Surf therapy for kids with autism a winner in Active Australia Innovation Challenge

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An organisation that arranges free surfing lessons for children with autism is a winner in the 2019 Active Australia Innovation Challenge, the Heart Foundation announced today.

An organisation that arranges free surfing lessons for children with autism is a winner in the 2019 Active Australia Innovation Challenge, the Heart Foundation announced today.

The challenge invited tertiary institutions, schools, councils and other organisations to submit innovative ideas for getting people moving. The winners each receive a grant of $10,000 to turn their project into a reality.

Surfing the Spectrum is one of eight winners in this year’s challenge. The not-for-profit organisation conducts regular “surf events”, where children with autism are linked with local surfers to receive free surfing lessons. The grant will be used to stage events at more communities along the NSW coast, including Byron Bay, Port Macquarie, Newcastle, the Central Coast and Gerringong.

The Heart Foundation received 252 entries in this year’s Active Australia Innovation Challenge, almost double the number submitted for the inaugural grants in 2018. The other winners are:

Organisation: Canberra Police Community Youth Club (ACT)
Project Name: Love My Heart
Canberra PCYC plans to take groups of young people aged 10 to 25 for bicycle rides around Lake Burley Griffin and in the hills around the city. The project aims to get young people moving, while also providing positive role modelling. Canberra PCYC’s grant will be used to buy bicycles for the project. It’s hoped up to 70 young people will participate in the program each week.

Organisation: Mackellar Care Services (NSW)
Project Name: Dancing on My Own in a Crowded Room
Mackellar Care Services provides residential aged care in the town of Gunnedah. This project is inspired by the concept of a “silent disco”, in which people dance while listening to music through headphones rather than speakers. The weekly event will be tweaked for an older audience, playing music familiar to them, and accommodating residents in beds and wheelchairs.  

Organisation: Ellenbrook Mile (Western Australia)
Project Name: Ellenbrook Mile
Perth’s Ellenbrook is a residential development made up of several villages. This project will involve the creation of designated village “mile spaces” for community members to run or walk. These will be marked with a QR code that links to an online fitness challenge page. The project will also involve an annual “destination event” called the Ellenbrook Mile. The overall aim of the project is to promote community engagement and connection, as well as physical and mental wellbeing.

Organisation: Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation (Queensland)
Project Name: Loose Parts Play Pod – Activating Free Play
This grant will fund the creation of a “travelling play pod” – a trailer filled with inexpensive, easy-to-find items, with which kids can use their imagination to build, stack, explore and pretend, while also being physically active. It will travel to communities in Toowoomba, Logan and Mount Isa, providing free, staffed play sessions for kids aged zero to eight.

Organisation: Gawler and District College (South Australia)
Project Name: Packing a Punch and Overcoming Obstacles
Last year, Gawler and District College set up a unit to support students with a disability. The unit has a grassed area, but no equipment and few facilities to allow physical activity during break times. With this grant, the school will establish a boxing program and “Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle course as fun ways to encourage students with special needs to be more active.

Organisation: District Council of Peterborough (South Australia)
Project Name: Youth Community Powerlifting Project
This project will target disenfranchised and at-risk local youth, through the medium of powerlifting and strength training. It will be based at Peterborough High School, and run outside school hours by volunteers, overseen by qualified coaches. Participants will train towards competitions, while also learning life skills such as goal setting, healthy lifestyle choices and self-respect. This is a whole-of-community initiative involving the local council, school and police.

Organisation: Snug Primary School (Tasmania)
Project Name: Fitness Fun for Everyone
As a rural community, the town of Snug has limited amenities for physical activity. In this project, the local school’s new gymnasium will become a fitness hub for the entire community. The school will develop a timetable of activities designed not only to get people moving, but to foster healthy family relationships – for example, father and son Futsal, and mums and bubs yoga. 

Heart Foundation Director of Active Living, Adjunct Professor Trevor Shilton, said more than half of Australians are not physically active enough for good heart health.

“This is concerning, given physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease, which continues to be the single leading cause of death in this country. Heart disease claims an Australian life every 30 minutes,” Professor Shilton said.

“Through the Active Australia Innovation Challenge, we’re supporting community-based initiatives that will encourage Aussies to get more active and live a healthier lifestyle. A big congratulations to all the grant recipients, with whom we will be working closely to bring their projects to life.” 

The Active Australia Innovation Challenge is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. The challenge will run annually for four years between 2018 and 2021.