3 – 10 July 2016 is NAIDOC Week in Australia.
NAIDOC stands for the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee – and this week is a national celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. This week aims to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society. As such, there are lots of local, regional and national events, gigs, meetings, exhibitions, public get-togethers and awards from all over Australia.
To celebrate this week, I’m following up on a NSW collaboration between Austcycyle and Cycling Australia Aboriginal Bicycle Safety Program. This program was funded by NSW Roads and Maritime Services and saw over 1,000 remote and rural 3-16 year old Aboriginal kids in 47 different locations have access to learn bike handling skills and how to safely ride bikes. This is an ongoing touring program aimed at reaching some of the more remote areas in NSW.
The participants undertake practical and interactive activities about safety gear like helmets and most interestingly, have a qualified bike mechanic that helps kids learn about bike maintenance and bike servicing. This is especially important as many of the bikes participants bring to use are hand-me downs (often third of fourth owners) and are either not working effectively, are in need of repair or have some safety defect – (mostly no brakes). Being on remote communities means that kids have limited access to repairs and bike parts. Kids who owned bikes bought them in to be repaired and assessed and then used them the practice skills and drills for better and safer riding.
There are a number of similar programs, and it seems that NSW is the national leader in actively promoting safe bicycle for aboriginal kids. Some of the other projects, such as Let’s Ride Delivery Centre in NSW run the same program, but from their centralised facility. If school truely is about learning skills for life, teaching bike riding and providing access to maintain and repair older bicycles is a productive and immediate way to empower regional aboriginal kids.
This program is great as it has a central hub that can continue to delivery the program, but the outreach projects that tours to remote communities who would otherwise not have access to such programs, is a great balance between resource management and service delivery. With little entertainment and attention provided in isolated communities, bike riding is a popular way for kids to get around, socialise and keep active. A large part of these programs is focused on safety and education about helmet wearing, as aboriginal kids are the most reluctant cycling group to use cycling safety equipment – and coupled with dangerous or defective bicycles and an often reduced access to full medical facilities, aboriginal kids have a disproportionately higher rate of accidents and injuries compared to their other cultural counterparts.
It is great to see such programs moving further out to reach more people and getting more people out and about riding bikes.