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Making waves for a brighter future

CooeeGC is a unique school-based program in which students pack their boards and their books

The glistening water beckons. Seagulls swoon. There are no school bells. No early morning hectic rush. Just the lure of the waves, the fresh sea air and an ocean of opportunity.

This is where the green room meets the classroom—on the sandy beaches of the Gold Coast, where Elanora State High School (SHS) students pack their boards and their books.

CooeeGC is a unique school-based program that blends conventional education with the surfing industry. This nascent initiative is already establishing itself as a program that delivers results—thanks to the productive partnership inspired by CooeeGC founder Matthew Barber, and supported by Elanora SHS principal Cameron Hodges.

Matthew said CooeeGC provided students with numerous post-school pathways, as well as emphasising the importance of being responsible community members.

Students complete core subjects to attain their Queensland Certificate of Education and undertake Registered Training Organisation courses connected to the surfing industry. This includes small business, tourism, hospitality, allied health or a relevant trade.

'Students obtain qualifications, experience and confidence to ensure the transition from school to the real world is a smooth one,' Matthew said.

'They also gain a concrete understanding of how they can benefit their community, both locally and globally.'

This communal responsibility is reflected in the program's name.

'"Cooee" is an Australian call to bring people together,' Matthew said. 'It is often echoed. So, essentially, students get back the energy they put out.'

Typically, the CooeeGC day starts at 6am on the beach. Matthew said these early morning starts not only developed healthy habits and discipline for the students, it also prepared them for the expectations of future employers. After the beach-side sessions, students head to Elanora SHS for their core subject lessons.

Matthew said just some of the many positive results of the program included an increase in attendance, greater school engagement and a substantial reduction of behavioural incidents.

'However, as Cooee evolved, so did the post school pathways these young adults pursued after school.'

Three years on, Matthew reflects on the students' varied achievements.

'There are loads of success stories. All unique and no story better than the next. I think that's the beauty of Cooee. These young people come from all different walks of life, but all share a commonality and that is their love for surfing.

'Some are going to uni, and others are chasing a trade. Whichever pathway they choose, Cooee aims to ensure they take that pathway with confidence and a fresh perspective on the positive impact they can make as part of a global community.'

Congratulations to Matthew Barber who was a finalist in the 'Outstanding Contribution to School Communitycategory for last month's TEACHX Awards.

For more information visit Elanora State High School

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0) ( )
Last updated
10 December 2019