Regional Experience

Wirrpanda Foundation team members and mentors Troy Cook and Josie Janz-Dawson recently lead a group on a regional experience to Wickham and Onslow.

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Their aim was to show firsthand the positive changes our education programs have made in each of these community. The regional programs are made possible through the tireless efforts of local staff members who have strong connections to each community they deliver to.

The first stop for the group was at Point Sampson to hang out with the Wirra Club kids. Based in Wickham, Wirra Club is the Wirrpanda Foundation’s longest running program and has engaged over 14,000 children nationally since it began in 2005. The mentors had time to reflect on the journey since then, with Troy saying, “reconnecting with the kids who were a part of the program, but have now graduated highlights its lasting impact in the community.”  At Point Sampson, the mentors started a game of beach cricket and soccer for the kids. With families in attendance as well, everyone got a chance to get to know each other during the barbecue, a perfect way to end the first day. Wirra Club is an after-school homework club that also focused on building family and community capacity through employing locally identified role models.

Departing Karratha early the next morning, the group arrived in Onslow and met with local mentors from the Onslow Family Support program. West Coast Eagles representatives Eric Mackenzie and James Grabski had also flown up specially to deliver education workshops and run several different football activities alongside the Wirrpanda Foundation mentors. With the help of the West Coast Eagles team, program coordinator Suzanne Wilson had drummed up support from the community for the main event of the Onslow visit: Sunset Football. It had a fantastic turnout of 50 promising young footballers being delivered a training clinic, as their families watched from the sidelines. Making it a standout event for the kids Rick ‘The Rock’ Eagle made a surprise appearance taking part in the drills and signing autographs.                                                                                                     

Before school in Onslow the local mentors run a morning pickup for every participant in the program, giving the students a chance to catch up with their mentors and each other. These sessions focus on healthy eating choices, the importance of physical activities, and attendance at school. After dropping the kids off, our guests and mentors were invited by the Parker family to visit Peedamulla Station for a cultural experience. The station is Indigenous owned and run, with the land still used regularly by the Banjima People to practice culture with their families and the next generation of young people. Our group had the opportunity to learn about the station’s history, cultural sites, and then were treated to a Kangaroo stew. Traveling across country together made a lasting impression on its significance and was an unforgettable experience for the group.

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Passion of the Pilbara opened its festivities for the weekend, providing live music, free amusement rides and plenty of fun and engaging activities for everyone. Wirrpanda Foundation staff hosted a stall to share information about our Wirra Kids program and provided a fun creative activity for everyone to paint and design animal magnets to take home with them. Highlights of the PoP Festival included the MasterChef Culinary Experience, Chefs in the Garden, the Fishing Competition and Jon Stevens to finish of the event. When asked about the importance of the Wirrpanda Foundation regional programs, Troy said, “the regional programs are so vital because it teaches how to prioritise education, fitness, and having a plan.  We aim to show there is a pathway for these kids while making sure they know our door is always open.”

The Onslow Family Support program is kindly supported by BHP Billiton.