, non-judgmental, drug-and alcohol-free community setting. This grant will fund a tour to introduce NLNL to 10 regional communities in Victoria, where physical inactivity levels are typically higher than the state average. It is hoped NLNL ambassadors can be recruited in each area to continue the program.

Organisation: Townsville South State School, Queensland
Project Name: TAG ON Townsville
This grant will fund the trial of a system called TAG ON at Townsville schools, led by Townsville South State School. An electronic kiosk will be installed, where kids “tag on” using a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag and select if they walked, cycled, scooted or caught public transport. They earn points for their house, while parents are notified via email or SMS that the child arrived safely.

Organisation: University of Newcastle, NSW
Project Name: Work-HIIT: a time efficient work-place physical activity program
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of high-intensity exercise bouts interspersed by a rest period – for example, 30 seconds of activity, followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated for 10 minutes. Dr Narelle Eather, a senior lecturer in Health and Physical Education, will use this grant to research the efficacy of HIIT in a work setting, using her university colleagues as subjects.

Organisation: East Grampians Health Service, Victoria
Project Name: Active Adventure Around Ararat
Located in regional Victoria, Ararat is in the lowest 20 per cent of disadvantaged communities in Australia, creating a barrier to paid sports and physical activity. This grant will fund the creation of a fun, rogaine-style scavenger hunt that is free-of-charge to all residents, who will walk, ride or run between sign-posted checkpoints. It’s expected the event will run every 12 to 18 months.

Heart Foundation Walking General Manager and Chair of the Active Australia Innovation Challenge Advisory Group, Kay Richards, said there was a surprising variety in the entries received for the challenge.

“The brief was to submit innovative ideas that promote and encourage physical activity in a chosen community, and the winning entries certainly delivered,” Ms Richards said. “The Heart Foundation will continue to work closely with these organisations to bring their projects to life.”

The Active Australia Innovation Challenge is part of the Healthy Heart Initiative, which is funded by the Australian Government. The challenge will run annually for four years between 2018 and 2021.

Media enquiries: Siobhan McMahon, Media Manager – Physical Activity, Heart Foundation
M: 0478 313 656 E: